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Stop Trying To Replace Customer Support Agents With Chatbots

Author: Ian Jacobs, principal analyst, Forrester Research

Customer service organizations have been looking for ways to cut costs for decades. Now that chatbot mania has taken over, many are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to replace their human agents with chatbots. In theory, that makes sense — a chatbot costs less than a human over time, and most customer service organizations tend to focus more heavily on cost than on customer experience.

In practice, as we’ve shown in our recent infographic, customers dislike interacting with chatbots. Most would prefer to call into a contact center, or even reach out via social media, rather than experience a poor chatbot interaction. Customers get even more frustrated (and rightly so) when chatbots can’t solve their problems — with no easy escalation to a human for help — within that chatbot session. So why are brands rushing to replace all their agents?

In our recent report, “Stop Trying To Replace Your Agents With Chatbots,” we identified four approaches to agent augmentation:

  1. Agent-facing chatbots for testing and training. If your customer service agents search a knowledge base in the course of their interactions with customers, why not create a natural language interface for that task? It’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning your chatbot journey.
  2. Human-intermediated chatbots for increased efficiency and seamless suggestions. Here, an AI tool observes a conversation between a human agent and a customer, providing suggestions that the agent can either push out with one click or modify as needed. The agent can resolve the customer’s issue quickly without the customer even knowing the chatbot is there.
  3. Front-end chatbots to handle routine tasks and free up agents to resolve issues. This approach involves a chatbot gathering all the information and context needed from the customer before handing the interaction off to a human agent.
  4. Intermingled workflows so both chatbot and agent do what each does best. The human agent can invoke a chatbot to handle a specific task, then have the chatbot hand the interaction back to the agent. Similar to the front-end chatbot, human agents are relieved of routine tasks, but in this workflow, the agent and chatbot can flex back and forth to tackle the portions of the interaction they excel at.

Using one or more of those approaches to augment customer service agents can result in significant benefits to your organization, such as reduced handle time, increased employee engagement, and improved experience — while also ensuring your customers don’t run for the hills after an infuriating chatbot interaction.

We predicted last year that 2019 will be the year to invest in humans and that chatbots would face backlash from frustrated customers. Plan ahead and augment the agents you already have instead of outright replacing them. Learn more about the use cases, benefits, and how to build a business case for agent augmentation by reading our latest report, “Stop Trying To Replace Your Agents With Chatbots,” or set up an inquiry with me.

(Sarah Dawson contributed to this blog.)

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