In the last few years chatbots have emerged as a must-have complementary element of an operator’s customer service centre or call centre — and in some cases, they are even replacing more traditional methods of customer support.
Certainly, chatbots can be applied in various ways within an operator’s customer service and marketing operations so as to help improve the efficiency and timeliness of resolving customer support queries, as well as marketing and selling new products and services. These virtual digital assistants are already able to relieve the burden on employees by directly addressing some of the more rudimentary questions that customers may ask. At the same time, natural language processing, machine learning and other AI techniques are constantly adding new functions and capabilities.
Because of chatbot’s growing expertise, some see them as a gamechanger for the overall customer experience. Yet not everyone is convinced of the merits, and benefits, of chatbots. So, what are the perceived pros and cons of chatbots, and why do we believe that they are essential tools for any telco as it transitions into a digital service provider?
First, let’s take a look at what some believe are the less advantageous aspects of a digital assistant, and how these can be overcome.
#1. Chatbots are less effective at answering customer queries: while this could well be the case now, the fact is that chatbots had to start somewhere, and they are getting better thanks to AI. The more we can demonstrate that chatbots can resolve increasingly complex problems, the more widely adopted they will become.
#2. Chatbots are faceless robots with limited appeal to customers: a number of operators are already addressing this by creating friendly chatbots with their own style, name and personality, increasing their appeal to a broader audience. Techniques such as AI, augmented reality and better connectivity are all helping to drive the next wave of chatbot evolution, enabling them to relate more to the personality of the client.
#3. Chatbots make mistakes: this again can be overcome through continual machine learning and improvements in how language is processed and sentiment analysis. Initially, chatbots are contained in a relatively closed environment and only allowed to respond to certain scenarios, ensuring a controlled response to customers. This helps to avoid errors in the early stages. Over time, as the system is trained, the chatbot becomes less likely to make mistakes. It’s a bit like educating a baby!
The benefits, meanwhile, are manifold. For example, chatbots are helping telcos cut costs by reducing the amount they spend on customer support. At the same time, customer support personnel can be redeployed in areas where they can carry out functions with greater value to the business. Chatbots also don’t need lunchbreaks, holidays or sick leave — nor do they work nine-to-five, opening up the possibility of 24-hour support.
In summary, chatbots have enormous potential for operators, which are urgently seeking ways to improve their customer experience in order to provide the same real-time, on-demand experiences that users have come to expect in the digital age.
It’s also important to note that chatbots are unlikely to completely replace people: some more sensitive issues and processes will still need the human touch. Fortunately, telcos and other businesses can choose to use chatbots where they make sense, and then bring in the human element when required. Ultimately, chatbots can help deliver a better, speedier online experience to consumers.