Support agents versus conversational chatbots

Customer support operator
Image Credit: picjumbo.com / Pexels

Customers hold the supremacy in a business. Keeping them happy and engaged is the key to drive profitable revenues. Customer service department is the front face of an organisation. It is the central point of any business. Whether it’s human agents or virtual assistants, it should be as flawless as possible. The way customers are treated represents your business values. 

On the other hand, a wrong move or careless attitude can cause a huge loss in terms of money and reputation. With social media being available to the customers as the open platform to voice their experiences and feedback, it is needless to say that a business must keep their service game strong or bear the harsh consequences. 

No wonder why every business is keen to explore the magic of AI-powered chatbots to accelerate their customer service. If we talk about figures, the impact is quite evident. In a recent report by Grand View Research, it stated that the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025. It indicates a sharp compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.3% of the chatbot market. 

By 2020, virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology will be integrated into 25% of customer service and support operations according to Gartner. What are the major reasons? Well, Gartner’s research points that implementing a VCA or chatbot led to a 70% reduction in the call, chat and/or email inquiries. Organisations also saw an increase in customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement.

All that glitters is not gold

Chatbot and AI have a lot to offer. There’s no denying to it. A business can realise benefits like cost savings, faster responses, higher availability, quicker scaling, and streamlined processes. But, more haste leads to less speed. It is necessary to understand this technology properly and then put it into your customer service. It is not advisable to discard the human element and completely switch to chatbots. Here’s what you need to know before taking a decision-

Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

(Image: © Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Empathy versus accuracy

The chatbot is quick, capable and smart. But, human agents are empathetic. Chatbots are programmed to answer within seconds with accuracy as they just need to look up to their knowledgebase and respond to the customers. The answers are fairly accurate. They are able to resolve the issues and provide support to the customers. They are less prone to errors. It leads to higher customer satisfaction. But, they cannot understand the human mind.

On the other hand, human agents can sympathize with fellow humans. Even for a smaller issue, empathetic attitude wins the game. For instance, a loyal customer who has been associated with your business for a long time faces a small problem and seeks support. A chatbot can quickly understand and solve the issue. Fair enough! Whereas a human agent may acknowledge the customer’s loyalty and can go an extra mile like offering something extra to enhance the experience. 

Many users Lyft for their accurate and instant customer service using AI. It is easier to request a ride from Lyft via chat (Facebook Messenger and Slack) or voice (Amazon Echo). The Messenger bot will let you know the current location of your driver and show you a picture of the license plate and car model. In Slack, you can simply use slash commands (e.g., /lyft home). It uses AI and machine learning-powered bots for an interactive experience.

Experience versus intelligence

Automated chatbots run on pre-programmed scripts. They are intelligent but their knowledge is limited to the data fed into the software. They evolve with each interaction by reading, collecting and analyzing the responses. A business or a call centre can expect efficient outcomes from chatbots as they can be integrated directly onto their websites, social media or applications. It is a cost-effective customer support option. 

Many times, people prefer humans over machines. If we talk about a specific generation, they are not completely used to technology. They cannot trust the machine interactions. The emotional connect with human agents comes very natural. In other cases, it’s easy to play a trick around chatbots but not agents. It’s easy to play a prank and many users actually do that. But, with human agents, they have experience of dealing around and even set examples of remarkable customer service. Their experience helps to build a stronger and loyal customer base.

One of the best examples is of Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix who walked an extra mile to serve a user. The exchange of messages between the person and the customer service representative reflects the standards of the company. The customer referring to himself as Lt. Norman had a query about Parks and Recreation episode that was getting stuck and repeating the same few seconds. The service rep was all game about it and responded in the same tone leading an example for forever. A bot could not match this one!

Image Credit: Free-Photos / Pixabay

Image Credit: Free-Photos / Pixabay

(Image: © Image Credit: Free-Photos / Pixabay)

Criticality versus availability

One of the amazing things about chatbots is they are available 24/7. They don’t fall sick or not used to take day offs. The response rate is quite higher with chatbots. They can accommodate multiple users at a time. It is also evident that the chatbots are driven by the canned responses. That’s why; they are better suited to the first-level queries. Chatbots can initiate and provide support for the defined use-cases in the most effective way. 

When it comes to critical issues human intervention is a no-brainer. Chatbots address the queries based on the content while humans consider the content and the context. They can put their best foot forward and take necessary actions ensuring business does not suffer loss. Even chatbots are programmed to pass the problem to the human agent after a certain level. In fact, many companies give an option to choose the nature of the query and then route their conversation accordingly. In a nutshell, chatbots save time and costs by handling simpler queries while human agents address the strategic ones. 

MasterCard’s Facebook Messenger bot, for example, is loved by many customers. The bot is available round the clock. It comes handy to customers tracking their account transactions (e.g. just ask “How much did I spend on restaurants in May?”). Or, any other question to get quick answers while browsing their social media. 

Swati Kungwani, Business Analyst and Content Writer at iTouchVision