Can Chatbots Fully Replace Humans?

Customer service departments in all industries are increasing their use of chatbots, and we will see usage rise even higher over the next year as companies continue to pilot or launch their own versions of these rules-based digital assistants. Forrester defines chatbots as autonomous applications that help users complete tasks through conversation. 

While Forrester data reveals that 60 percent of the U.S. online adults already use online messaging, voice or video chat services, there are challenges to even more widespread adoption. Forrester reached out to online consumers through ConsumerVoices qualitative online community to better understand consumer impressions of chatbots, and found that respondents had a difficult time identifying clear benefits to interacting with them. Many prefer to communicate with representatives who can show real empathy, address more complex needs, and offer them assurance. 

Similar sentiments were seen across different ages, though younger groups more readily came up with potential use cases and benefits. For example, a male consumer in the 25-34 year old age group said, "I can see a chatbot being helpful for simpler interactions, like asking when something will be delivered, or money will be transferred over, or about scheduling. Simple things like that seem fine to me."

A female consumer in the 65 and over group agreed with the utility of chatbots for basic tasks, but felt more complex requests were beyond them: "It might be helpful to use a chatbot for straightforward questions and/or commands, like checking balances, but I think more detailed questions and commands may be challenging for a chatbot to handle because of the difficulty in deciphering and/or understanding the variety of commands that the chatbot might get."

It's not just consumers who are thinking about chatbots' link to customer experience. Earlier this month at a Washington D.C. conference, industry executives highlighted their experiences with chatbots from a research methodology perspective, while also being candid about their shortcomings. There was some overlap between their sentiments and those of Forrester's online community members. For instance, chatbots are very good at capturing large amounts of information and addressing simple needs, using rules-based logic and natural language processing capabilities, but chatbots are unable to truly empathize with the respondent or customer - while they can mimic human empathy, they can't pick up on nuances in conversation that fall outside their rules-based logic. 

While chatbots may not take over human connection anytime soon, they do have a place in the call center - capable of increasing efficiency and reducing Agent handle time. As an example, chatbots can be used to collect preliminary customer information such as the reason they're contacting customer service, account verification questions and more. They can also identify when customers need to speak to a live representative and seamlessly transfer the contact along with an entire transcript of the chat to a live Agent.

Ultimately, chatbots can serve as an efficient way to offer customers solutions to their problems, their future success depends on how thoughtfully they are leveraged to meet customers' needs.

Contact The Connection®; or Request A Quote to see how we can manage your outsourced live chat services using chatbots and live operators.


as published by Kristopher Arcand in Customer Relationship Management Magazine, June 2017

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