We’ve all heard it, Artificial Intelligence is fueling the next great business revolution. Computers are driving cars. Bots are manufacturing pretty much everything. And Siri and Alexa have even become our personal assistants. Now, bots and automated customer service are all the buzz for contact centers.
But, as with any revolution there is a genuine fear of rapid change. Industry pundits are asking, “What will this ‘rise of the machines’ bring? Will bots ultimately rule and make humans obsolete? Will agentless call centers become the norm — completely replacing person-to-person interactions?”
The short answer is a resounding “no.” Why? Because bots aren’t exactly great at expressing empathy, asking questions nurtured by experience, or being human! That’s the real power of the individual customer service agent. To feel. To interact. And to create a relationship with customers that keeps them coming back to your business again and again, and again.
To believe that customer service is purely transactional is to misunderstand the entire department. Customer service agents are your brand's most visible brand ambassadors. They are interacting with customers every day and hold more insights into your customers than anyone else in the company. This crucial role can not be completely relegated to customer service bots, but by utilizing these bots in the right way, you can enable customer support agents to spend more time doing what they do best – connecting to your customers and building stronger relationships.
So let’s take a look at how the rise of the bots can actually usher in a new era for support agents, and make it possible for them to deliver more personalized service than ever before.
First, let's clarify what a customer service bot actually is. Chances are, you've already encountered a service bot – if not multiple times. Put simply, a chatbot is a computer program you can talk to. They pop up in messaging apps, chat windows, or even by voice. So what has caused the rise in customer service bots? Why are they such a hot topic in the customer service world right now? It's in part driven by the massive growth in messaging services and apps, for example, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more. But now messenger services seems like a misnomer – messaging apps have expanded to include features such as payments, ordering and booking, and more.
Why are messaging apps so popular for customer service? A couple different reasons. First, customers want to use the same channels for customer service that they use in their daily lives. If they are texting and messaging their friends and family, they want to be able to do the same to ask a customer support question. Secondly, messenger services enable the customer service experience to be far less cumbersome. I can be sitting in a meeting, on the bus during my commute, out on a walk listening to music and receiving customer support. No more sitting on the phone unable to do anything else, just waiting for the service agent to find the answer to my question. Customer service bots fit seamlessly into your customer's lives.
Second, steps in artificial intelligence have enabled customer service bot technology to advance dramatically in the past few years. Now customer service bots can understand and solve customer questions, and machine learning means that the bot grows smarter and more efficient with every interaction. However, this doesn't mean that customer service bots are prepared to handle all customer interactions. Artificial intelligence equips bots to best tackle the routine questions that make up most customer service requests. Customer service bots succeed when the scope is narrow, leaving customer service agents to tackle the more complex cases. Additionally, human service agents are far more successful in situations when the customer is stressed – for example, when interacting with a customer that has already expressed frustration via social media.
1. Service know-it-alls — Bots make every agent smarter.
Think about the best customer service experience you’ve ever had. Chances are, it was fast and easy, and you felt as if the agent knew the answers to your questions before you even asked. That’s where bots come in. They can automate the mundane actions that agents spend a lot of time doing, and redoing (such as re-entering customer info). They can unlock the deep customer insights that agents need to tailor individual answers based on their history. And they can help turn agents into your best salespeople. With access to past buying histories, agents can recommend products to “sell up,” and create more loyal, lifetime customers.
2. Tearing down the wall — Connect back-office expertise with front-office service.
Did you know that 80% of customer inquiries are repetitive? With bots solving more common issues, while serving up contextual information from the knowledge base, the line between product experts and service agents is gone. Agents are empowered to make decisions based on a deeper level of information that they can apply to the context of each individual customer conversation.
3. Happy agents make happy customers — No more disengaged agents.
Traditionally, businesses consider call centers cost centers — a necessary evil — service agents worked from scripts, and made service levels just checking the boxes. The result, companies lost up to 20% of customers due to poor service and 35% over their agent workforce every year. Now bots can solve more complex self-service problems, and enable administrators to distribute work based on agent’s skill set and workload. Agents can be trained to address more specialized business needs so you get product experts at the first point of contact, and both agents and customers become your biggest brand ambassadors.
Bots and your bottom line.
Bots not only make case management easier and faster, they deliver a potential savings of 30% in reduced labor costs. Think about it — because a chatbot never sleeps, businesses can provide 24/7 customer support without paying for additional support agent. How's that for a cost center? But the real benefit can’t be translated only in cash savings. The rise of bots will give rise to empowered agents who are your new front-line product experts.
In the end, we’re only human. People still want to connect with people. Your customer service agents will be able to anticipate customer needs and turn your call center into a profit center. They’ll become your newest revenue stream, your biggest competitive advantage and help make customer service your next key business driver.