Human Customer Support or Chatbot: Which is Right for Your Business?

Ben Allen on Apr 30, 2018 in Marketing Strategy

The chatbot revolution is upon us. Many businesses and leaders in marketing are fully embracing chatbots as part of their strategy, meaning you need to start considering it too.

Chatbots can fulfill a ton of different jobs in a company, such as a personal assistant or a data collector, but the one job most industries are interested in is as a replacement for customer support. Instead of having to pay the salaries of your current customer support, whether you outsource or have an in house team, you just have to pay to develop a chatbot.

Yet, chatbots are not always the perfect solution to every customer support problem. There are plenty of scenarios that require a human’s help, times that a chatbot might only serve to frustrate or confuse your customer. Picking whether to only stick with human support or a chatbot, or finding a balance between the two might be hard, but here’s some points to consider before making a decision.

Chatbots Cut Down on Expenses, Time, and Are Always Working

A chatbot doesn’t require lunch breaks, doesn’t go home after 5, won’t have a mental breakdown after getting yelled at by a customer, and as long as the power is running, it’s working. Short of the occasional software update, a chatbot can work 24/7 year round, including holidays and weekends. When utilized properly, a chatbot could lower customer support costs by 30 percent.

Having a well designed chatbot involved in your customer service department (whether to talk to leads or help customers) can cut down on a lot of man-hours. A single chatbot software can replace hundreds of human chat representatives and help out customers problem solve their issues. Instead of having a human tell you to unplug and replug your router when you’re having issues connecting to your WiFi, a chatbot can accomplish the same task.

A chatbot can also be a very powerful tool to a smaller company with an equally sized customer support team. A small team at times might get over flooded with work responding to calls, emails, tweets, live chats, and every other method under the sun that customers can get in touch with them, but a chatbot can help take some of the burden off. While certain things like phone calls still require a human touch, a chatbot could handle basic requests in emails, live chats, texts and such.

When a Confusing Situation Arises, Humans Can Improvise

At the end of the day, even if you have very advanced AI powering your chatbot, it’s possible for it to get confused. Grammar mistakes, strange requests, new scenarios and general confusion can all lead to a chatbot breaking down, resulting in a frustrated customer.

In these scenarios, humans can perform much better than a chatbot. Even if you want to eliminate a majority of your staff and replace them with a chatbot, you will still require some humans to take over when the chatbot fails.

A human can often make sense of a messy situation and know what kind of questions to ask for clarification. They can adapt how they talk to the customer to make a connection with them, and help build trust with them as a solution provider.

Additionally, some people out there are going to try and mess with chatbots for fun. This might be done simply because they are bored, or to try and maliciously teach the chatbot wrong things in order to hurt the company. A prime example of this is Tay, Microsoft’s AI chatbot experiment on Twitter. Within hours of being launched, internet trolls had taught the chatbot to say very offensive things, both racist and sexist.

Many AI chatbots are constantly learning from their interactions with humans, and if you don’t watch it closely, might pick up on some offensive words or traits. A human though, properly trained in cultural sensitivity, is less likely to be pushed or tricked into a similar scenario.

Do Your Customer Trust Chatbots?

Whether your audience is filled with older generations wary of new technology, or simply customers who would prefer a human touch, you need to know if your target market is open to chatbots. For example, for medical or financial advice, people want to talk to a professional, not a robot. If you implement a chatbot in your customer service and your customers hate it, you are going to lose a ton of trust.

That means first you need to conduct market research on what your customers think about chatbots. This can include both how they would react to it before becoming a customer and after, what kind of problems they would want a human to help with versus a chatbot, and maybe even do experiments to see if they can tell the difference between a human and a chatbot.

When it’s time to launch your chatbot service, make sure it’s clear to those interacting with it that they are talking to a chatbot. People hate it when companies try to trick them with a bot, it makes them feel undervalued. Have an option that if they are unsatisfied with the chatbot that they can contact a human service representative.

Finding Unique Ways To Combine Both Human and Chatbot Support

It’s highly unlikely that chatbots will ever fully replace human customer support, but it can be useful to lower the stress and workload for your support team. It just requires finding the right balance for your business. Nearly every business could benefit for a chatbot in some way.

One common solution is to have a majority of chat based interactions, like live chat, emails, texts and such, to be handled by a chatbot. Then, other methods are still handled by humans, and when a chatbot gets confused, a human can step in to take over.

But maybe you really want to keep that human touch to your customer service. Chatbots could still be useful. No matter how hard you push them, there is a limit to how many calls, emails, livechats and such your team can handle at any given time. If they get a huge surge of calls, are understaffed, or just overall busy, your customer might have long wait times till they can be helped. A chatbot can help cover the overflow of inquiries and either provide solutions for them, or at least make them feel like something is helping until a human can get to them.

It’s not just website based business that can benefit from chatbots. Retail stores are still very relevant in our world, and at busy times, workers can get overwhelmed. While busy with a project, workers might not be able to fully give customers their full attention. Many customer questions though, like “Where is the milk?” and “Will this TV go on sale soon?” could be answered by a chatbot in a kiosk or in an app/website.

Not Just Customer Support, But Marketing Too

Chatbots are exclusive for customer support. A main tool in today’s marketing world is live chat for website visitors and leads. The downside though, is that a sales or marketing person has to be constantly available to respond to any message on that live chat, or shut down the service outside of business hours. A chatbot could help this out though, by handling a major part of the conversation and pinging your sales team when it needs help.

To a similar extent, chatbots could get involved in your social media too. If a majority of what your social media team does is handle complaints and tell them to contact customer support, a chatbot could easily take that off their plate. That leaves them time to come up with unique campaigns and strategies to help your marketing, instead of just copying and pasting “We are sorry to hear that, please send us a DM and we’ll see how we can help.”

The biggest thing to consider with chatbots at the current time is how they can take away the mundane interactions to free you up for more important things. It shouldn’t fully replace members of your marketing team, but can be useful to let them focus on more strategic tasks.

Ben Allen
Ben Allen
Ben is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He also specializes in writing about tech, education, and video games.