Thanks to the rise of mobile texting and messaging apps, ‘chatbots’ or “chatter robots” are causing a stir in the world of customer service.
Business Insider UK[i] recently wrote that the most powerful tech companies think chatbots are the next best thing since the iPhone. In fact Facebook now allows businesses to deliver automated customer support, e-commerce guidance, content and interactive experiences through chatbots on Facebook Messenger. The company is rumoured to be launching a “bot store” – a move which could be as revolutionary for technology as when Apple launched the App Store.
Chatbots are computer programmes that mimic conversations with people using artificial intelligence. This is not science fiction, “bots” are the next step in the evolution of the Internet and are fast transforming the way people interact and the future of customer service. So what role will they play in contact centers that are at the very heart of customer service and certainly the first point of call for many customers?
After all, the millennial generation has come of age and is old enough to make a significant dent on consumer spending. These tech-savvy individuals have high expectations and demand round-the-clock service as well as an instant response. Contact centre specialists Teliopti claim that this need could be met by automation and self-service, making chatbots a consideration
Only this week, the Guardian reported that a chatbot lawyer was able to successfully overturn 160,000 parking tickets. It’s 19 year old creator, Stanford University student Joshua Browder, dubbed the service as “the world’s first robot lawyer”.
DoNotPay uses a chat-style interface to ask users a series of simple questions about their parking ticket (such as were there clearly visible parking signs) to determine if the user has grounds for appeal. If grounds are found, it then guides users through the appeals process.
In 21 months, the service, available free of charge in London and New York, has contested 250,000 tickets and has won 160,000, a 64% success rate- not bad for a robot!
Teleopti argue that this could be applied to many aspects of customer service.
Direct contact, direct business impact
Messaging a business directly is a fast and convenient way for people to get in touch with questions about products and services, appointments and customer service support. Plus, messaging allows businesses to build personal connections with the people who are interested in them. However individuals take breaks, holidays and sick days, and can become upset if dealing with challenging customers.
Whilst there will always be a need for human interaction, Teliopti claim that chat bots have the following advantages:
- Contextual, convenient and in control – chatbots for Facebook Messenger are focused on creating the best and most engaging customer experience. They can provide anything from automated subscription content such as weather and traffic updates, to customised communications like receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages
- Unprecedented customer reach – the latest Send/Receive APIs make it possible for developers to connect with more than 900 million people around the world, who use Messenger every day/month on a variety of mobile devices, an amazing commercial and networking opportunity
- Powerful discovery tools – such as usernames for Messenger help people find businesses on both Facebook and Messenger, so they can connect with and message the businesses they’re interested in more easily
- Personalising the experience – Messenger Greetings are customisable notes from a business that appear in a new message thread before messages are sent. Businesses can use this text to greet people and set a friendly tone while letting people know what types of messages are expected. Chatbots make it possible to offer a more personal, more proactive, and more streamlined customer experience
- Puts customers in control – Like Facebook, customers can mute and block communications that they don’t want to receive and they can spend more time interacting with you. Generic Message Templates mean structured messages with call to actions, horizontal scrolls, urls and postbacks that promote stress-free customer engagement
- Easy configurability – an important one for CFOs looking to keep costs at a minimum, a special bot engine enables developers to save time and money by making changes themselves.
Facebook isn’t the only chatbot game in town, but because of Messenger has a reach of around 900 million users plus vast connections with advertisers and a healthy developer ecosystem[ii], it provides the most attractive platform on which to implement bots.
Don’t forget the humans!
The automation of customer service has been widely implemented by contact centers for many, many years, and staff need not worry about their jobs, say Teliopti.
Whilst the new chatbots add a new dimension by allowing contact centers to automatically respond to even more complex tasks, but the tasks and enquiries that actually require personal handling are likely to become more advanced and necessitate a higher set of skills from contact center agents.
Good training and employee loyalty will be even more important as experience and knowledge will be a premium when dealing with complex or delicate customer enquires which cannot be answered by a robot.
A Teliopti spokesman said:
“Through advanced forecasting, scheduling and competence management, the humans in contact centers will remain more productive and valuable than bots will ever be. At Teleopti we believe a combination of bots and well scheduled human agents, with the right skills, could be today’s silver bullet solution for effective customer service. It is time for contact centers to take the trend for chatbots seriously by maximizing agent productivity and improving social customer service with a little help from clever, automated technology for bots and humans.”