Before focusing on today’s post, I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all SugarCRM blog readers. We thank you for your support and hope you’ll regularly check back in with us as we are excited to bring you fresh, innovative and thought-provoking content in 2018.
If you’re like me, today is about shaking off the rust, getting caught up and getting back in the flow to make 2018 a great and productive year. For me, that means a lot of reading about what I missed over the holidays. While going through my inbox I saw all kinds of predictions and numerous articles from respected publications like:
There is no question chatbots are getting much better. Customers’ questions, at least easy questions, are now effectively being handled by bots. And, that’s a good thing. Handling customer issues like a change of address, or an update about the status of a shipment should be handled by machines. These are the basic tasks that machines will handle that free up humans for more challenging and interesting interactions.
This all makes sense and feels like a good thing. However, the article in Wired says, “Thanks to machine learning, AI-enabled bots could gain a competitive advantage over human chat exchanges.”
I’m skeptical. Sure, you can only hire so many people, and chatbots can scale and interact with thousands of customers simultaneously. In addition, that one main advantage bots have over humans is they can capture and save data faster and without complaint (chatbots don’t find data entry tedious).
I’m still not convinced. Although AI technology is advancing at a rapid rate, there isn’t a chatbot, virtual assistant or voice-activated home device in existence which has the in-built intelligence to identify the full range of human emotions – and then adapt its responses accordingly to keep the customer on-board and not upset them further by saying the wrong thing. Despite claims by some, we have a long way to go before AI technology can prove it can offer products and services sophisticated enough to understand human sentiment, for example, and apply the learnings appropriately throughout the customer journey.
Instead of replacing or becoming better than humans, I see bots and humans teaming up to offer superior customer service in 2018. Imagine a scenario where the human takes the lead in interacting with the customer. The bot is operating in the background and is available to instantly provide information to the human based on the customer’s requests. After the conversation ends, the bot makes sure all the details are saved and/or updated in the CRM system. In effect, the chatbot supports the employee, not the customer. If we, as an industry, can get there – then sure, 2018 is the year of the chatbot.