No, I Am Not a Chatbot

As a customer service representative, I can’t count how many times I have been asked “Are you a real person?” while chatting with customers online. While I personally have never communicated with any artificial intelligence (AI) for customer support, it is a growing trend with the ability to revolutionize the industry. Some say it could replace customer service all together but let’s discuss this further.

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So, what are Chatbots?

One of the most common forms of AI is called a chatbot.  It is a computer program designed to stimulate conversation with human users over the internet. In 2018, companies are using chatbots for customer assistance and interaction so much that 80% of businesses in the US want to use chatbots for customer service by 2020.

The Pros and Cons to Chatbots

Chatbots work by configuring automated responses based on the customer’s inquiries. There are some important pros and cons to using chatbots. The pros are that the customers will have faster service and the convenience of being responded to any time of the day or night, typically increasing overall customer satisfaction. Also, the company may save on resources – by taking away the need for human interaction, less employees will be needed, and those employees can focus their time on other tasks.

At the same time, it’s important to remember there are cons to AI technology, as it may not be suitable for all businesses. Depending on the required features, it could end up costing a company more money for a program that will cater to its various customer needs. Additionally, using limited responses may cause customer frustration in emergencies or difficult scenarios especially if a human is not able to step in to assist.  Often customers may prefer to speak with a representative to ensure their situation is being handled quickly. The annual Global Consumer Customer Service Report found that 40% of US respondents still preferred interaction with humans over the use of chatbots. Out of those respondents, 60% cited the number one reason they give up on chatbots to reach out to a human was when the issue was too complex for the bot to understand. While 13% of participants cited that they felt the conversation was too impersonal.

So, while many are predicting that chatbots are the beginning of the end for customer service, human interaction will remain valuable. The ability to capitalize on authenticity in interactions will ensure that customer service will survive the digital disruption that AI brings.

Here are a few tips that customer service reps can use to make the best impression and avoid sounding like a robot:

  • Introduce yourself – provide the customer your name to start the conversation off light, friendly, and enthusiastic.
  • Rephrase the question – this tells the customer that you understood their inquiry.
  • Try to speak naturally – use feeling words like “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” or “I am happy to assist you with this request.”
  • Emoticons – it is okay to use body language online. Don’t be scared to throw in a smiley face or exclamation if the conversation warrants it.
  • Empathize – one tool that humans naturally have a leg up on! Even if you are not understanding the problem, you can listen to the customer complaint or issue and let them know that you understand and will do your best to assist.
  • Focus on what you can do – not on what you cannot do. The customer doesn’t want to hear any excuses.  Presenting some positive options for the customer to choose from will make them feel heard and understood.  This is something that a chatbot cannot do so do this well and with a smile and your customer will be happy!

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