Predicting what the future of customer service will be like a few years from now there is absolutely no room for doubt that artificial intelligence is going to transform the way businesses interact and engage with customers. In fact, chatbots are already dramatically changing the way customer service is provided in various industries.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human. A survey by Oracle found that 8 out of 10 businesses have already implemented or are planning to adopt AI as a customer service solution by 2020.
According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025, a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.3%. Within the global chatbot market, approximately 45% of end users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service inquires.
Does the rise of chatbots mean the decline of human powered Live Chat and which one is going to win the customer service game in the foreseeable future? We asked some of the most respected customer service thought leaders to share their opinions on that, and here’s what they told us:
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach
We provide the most valuable customer service to every customer globally when we use human intelligence and technology. Human chat reps provide the real time “We Care You Matter” message far better than technology. AI Chatbots can address routine inquiries, reduce queue times, and collect ongoing trend data for the enterprise to use for improving customer experience. Customers don’t require companies to choose AI over humans. It’s time for us to see the value in both just like our customers do.
Shep Hyken, Customer Service Speaker & Expert, NY Times Bestselling Author
I believe that AI is a powerful business tool that is supporting companies and their customer service strategies. It’s creating a better customer experience. It may never completely replace human interactions, just enhance them.
Jeff Toister, Consultant, Trainer, Author of ‘The Service Culture Handbook’
AI and humans really should compliment each other for effective chat. AI can effectively handle simple, transactional queries. It can also work in the background to help human agents quickly find answers to customer questions. Human agents excel at solving more complicated issues and empathizing with frustrated or upset customers. The key for humans is to consistently prove their worth by bringing humanity to the service they provide.
Tal Shnall, Customer Service Trainer & Speaker
AI Chatbots are change makers in how customers connect to a brand and organizations today. More and more companies are already using the technology with their valued customers. While technology is advancing and part of every business success, we must not lose the human touch of creating emotional connections with our customers. Can chatbots generate human emotions? Can chatbots build relationships of trust? Will machines exceed customer expectations? All of these questions create opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate and wow the customer expectation to deliver excellence.
Ernan Roman, President, ERDM Corp. and author of ‘Voice of the Customer Marketing’
Based on thousands of hours of VoC research our firm, ERDM Corp. has conducted for clients such as IBM, MassMutual, Gilt and QVC, we believe that marketers must leverage AI and related technology to improve human interactions and CX. Technology should not be seen as a means to replace high value functions like Sales Reps or Customer Service Reps. Instead, technology should significantly empower these people to deliver the quality of CX that, per our VoC research, remains sadly lacking for B2C and B2B customers! A powerful quote from our VoC research, “Do not treat me like a simplistic cohort. I am a human being with individual, human needs!” Therefore, technology has to enable marketers to finally personalize the purchase and service experiences at the level of one individual at a time!
Steve DiGioia, Customer Service Trainer, Author & Speaker
“We’re told technology is our friend and we have an obligation to our website visitors to use every possible means to interact with them. We’re also told AI Chatbots will “increase reader engagement”. Well, that may be true but a seemingly innocent box that pops-up on your screen asking “do you have any questions I can help you with?” is impersonal at best. Today, customers know these “bots” are computer generated and use algorithms and keywords to simulate conversation. This is far too mechanized for me. After a lifetime providing customer service here’s my guiding principle: Great customer service is personal and anticipatory, it’s adaptable and custom tailored to the individual and situation. Chatbots can’t do that…yet!”
Which is Winning the Game Today?
Chatbots can operate without human help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A recent study by Tagove showed that 80% of customer’s queries have been resolved by chatbots without human supervision. They can handle an unlimited amount of chats at the same time, which makes them a great customer support tool for companies with large customer traffic flow.
When it comes to support costs, chatbots are cheaper than live chat as you will need less employees to handle all customer support queries. On top of that, a chatbot replies instantly, with no need to keep customers waiting. With live chat, the response time can be delayed and will be determined by how many customers are in a queue.
However, with all that said, 83% of consumers still prefer dealing with human beings for customer service, according to a recent Accenture study. Even though today’s connected consumers seek quick support, they equally value a human approach, something that chatbots simply cannot provide. Even the most advanced and sophisticated AI bots cannot read between the lines, they are still far from being able to show empathy and appeal to emotions.
Another downside of bots is that they are only as smart as the collection of existing knowledge which allows them to answer only simple and very specific questions. Unlike human agents, chatbots don’t have the ability to understand the context, ignore spelling mistakes and think outside the box. This is where agent powered live chat takes over. In a human-to-human interaction, the quality of the interaction and, therefore, the quality of customer service provided is always better than that of a bot-to-human one.
Even though chatbots will continue to improve in the coming years and will play a much larger role in customer service, that doesn’t mean the role of humans will be completely eliminated. The future of customer service isn’t just in AI powered bots and automation. Human supported live chat is still a very powerful customer service tool, especially for small and mid-sized businesses.
Chatbots are only there to assist human agents to serve customers faster, save time and money. The most forward thinking and customer focused companies will succeed in finding the right mix of AI and human support agents, using both to the best of their abilities and in cooperation with one another, not in competition.
What are your thoughts on chatbots? Are you planning to use this technology to improve your customer service? Feel free to share with our blog readers!
Provide Support is a leading customer service software provider, offering live chat and real-time visitor monitoring tool for businesses: www.ProvideSupport.com