AI customer service: Are you talking to Mr Bob or Mr Bot?

Within three years from now, only 15% of your brand relationships will involve human interaction, states Gartner.

Chatbots have landed. They are infiltrating the world of marketing and they are here to stay. If that sounds slightly unsettling, this thought might be even more: chances are that you have interacted with a chatbot on more than one occasion – without even realising it. Predictions by Google futurist Ray Kurzweil state that by the year 2029, you definitely won’t be able to; chatbots will be indistinguishable from humans because of their human-level language ability.  

Whether you find chatbots creepy or see them as customer service heroes, the fact is that these virtual assistants are the future of customer service. Instead of fighting it, one should embrace it.

The ABCs of customer service

Siri, Alexa, Cortana: the giants of technology have all introduced machine learning-based assistants that are Always at a customer’s Beck and Call.

Why? Because living in an instant gratification economy has placed pressure on brands to perform and deliver fast and reliable customer service across various communication channels (The Next Web, 2017). Jarred Trembath, MediaCom SA’s Head of Social Media and Community Management, says that these bots can give customers what they want and when they want it in certain online situations – immediate responsiveness.

This is why chatbots are slowly replacing communication methods that are traditionally slower, such as phone calls and e-mails, with live chats. With the right programing, these bots can provide an immediate customer presence that provides answers to the most frequently asked questions. “Chatbots are the perfect solution when it comes to instant customer service”, says Jarred. “It allows the brand to respond at all hours – night and day – and takes away the frustration many customers feel when there is a delayed response.”

As these bots are becoming more and more advanced, like detecting customers’ emotions and frustrations, it will get to a point where customers receive the same level of care as they would with humans. “Artificial intelligence will become the new voice of online customer communications,” predicts Jarred.

Bots can create connections

Before brands jump into the world of A.I.-based customer service, it’s important to first understand the technology. Understanding how to manage chatbots is also crucial.

Where chatbots can help to free up community managers’ time, it might cause more problems if it isn’t managed correctly. Chatbots are all about convenience, but this shouldn’t just apply to customers – brands should benefit as well. If community managers have the sufficient knowledge and know-how, chatbots can be the best way for a brand to have an important differentiating factor.

The key is to make the program more human, without verging on the creepy, and ensure that the customer feels like they are still connecting with the brand.

To bot or not to bot

Utilising the technology of chatbots have various benefits, but as with every good thing, there can be a downside. Jarred explains that if customer service is a brand’s main priority, then the chatbots need to be managed correctly and monitored effectively. “It’s important to realise that even with the growing technology and A.I. capabilities that chatbots have, they still have limitations. 

He continues that, with two billion messages flying back and forth between brands and their audiences, community managers can use some help. With such a vast amount of around-the-clock communication, taking advantage of bots’ ability to always be awake behind the wheel, it seems worth investigating.

“Whether bots warm your community manager heart or leave it cold, it’s important to see the potential value they can have for your brand. If customised correctly to suit a brand’s tone and personality, a bot can create a positive customer interaction and satisfy a real customer service need.”

For more information, contact:

Jarred Trembath on jarred.trembath@mediacom.com or +27 11 582 6600.
For information about the company, visit www.mediacom.com