Following Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement about chatbots in Messenger, a number of alarming news articles were published about the end of humans in customer service. These posts are missing the point about why chatbots are, and mostly will be, useful in the future. Humans aren’t leaving customer service. Not yet, not ever — we're just getting more efficient.
I am a technology freak and an early adopter. I am typically one of the first people on waiting lists to try new technologies and I passionately report all my discoveries to colleagues and friends. So I am surprised not to be more excited about the new chatbot announcement by Facebook.
Human Customer Service Will Prevail and Strive
Don’t get me wrong, chatbots are cool. Automation in digital experiences is aimed at making things faster, easier, and more personalized for customers. Chatbots will do this, eventually, but they won’t replace the need for real human connections in customer service — a differentiation point companies are scrambling to get right. So why won’t chatbots replace contact centers staffed with real people who can influence emotion-driven customer decisions?
1. Chatbots have no empathy
They don’t read between the lines or understand the subtleties of being human. Even as bots strive for Scarlett Johansson levels of connection (Her), chatbots are still far from being able to connect empathetically with customers and appeal to emotions. Sure, chatbots may provide a pleasant, at best friendly response, but they'll never be able to joke about keeping mama happy (see below). It's these human exchanges that influence loyalty and word of mouth.
2. Chatbots are only as smart as the collection of existing knowledge
It's tremendous how AI technologies can learn so quickly and develop intelligence thanks to the collection and analysis of a huge amount of data every single day. The learning curve is so much steeper than that of human beings.
But… customer requests are always unique even if the problems are common. Customers don’t express themselves in cookie cutter ways and the best response, the kind that boosts CSAT and inspires storytelling, is rarely predictable. Customers expect to be treated as valued individuals, not ticket numbers. Furthermore, we all saw what happened with Microsoft's Tay. If put in customer service situations how quickly would she become cynical? Would she figure out sarcasm?
3. Customers seek both speed of resolution and a human approach
A recent study by Accenture shows that 83% of consumers prefer dealing with human beings for customer service, while 73% expect service to be easier and 61% expect service to be faster. Companies need to provide both the element of human connectedness and speed in order to reach a resolution that will make the customer stick (and tell their friends about the experience). In fact, 80% of customers who switch brands feel the company could have done something to retain them. Talk about a missed opportunity!
@kidyungn Ahhh the good ole Sidekick! That was the phone to have back in the day! Maybe it will make a come back! I'd definitely get... 1/2— T-Mobile (@TMobile) April 14, 2016
Fast and friendly digital customer service will not become a reality thanks to chatbots, but thanks to technology. Automation to improve human connectedness in customer service is not an oxymoron, if applied appropriately along the customer journey. Matchmaking in digital customer service (something we’re leading at Brand Embassy!) is the type of automation that puts humans back into the equation. Matching customers with the best possible customer service agent in real time delivers speed of resolution and a human approach to the customer experience.
The future of customer service is in the friendship between humans and bots
- Chatbots will serve as 1st level support for repeating and easy to solve issues
- Chatbots will help in rational buying decisions
- Chatbot conversations will be seamlessly transferred into conversations with human agents upon behavioral and contextual triggers
- Human agents will focus on complex issues
- Human agents will focus on utilising emotional intelligence and instinct
How do you see the future of humans and bots in customer service? Brand Embassy is rethinking the way we automate customer service in order to amplify, not diminish, the value of human connections. Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on this post to share your thoughts.