If you’re in customer service and support, you’ve no doubt been told that chatbots and the A.I. avalanche will be taking away all customer service jobs in short order. Several analysts predict near total replacement of live agents with chatbots. Gartner for example, predicts the use of virtual customer assistants (chatbots) will jump by 1,000% by 2020. Juniper Research forecasts that bot interactions in the banking sector (those completed without human assistance) will move from 12% currently to over 90% in 2022. Alas, it was a good run customer service agents, let’s pack it up and go home.
But is the chatbot invasion really the beginning of the end of customer service agents as we know them?
It’s no secret that the smartphone-driven desire to avoid human contact is well upon us and more and more people are open to using chatbots for simple interactions/transactions. In the 2016 Aspect Consumer Experience Index research, two-thirds of consumers said they feel good when they can handle a customer service issue without having to talk to a live person. And most of those folks (61%) think chatbots will allow for faster issue resolution and question answering.
But let’s look at this from the customer service agents’ perspective. Customer service representatives revealed that on average, 70-80% of the calls they take are easy/moderate requests and in fact, nearly half of the agents prefer it that way, according to the 2017 Aspect Agent Experience survey. Answering the same few questions, over and over, week in and week out may not make you happy, but it won’t make you miserable either. So as a whole, agents across the board are fairly happy in their jobs. 62% of agents said that they are generally satisfied in their role – good, but not great. Millennials, who represent the largest generational workforce, reveal that they are even more satisfied than the average agent (70%).
But then here come the chatbots to change all that. Rather, here come the digital employees to help with all that.
Chatbots by design, take the responsibility of handling easy, frequently asked questions from intended for agents, and leave them the agents the more complicated, transactional or complex questions that take more time and resources to resolve. There are now 33,000 business chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone and that number continues to grow so – clearly, no one is stopping the rise of the robot. But how do the agents feel about this? if tasked with handling complex queries, even though half confess to preferring taking easy questions, agents feel more satisfied in their jobs and more committed to the company. A large majority of agents see a lot of opportunities:
- 79% it will improve their skills
- 72% it will make them feel like they are having a bigger impact in the company
- 64% it will enable them to provide more personalized service experience for customers
- 59% say they feel more satisfied in their jobs and more committed to the company
Also, 44% of agents see chatbots taking the monotony and mundaneness out of their jobs meaning they will become more engaged. And this is really the impact no one’s chatting about. By bringing more challenge to the customer service agents, chatbots can create more engagement which in turn will create more productivity. Engaged agents said they were twice as likely to reach their goals more consistently and service their customers faster. Plus, 78% of engaged agents said they were satisfied in their jobs. They highest of any group in the survey.
Of course, there are expected generational differences. Gen Z agents feel like taking complex questions makes them frustrated because they are currently measured for speed of completion while Gen X agents were most likely to say taking complex questions presented them with an opportunity to shine for management.
The notion that all customer engagement will be void of human interaction is clearly an exaggerated prediction. 42% of consumers (According to the 2016 Aspect Consumer Experience Index) said they want a live person to help them handle complex questions and requests and no analyst or prognosticator is predicting the evolutionary end to complex questions and requests. And nearly all the consumers surveyed said the absolutely want the ability to transfer to a live agent should a chatbot interaction become too complicated to handle.
But as the data shows, customer service chatbots are not just addressing customers’ self-service desires for simple query resolution. They also offer the opportunity to create skill boosts across the contact center and enable agents to provide more personalized experiences. With chatbots serving as the junior assistant to contact center agents – a resource for them to offload the repetitive and easily-answered questions – agents can then expand their knowledge base, provide more value to the organization and more than likely, stick around for a lot longer.
- Here’s proof that workers want to relinquish their menial jobs to chatbots - August 7, 2017
- El Cliente Actual - February 17, 2017
- The Now Consumer - January 27, 2017