With the ever-advancing fast pace of technology, more and more customer support functions are being taken over by bots.
What is a Bot?
As defined by www.Techterms.com, “A internet bot, also known as web robot, www robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.”
There are many types of bot, the most common being Web Crawlers, Chat Room Bots, and Malicious Bots.
Do Bots Provide the Best Customer Service?
Why do we think that a robot can do the job of a person in areas of customer interaction?
Perhaps I am the dinosaur here? The impact of using a bot in place of a human has some advantages certainly, but also many glitches, not to mention inabilities.
A bot cannot answer anything that is non standard. In my experience there are few customers that want to be classed as “standard”. Certainly, there are questions that customers ask that are common to many customers and these can easily be handled via search or frequent questions on the same web page.
However, non-standard questions, which for me seem to be the norm, cannot be addressed by a programmed robot. In fact, what ends up happening is a deep frustration on the part of the customer who spends a great deal of time chatting with Philip, the bot, who is chatting to lots of other customers at the same time.
Ultimately, you find ‘Philip’ either gives you an unsatisfactory answer that does not address the question because he does not understand it in the first place, or you stop the chat out of shear frustration due to slowness of response.
The Possible Impacts
Has anyone stopped to assess the impact of these so-called improved steps on:
- Customer satisfaction?
- Loss of customers due to lack of human contact?
- Whether or not the customer’s issue was addressed?
- Whether or not the customer’s issue was resolved?
It seems to me that evaluation of the use of a bot is done from a cost effective position only. However, I will be glad to stand corrected on this point.
What Drives a Company to Use Bots?
Asking the question in another way – Why do company’s wish to avoid or be uncontactable by its customers? There are several answers that I can think of:
- Companies want to avoid a training cost that is inevitable to ensure excellent customer service.
- Companies don’t want to invest in hiring and training management who lead the support team.
- The operators, support team etc. are afraid of customers’ questions because firstly perhaps they do not know the answers to the questions asked and secondly do not know how to get the answers.
- The companies believe their own product and service to be perfect and therefore there is no reason for customers to contact us.
- The customer is not a priority or important, therefore why have personnel to provide a service to the customer.
There are probably many more answers to this question. However, just looking at these possibilities is both scary and thought provoking at the same time.
Customer Service Builds Loyalty
Is it just me who wants to talk to a person because I believe in the human ability to solve the issue they are faced with, and if not able to, can at least share some empathy to your dilemma or difficulty?
Perhaps I need to think differently about customer service and how I work with my customers to train team members – team leads, managers and leaders to inspire and drive excellent service in their teams. This is both enjoyable and essential to building customer loyalty and therefore business sustainability.
Are We Lowering Our Expectations?
My expectations of banks, airlines, suppliers, shops and similar businesses, is one of excellence; of genuine interest in the client and customer base. I also expect these businesses to have the ability to communicate effectively, irrelevant of the issue, and have the desire to resolve the issue, provide the answers and ensure that the customer is overall satisfied.
Are we really expected to accept mediocrity because a bot can only do what a bot is programmed to do? In other words a bot can only deal with issues that fall within the area of bot-expertise. On either side of this expertise it is necessary to have human skills.
The Benefits of Human Customer Service
In drawing a parallel to the current level of bot-expertise, you can say that humans have the same issue if untrained. In any event, a human can respond and express empathy, respond at a normal pace of conversation and through human logic and expertise suggest a suitable way forward. A human customer service expert can also be proud of what they do, how they do it and of the company that they work for.
Rachel Shackleton is an entrepreneur who owns and manages Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health. Working with local and multinational organisations, she is a public speaker and trainer in the spheres of leadership, communication and customer excellence. She ensures sustainable productivity and profitability through healthy self-management and leadership practices, ensuring a focused and successful workforce.
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