Chatbots hype: Where are we now?

Linsey • 7 minute read • 05/10/2020
Chatbots
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With the evolution of no-code chatbot platforms almost everybody can build a chatbot. What has been in the hands of IT and tech departments for a long time can now be accomplished by customer-facing teams themselves. But taking the complexity out of the development process doesn’t mean we should start with a chatbot because we can. Experiences from the beginning of the chatbot hype have taught us important lessons. To be successful we need to take on a data-driven approach and think about how chatbots will really add value to our business and customers. In this blog we will look at how the chatbot hype has developed over the recent years and where we are going from here.

Chat bots are not new

We have known chatbots for years, but it took a while before we could make them ‘smart’. It all started in 1966 with Eliza, the chatbot that was the first proof of superficial contact between man and machine. Later, in the age of MSN, we also had one of our first encounters with chatbots. Think for example of the chatbots who entered into conversations with you about all kinds of things. And so there are still many bots that have had an impact on the development of chatbot technology as we know it today.

These bots were in no way ‘smart’. After all, they responded with standard answers to messages that were recognised based keywords. The development of technology has now gained momentum in recent years, our chatbots are becoming smarter and virtual assistants, such as Google Assistant and Alexa, are becoming increasingly accessible to consumers.

chatbots-then-now-obi4wan

From overwhelming chatbot success to latent disappointment

Thanks to the technological possibilities of the past few years, chatbots grew like mushrooms. We saw many applications passing by via Facebook Messenger, when Facebook opened up the platform to developers of chatbots.

But let’s be honest, the applications were not successful and were mainly experienced as irritating by users. These bots were programmed to recognize certain keywords, but did not ‘understand’ the customer. Sometimes the customer ended up in an infinite loop that did not answer the question asked. Research even shows that 70% of all bots on Facebook are unable to successfully perform a simple task.

Not because it is possible, but because it must be

But is it now time to throw in the towel and give up the promised success of chatbots? Absolutely not. Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company predicts that by 2021 15% of all customer service interactions worldwide will be handled completely by AI. Furthermore Gartner forecasts that “by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis.” 

According to Svetlana Sicular, Vice President Analyst, at Gartner, chatbots are among the AI technologies that “must be on the CIO’s radar for high and transformational business impact in the next two to five years.” Taking our learnings from the past and working with AI-driven, sophisticated chatbot platforms, we are on our way to build a stable future for chatbots within our processes.

Gartner obi4wan

Now that chatbots are no longer at the peak of inflated expectations in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for AI, organisations no longer look at the possibilities of technology ‘because it can’, but rather because it must be. Chatbots have shown their value and the benefits of the virtual assistants  especially in the customer service domain are plentiful. However, before getting started it is important to look at the added value of data in this process. Data can predict what the success of a chatbot will be for certain tasks. What it delivers in terms of efficiency and cost savings. It also tells you when a chatbot is not suitable for a certain task or at all. Read all about the importance of data analysis is this article.

Chatbots for online customer service

There are plenty of chatbots applications, for example in HR, but the customer service domain is where chatbots are most impactful. As they are influencing the way customer service is conducted, will chatbots ever completely replace humans within service? No! The secret of a successful application lies in the perfect mix of technology and people. Always keep in mind that a chatbot should contribute to the customer experience. Prevent irritation and ensure that a chatbot seamlessly connects with your customer, but also make sure that your chatbot does not get in the customer’s way and passes the question on to the employee if that benefits the conversation.

Besides chatbots drastically reducing the response time and lead time of conversations, adding technology also increases customer satisfaction. Customers with a simple question expect a quick response. With a chatbot, this reaction can be there within seconds. It also increases employee satisfaction, because the work of a customer service employee becomes more challenging. More complex questions remain and employees can be used differently and better to take an extra step for the customer.

The ROI of chatbots

Many organisations nowadays use chatbots for more efficiency. The results do not lie. Chatbots can take care of 20% to 40% of the total volume. In addition, we see cost reductions and customer satisfaction increases by about 10%. Organisations use chatbots in many different ways. For example, we see applications in the background, such as supporting a service agent by completing messages, routing or tagging. In addition, a chatbot can do the preliminary work for a service agent, such as requesting additional customer data, and then transfer the complete information to the service employee. Last but not least, chatbots can also handle complete conversations. Think for example of frequently asked questions, such as questions about opening hours or delivery times.

To bot or not to bot; are you ready for the future?

When developing chatbots, the customer experience should always be the important thing. By including employees in the development process that know the customers and their needs inside out you ensure that you are building a chatbot that truly understands your customers.

“With your customer service agents you already have people in place that understand how to have conversations with customers. With an easy-to-use platform you can empower employees to automate solutions themselves”, says Frank Smit.

Once the chatbot is live it is important to ensure a seamless collaboration between people and technology. A bot works either behind the scenes to ease the work of an employee, or in front to directly help a customer. In the latter case it is important to think carefully about business ruling and moments when the chatbot escalates to an employee, in order to avoid frustration and repetition at a customer.

Are chatbots suitable to be used for customer service? Absolutely. But keep in mind that customer contact will never be fully automated, because there are always customer questions that need an empathic response. So make sure you have the ideal mix between people and technology!

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Linsey Jepma
As Content & PR Coordinator, I am involved in the wonderful world of webcare, chatbots, reputation management and data insights on a daily basis. Writing really is my thing and I have an inexplicable passion for neuromarketing and behaviour. Do you want to exchange thoughts? Connect with me at LinkedIn.

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