Earlier this year we touched on the subject of chatbots when we looked at a report speculating on the nature and role of the contact centre in 2025. Its author expected chatbots to be prevalent and envisaged a higher-level role for the contact centre agent as a result.
That may be the future, but what’s the state of chatbots today?
What do the customers think?
Early in May, the Business Insider website reported the results of a survey undertaken by LivePerson, of some 5,000 consumers from six countries.
It found that 38 percent of respondents rated their overall perception of chatbots as positive, with only 11 percent reporting a negative perception, and the remaining 51 percent were neutral – a figure that perhaps reflects the still-low usage of chatbots.
Nevertheless, Business Insider concluded: “The results could bring a sigh of relief to bot developers concerned about recent reports of negative user experiences.”
Meanwhile, chatbots are getting good reps from some serious industry heavyweights: none other than Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, and Facebook’s head of messaging, David Marcus.
The UK’s Observer newspaper reported last September:
“[Microsoft CEO] Nadella and [Facebook’s] Marcus see chatbots as an important new human/machine interface.
“Both of their companies have launched tools to help developers create these bots, and between April and September, more than 30,000 were made for Facebook Messenger alone.”
Chatbots are certainly attracting plenty of media attention. There’s an online Chatbots Magazine where you will find The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Chatbots, the website Chatbot’s Life that claims to be “the best place to learn about chatbots,” and an online forum, chatbot.org for the discussion of all things chatbot. It contains a directory of 1,215 chatbots, a list of 680 chatbot developers and boasts a community of almost 21,000 members.
It also carries a chatbot archive stretching back all the way to 1966 and Chatbot Eliza — after Eliza Doolittle, a working-class character in George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion — that “parodies a Rogerian therapist, largely by rephrasing many of the patient’s statements as questions and posing them to the patient. Thus, for example, the response to ‘My head hurts’ might be ‘Why do you say your head hurts?’”
So, how can you benefit from chatbots?
Such curiosities aside, a white paper from customer engagement technology company 7 Improving Contact Center Performance with Virtual Agent and Chatbot Technology investigates the potential of chatbots at length and “the benefits contact centre managers can expect … by deploying a virtual agent or chatbot in your digital channels.
“If your company is regularly communicating with customers or could increase communication to improve sales and customer experience, using a chatbot could be a good option.”
Here’s the compelling list of claimed benefits:
- Call, email, and chat volumes decrease by 40 percent or more
- Low-complexity informational requests are handled by the customer through self-service, instead of the agent
- Agents can focus on delivering higher value assistance that requires more interaction, such as screen sharing, or an activity that generates revenue, such as upselling and cross-selling
- Agent engagement and morale increases, since the nature of the calls are less repetitive
- Agents can have a greater impact on the customer service experience when they aren’t acting as live “robots” that simply offer the same basic customer service information hundreds of times each week
- Similarly, agent morale improves when they’re given the chance to resolve more complex and rewarding issues, rather than repeating themselves
- Consistency of answers across all channels improves when customers and agents are using the same Virtual Agent