Competition from virtual employees? Why Customer Service Employees shouldn’t be afraid of chatbots

virtual assistants in call centerThe hype around chatbots and the forecast of Gartner that  50% of all medium-size and large-scale enterprises will be using chatbots within the next 2 years might cause sleepless nights for customer service employees. The replacement of  humans in customer facing jobs with machines is after all nothing new. Just think of self-scanner checkouts and ATMs. Are the concerns of customer service agents thus legitimate? Will the application of chatbots in the customer service departments  of medium-sized and large companies soon cause a wave of redundancies?

Chatbots at the helm

It is almost certain that in the coming years chatbots will increasingly take over the contact between consumers and companies.

“Chatbot technology is easily accessible, even for small and medium-sized businesses. If we believe Gartner’s forecast, we will see many more successful chatbot applications in practice in the coming years,” says Alexander de Ruiter, CEO at OBI4wan.

There are already numerous possible applications for chatbots. Whether it’s product and style advise through live chat applications of online retailers, support to find the right flight or hotel on holiday booking sites or the answering of standard customer service questions, chatbots are ready to assist. The virtual assistants can be perfectly integrated into all modern customer service channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and Live Chat. Research by Gartner shows that customer service is the largest domain for chatbots and we expect this to continue in 2019. Read more about the chatbots trends in 2019 in our latest blog.

Are chatbots making humans redundant in customer service?

In some cases, chatbots can solve entire cases on their own without the use of a human colleague. In addition, thanks to artificial intelligence, modern bots are becoming smarter and smarter. They learn and improve with every customer contact. Does this mean that sooner or later we will be able to completely do without human resources in customer service? Alexander de Ruiter, CEO of OBI4wan with 25 years of experience in customer service, answers with a clear “no”.

“Although bots are becoming more intelligent, we believe that the human workforce will continue to be necessary. Robots will not be able to replace humans. However, the content of the work will change and new positions will emerge.”

Frank Smit, Chief Innovation Officer at OBI4wan, ads that we have reached a second industrial revolution:

“As people back then thought that everyone would lose their job to machines, that’s how it is now with chatbots., though it is actually bots that ensure that employees are of greater added value. Because of bots, employees can help their customers better due to more time to spend. A successful deployment of chatbots ensures increased customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and increased efficiency.’’

3 good reasons why humans are irreplaceable in customer service

1. Chatbots are smart, but not emphatic

When in direct contact with customers, chatbots are mostly suitable for answering simple routine questions and for obtaining missing information, like an order number. The great added value here is their responsiveness and their 24/7 availability. For complex cases, however, chatbots lack the necessary empathy. The objective, factual answer of a chatbot is not suitable for all situations. Empathy and sensitivity are needed to truly understand customers, respond to them and meet their needs.

“The bot is for efficiency, the employee for empathy. Because of this effectiveness, a bot creates a better customer experience.” Alexander de Ruiter, CEO at OBI4wan

2. Complex situations require human-to-human interaction

Depending on the situation, individual solutions have to be found that require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking from the customer service staff. Rules and standard procedures cannot always be followed to solve a case in the best possible way. Customer service employees have more “freedom” here than a chatbot who has to adhere to predefined business rules in order to function.

3. The best results are achieved through collaboration between people and bots

Chatbots can filter information from large amounts of data and systems in seconds and make it available to their human colleagues. In addition, they can independently answer routine questions and prepare answers. In this way, the workload of customer service employees is reduced so that they can take more time for individual customers and help them out the best possible way. By shifting the focus from answering routine questions to more complex cases, the work of customer service agents becomes more meaningful. This is exactly what Decathlon, the retailer and manufacturer of sports equipment and apparel, has been experiencing since the launch of its chatbots in September 2018.

“Since the introduction of the chatbot in September, it is noticeable that we have more time for our customers. We are all athletes at Decathlon and good at answering questions about sports. Our goal and dream is for our staff to focus fully on sports advice and leave the standard questions to the chatbots. Then we can really pass on our passion for sport to our customers. Paul de Vries, Social Media Manager at Decathlon

For the complete interview with Paul de Vries, Social Media Manager at Decathlon, please click here

What if customer service agents are against having a chatbot in their team?

Companies should not ignore the fears of their customer service staff, but should communicate openly about the sense and purpose of a chatbot. It’s important to make clear that chatbots are not a competition, but will in the long run make work easier and increase satisfaction – not only among customers, but also among employees. Customer service employees can unleash their full potential and focus on the core of their work: Interact with customers and provide assistance in solving complex problems, rather than wasting your energy on simple routine issues.

Want to build a team with chatbots?

Are you thinking of implementing a chatbot within your service process? Read our blog post on how to develop a chatbot in 5 steps or get in touch with us via Want to receive personal advice from one of our experts. Request a free product demo.

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