Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Managing Expectations on Chatbots

December 20, 2016

In the earliest days of speech recognition and voice technology, companies that engaged in customer support were made grand promises of automation with text-to-speech channels that would recognize customers’ speech and “talk” back at customers, delivering relevant information and freeing up agents for more complex conversations. While this is a reality today, the truth is that the earliest implementations often failed to live up to the promises due to poor quality, and customers arguing with a robotic voice over the telephone (and growing increasingly angry and frustrated) became the punchline of many jokes.

Many technologies take a while to arrive at their promise, and it’s often because of “me too” attempts made by companies who ride the coattails on the promises of the innovators. Customers looking for a cheaper alternative have traditionally wound up with a sub-standard product that tarnished the image of the core technology.

Aspect’s Tobias Goebel recently noted in a blog post that chat bots, or automated artificial-intelligence based personal assistants, may be the next technology whose implementations sometimes don’t live up to the inflated expectations. This may be because expect too much of chat bots…they’re not going to be able to engage your customers in a complex and nuanced conversation that leaves the customer with a shining impression of the company. They can, however, automate mundane tasks and allow customers who want to help themselves on simple issues complete their transactions quickly, leading to an increase in overall omni-channel customer engagement.

“Many agents are employed to do mundane, repetitive tasks, such as asking about the nature of the call (pre-qualification), or who the customer is (authentication),” wrote Goebel. “Oftentimes, they are also tasked with answering routine inquiries such as ‘what is my balance?’ Human performance deteriorates when confronted with boring repetition, yet thrives with engaging challenges. Humans shouldn’t spend their time doing mundane and non-creative work for long periods of time; in the same way, bots shouldn’t be doing complex work, such as solving a complicated service issue, or providing a human touch to calm an angry customer.”

In other words, chat bots won’t allow you to reduce your headcount in the contact center. What they will do is ensure that your human agents aren’t being burned out with the same low-level questions from customers day after day. Look on chat bots as assistants to human agents.

“In the world of customer care and the contact center, the human and the digital employee (aka bot) can co-exist peacefully and even enhance the performance of each other,” wrote Goebel.

Even automating a single request such as “where is my order?” can lead to enormous savings with chat bots. For a human agent, this transaction typically costs a company about $2.50. For a chat bot, this sum drops to about two cents, for a total of eight cents on a typical four-message conversation.

“Let’s assume you handle 5,000 inquiries a day, and you can, through marketing or announcing the new option on the phone, convince 20 percent of your customers to try messaging versus calling in the future,” wrote Goebel. “That would mean $2,500/day (or $912,000 a year) when using live agents, Compared to $80/day (or ~$29,000 a year) with a bot.

Are chat bots going to run your organization like Isaac Asimov’s robots of the future? Not anytime soon. What they can do is take some of the pressure off your agents, and leave them to manage the conversations that don’t lead to burnout. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle