Drawbacks and benefits of chatbots in Customer Support

In our last post about chatbots we showcased some great real-world uses, showing that they can not only increase the conversion rate on a website, but also have a positive impact on click-through rate, increasing overall traffic.

Marketing and product showcase is great, but is it possible for chatbots to do the job of a customer support agent - a person with technical training, able to solve almost any problem you throw at them?

The one-liners

According to a recent survey47 percent of questions customer service agents get on an average day can be answered or issue resolved in 2-3 minutes and are a single-call issue.

Chatbots breeze through those, and they offer an additional benefit: no stupid questions. Oftentimes people don't seek help for fear of looking incompetent, expecting judgment from the other side. This is especially true if they have already asked help for the same problem before. Using chatbots brings the old adage there is no such thing as a dumb question to another level, improving the customer experience.

The tough questions

Easy questions aren't the only thing chatbots can handle. More complex chatbots utilizing Natural Language Processing and deep learning are able to cope with some issues of moderate and high levels of question complexity.

American Express added AI capabilities to its Amex Bot for Messenger. It is now able to solve queries asked using common language and will learn and improve over time.

The drawbacks compared to a human agent

It is undeniable chatbots have their merits, but there are challenges they still haven't overcome. Firstly, a lack of human finesse is definitely one of them - if you're trying to pass a chatbot for a human, you aren't fooling anyone. But you shouldn't do that anyway, honesty and transparency go a long way.

Secondly, as much as artificial intelligence has achieved in recent times, a bot that understands everything and solves every problem is still far off. It is important to understand capabilities and limitations of the technology in order to utilize the value they do provide.

Finally, some people do not want to interact with a bot. They insist on communicating with a human, which should not be ignored. No company should force their customers, there should always be a way to get in touch with human agents. On the other hand, the amount of people not only wanting, but preferring to interact with bots is on the rise, especially younger generations.

A healthy mix

Replacing the whole customer support department with a chatbot is a bad idea, and chatbots aren't meant to do that. They serve as an addition, augmenting the people, benefiting not only the company, but also the users and human support agents.

A study showed that support agents want to handle 10% of moderately complex questions more than they currently are handling. A chatbot taking care of the mind-numbing tasks will make them happier, increasing agent satisfaction and reducing employee turnover.

The customer is happy if the issue is resolved in a timely manner. When a chatbot reaches its limitations, a real customer support agent can take over. This utilizes best of both worlds, thus maximizing the rate of success.

As a company, you usually want to deter people contacting support. With the addition of chatbots, it is the opposite: you encourage people to contact your support because marginal cost is almost non-existent. The other benefits are obvious: less repetitive workload for the human agents with higher availability and scalability - resulting in an improved customer experience.

Not only for customer support

Large companies often have internal IT departments which serve the same purpose as customer support - they answer questions, help with problems and resolve issues. A chatbot backed up with a vast knowledgebase can bring the same benefits to companies with large internal IT departments as it can to customer support.

A good example of this is SEB's Amelia. During the first three weeks, over 4,000 conversations were held with 700 employees, and Amelia solved the majority of issues without delay.

Not if, but when

Every number describing chatbot usage, implementations and adoptions screams growth. Getting ahead of the competition with chatbots will soon turn into keeping up with the competition. Artificial intelligence is rapidly improving, and so are chatbots. I suggest getting yourself a chatbot for mutual benefit of your company, your support agents and your customers! :)

Recommended reads:

SAP Hybris: The future of chatbots report
Accenture: Chatbots in Customer Service
The Top 5 Misconceptions You Need to Know About Chatbots