WEB & TECH / JUL. 03, 2016
version 6, draft 6

Will Bots Replace Customer Service Reps?

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Connectivity, is the name of the post internet game. Companies are now using apps, cloud computing and remote workers to bring down over-head costs and to streamline tasks.

See Also: Struggles Only Customer Service Representatives Will Understand

Technology might streamline tasks so much in fact things like pesky customer service representatives won’t even be necessary anymore. So, will automated programs and software replace honest to goodness employees? They might, so let’s just take a look.

What Is A Bot

 

I know, you probably already know what a bot is, but just in case you don’t it’s really straight forward. A bot (a chat bot, since that’s the one we’re talking about) is a computer program that simulates human conversation…well, they simulate it badly, that’s why they are often used to trawl FAQs (or “frequently asked questions”) and find answers using the keywords the customer used in their question. This of course is the simplest and most straightforward application. Mark Zuckerberg seeks to redefine this paradigm.

Zuckerberg’s Ambitions

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So, Mark believes that he can make bots which will help not only with customer support but also push brand awareness and even promote sales. Beyond those functions though Zuckerberg also seeks to integrate a customer service agent bot into Facebook’s messenger app. Although there are companies which use messenger as a customer service platform (or more appropriately as part of their customer service platform) but it is currently being handled exclusively by human beings. Zuckerberg believes that with the use of artificial intelligence and in conjunction with human customer service agents they can usher in a new more efficient era of company-to-client interaction.

Fast Application

 

Another benefit that bots offer compared to application is that the development cycle of bots is much shorter than those for apps. Another interesting benefit (and probably unforeseen for the most part) is the ability to use the users’ hardware or device. That was the idea behind Kik’s (a messaging service used heavily by teenagers) initiative to work with fast food franchises. Basically Kik wants the customer to scan a Kik code (like a QR code) that puts them into a chat with a bot where they will be able to place their order by simply typing “diet coke” “chicken nuggets” “regret”. Then the bot would convey the order to cashiers. This would not only help the service team work more efficiently and decongest the front service area it would also negate the $100,000 cost of a self-checkout kiosk (or at least that’s what it cost McDonald’s). The companies could potentially develop a bot for all of their stores in the world for a fraction of the cost of installing self-checkout kiosks in all their locations.

Personal Assistant Bot

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So kind of like a stripped down Siri (which technically is also a bot) a start-up company in New York called x.ai have developed a bot which works as a personal assistant named Amy. And Amy is a robust bot, it actually keeps tabs on your schedule…and get this, if you add her to the emails that you send out, it will send the recipient possible meeting hours that are open in your schedule…but that’s not all (oh god this starting to sound infomercial). If the recipient of the email cancels, Amy will send yet another email, attempting to reschedule with the openings you have in the future. Then if there is a successful rescheduling Amy will automatically enter that into your schedule. Although x.ai expects Amy to be a resounding success they said it’s not intended as a replacement for a human personal assistant. Instead they said they intend it as a helping hand for people that are not able to afford a personal assistant, to take a bit of the arduous task of scheduling and then remembering said schedule.

Social Media

 

Another application for bots that has seen varying success is as social media manager…of course the key phrase here is varying levels of success. Recently Microsoft’s social media bot Tay had a public relations snafu when it started sharing racist remarks across the companies social media accounts. OK to be fair Tay had a lot of things working against it…first it was developed to speak with a joke millennial tinged tone, second it had no content restrictions…so it went on a racist rant talking about African Americans, Jewish Americans while bizarrely self-identifying as Mexican. Here are most of those tweets if you have a sick sense of humor. So obviously here, the bot needs a bit of human intervention…or filtering if you will, so it doesn’t share something inappropriate.

Beyond just scheduling grunt work, if the A.I. evolves enough, popular companies, brands or even celebrities that are inundated with messages from fans, can have their workload lightened by a bot that is programmed to answer with a few can responses. This idea isn’t even that new; some companies have already started experimenting with it. One Direction’s Harry Styles tried a bot on Kik Messanger recently…but it seems that it wasn’t very convincing, since out of the 90,000 people it spoke to only 10-15% thought it was the real Harry…even though they know it’s fake, there are still thousands of teens a day that go and talk to Bot-Harry…proving yet again that teens are creepy as all get out. An Israeli company called Imperson actually has bots running on Facebook messenger for fictional characters like Miss Piggy, but intend to develop their application to expand to real life celebrities too.

See Also: 5 Unbelievable Stories of Customers Going Bat-Sh*t Crazy

Do you think that bots will replace people in the future? Let us know in the comment section below.

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