Recently, Facebook announced at its F8 developer conference that it would allow businesses to build “bot” technology for Facebook Messenger. Chatbots are equipped to answer basic questions from customers, accept orders, and provide general customer assistance. The theory is that companies can better serve their customers using bots because they will be readily available when needed. There’s even the notion that chat bots could replace contact centres at some point down the line. However, many of these bots have received lackluster reviews, further reinforcing the fact that companies should only embrace chat bots as an additional way for a brand and customer to communicate, and never as a replacement for human interaction.
As companies try to find the balance between traditional channels and emerging communication methods, it’s important to remember that customers want options beyond the phone. Whether those options are mainstream, such as text messaging and email—or as advanced as chat bots—they all provide additional ways for customers to get in touch. In addition to being another communication channel, chatbots provide brands with valuable data about customer questions and habits.
That said, when companies tip the scale in favor of those other channels and deemphasise traditional voice interaction, customer satisfaction scores decrease. In fact, 51.7% of customers ages 35-54 still prefer to interact with a company by phone, and think a phone call is the most effective way to resolve an issue, especially if it’s an urgent matter. While digital channels are set to overtake the phone by the end of 2016, companies must still continue to include phone capabilities in their omnichannel strategies in order to give customers what they want. In a world where customer loyalty is low, companies simply cannot afford to disappoint customers.
Today, the biggest risk in attempting to replace humans with technology is that companies fail to deliver the desired customer experience. Sure, it may be convenient to hop on Facebook Messenger to ask a chatbot some questions, but so far many customers have been left scratching their heads at bot responses. This is because Facebook’s bots are pre-programmemed with a set of canned responses rather than possessing artificial intelligence capabilities, so the bots may give customers irrelevant answers or simply ignore them all together if they try to engage in a conversation. Even those with artificial intelligence can’t consistently deliver the best service to customers.
So does this mean companies should abandon the notion of bots altogether? Absolutely not. Bots can still be a great way to support a business’s omnichannel strategy and gather information about customers. When used appropriately, they can collect data on what questions customers are asking, where products and services can be improved, and what customers really want—just not at the expense of direct phone communication with trained personnel.
At Calabrio, we know taking an omnichannel approach is imperative to allowing customers to communicate in the ways they feel most comfortable. We also know that bolstering the contact centre with the right people is imperative to delivering the personal experience customers crave. By keeping customers happy, brands can cultivate loyalty and reduce churn—and we’re here to provide the right customer engagement solutions to deliver on that promise.