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Call Center Agents Out, Chatbots In?

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Good news – humans are still good for something.

One of the more provocative call center discussions going around these days is whether chatbots will one day take the place of real agents. You would think companies would be in favor of this since chatbots don’t collect a salary, call in sick or request vacation days. 

This debate has been made possible by advancement in chatbot technology. When they first arrived, they were only capable of providing basic answers to basic questions, like an online chat version of an FAQ page. That would suffice for callers asking about a return policy, but these bots weren’t much for conversation. 

Fortunately, the next generation could hold up its end of a longer discussion, and there are now even more advanced models based on adaptive unsupervised learning. 

We’re getting into the artificial intelligence neighborhood now, and proponents believe these top of the line bots can provide a customer experience that is comparable to that of an experienced agent. This movement has been accelerated by Facebook’s announcement that it would allow businesses to use them for online customer care. 

But before you start the mass layoffs, you may want to reconsider what role you want chatbots to play in your business. As an add-on to customer service, they can be a tremendous benefit. As a replacement for real people? Probably not, and here are three reasons why. 

1. 85% accuracy

Would you keep an agent that only provided customers with accurate, helpful information 85% of the time? Then forget about chatbots – that’s the batting average even for the best of them, and that is too high a risk of customer loss. 

2. Integration

Chatbots don’t always meld seamlessly into current call center technology. Most businesses would likely prefer to hold on to their customer support software and all the data it delivers than switch over to a system that will still require agents to work alongside the bots. 

3. Happy Customers

That’s still the goal, isn’t it? And customers are more sophisticated these days. Most can discern the difference between live online chat that is actually live, and the too-formal, marketing-speak responses provided by chatbots. And when they really want answers, they want a person on the other end of the phone to provide them. Chatbots just won’t do.

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