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Are Chatbots, Virtual Agents, and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre?

Creative Virtual

Presented By: Creative Virtual

 By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

2016 saw the start of a renewed interest and flurry of excitement around automated, AI bots. However, publicized failures like that of Microsoft’s experimental chatbot Tay turned some of the chatbot excitement into mistrust. With some industry and academic experts warning us about the dangers of AI, including predictions of a huge loss in jobs due to smart robots and automation, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about this technology. In order to get a realistic view of AI in the customer experience space, we need to take a step back from the warnings, predictions, promises and hype to see where we are right now.

Can AI-powered chatbots provide reliable customer service?

While pure AI is making a positive impact in analyzing data and making sense of large amounts of information, it’s not the right solution for providing customer service and support – as evidenced by Microsoft’s Tay. Unrealistic expectations created by media hype and overpromising from some industry vendors has led to disappointments with AI chatbots, but this doesn’t mean organizations should abandon them as a self-service solution completely. Instead, they need to educate themselves about the current capabilities of this technology and the extent to which they can (and should!) be self-learning. When it comes to customer engagement, service and support, chatbots need a combination of self-learning and human curation of content. AI-powered chatbots have been proven to provide reliable customer service, but they need to be backed by the right technology.

Are chatbots a real threat to the contact center?

AI chatbots certainly are a threat to the traditional model for the contact center, but they aren’t signaling the end of the contact center completely – just an end to the traditional approach. Research shows that customers are increasingly turning to self-service and digital channels for service and support because they want effortless interactions with companies. The change to self-service within organizations needs to happen in conjunction with an evolution of the contact center. For this to work, contact centers must approach chatbots and virtual agents as complementary to live agents and not as a threat.

The truth is, contact centers can see huge benefits from chatbots. By empowering customers to self-serve for transactional queries, sales and troubleshooting common problems, live agents can be freed up to develop expertise in dealing with more complex issues that require human assistance. When used within the contact center to support agents, chatbots help reduce average handing times and increase first contact resolution. Because agents know they have a quick and easy way to find information, the focus moves from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with customers.

Why should chatbots use a combination of self-learning and human control?

The foundations of successful chatbots lie in the control of the response given, especially when they are being used as automated self-help systems. A hybrid approach of self-learning and human curation of content allows the chatbot to continually improve based on the way it is being used while also enabling companies to maintain control over the reliability of responses.

Human curation of content allows organizations to be absolutely sure that their chatbot is responding to users in a predictable, consistent and legal way. Combining human input with self-learning creates dependable self-service solutions for brands and their customers. It gives organizations the control to comply with industry standards and regulations, and it removes the possibility of a failure like Microsoft’s Tay. This hybrid approach has proven success within the customer service space with companies from a variety of industries currently using them to improve their customer experience, whilst at the same time saving costs.

Can humans and machines work in harmony to provide perfect customer service?

For years, the customer service industry has been locked in a debate about which is better: automated self-service or human-assisted support. The widespread adoption of technology, such as smartphones, along with generational changes in how we communicate are impacting how customers want to engage with brands, and changing the either-or debate into a discussion of how to bring the two together. Current capabilities of AI-powered chatbots and virtual agents put these solutions in the perfect position to be complementary with humans and, when implemented correctly, help create happy and loyal customers. In fact, a blend of humans and machines working together for customer support also benefits contact centers through lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.

What does the future hold for chatbots and the contact center?

When it comes to AI and chatbots, companies need to make decisions based on realistic expectations but shouldn’t shy away from incorporating this technology into their current customer support strategy or planning for more integration in the future. And while they shouldn’t panic about this technology bringing the end of the contact center, they should worry about being left behind if they fail to embrace humans and machines working in harmony as part of their approach to customer engagement.

The future of customer service and the contact center lies in a blend of AI and human thought