The Future of Chat Bots in Social Customer Service

By: Dimitri Callens

June 22, 2017

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Chatbots are the word du jour in the social media space. But what is actually possible with today’s technological capabilities and how can your company best use Bots?

Chatbots are applications programmed to act and talk like a human when you interact with them. The experience should feel like asking a person for help, not working with a machine or search engine. The most visible ones today are the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. However, while the initial appeal garnered a lot of attention, the limitations have prevented widescale adoption of these Bots – less than 5% of people are using either Bot to its full capability.

In the last year, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram launched their own Bots for use within their respective messaging systems. While this is an exciting step towards full-functioning Bots, we are still in the very preliminary stages of the capabilities that this market will someday offer. These social Bots are actually Bot APIs, not full-fledged Bots…yet. They can be programmed to answer prepopulated questions and can be linked to existing CRM systems to provide up to date and accurate information.

Next up in Bots is a process called flows, which functions very similarly to a call center IVR system. Flows can understand questions and reply with additional questions in order to provide the customer with the right information. These are all prepopulated and limited to the understanding that has been programmed into the Bot. There is a lot of room for advancement here and this will be the reality of Bots for the foreseeable future.

At Clarabridge, we are already testing these capabilities using our text analytics engine to automatically understand human language and send back the correct flows to solve customer queries. We’ve launched this within our survey product and expect to see wider scale adoption in the very near future.

But, a true Bot is still at least 10-20 years away. For it to really seem human and pass the Turing test, the technology must be able to learn from and fully understand human requests. For example, being able to reply to “where’s my order” with a behind the scenes account verification, tracking number identification, and then respond with expected delivery dates, all without further questioning.

Why is this important? Bot APIs are the first step towards a fully functioning Bot that can provide better, faster, service to customers and prioritize agent time for more detailed, personalized customer inquiries.

There are of course many fears surrounding Bots. Will they become similar to a call center IVR which creates a disjointed, slow, and frustrating process for the consumer? Will the eliminate customer service positions?

The answer to both of those questions is that no, they should not. There is a huge opportunity for social customer service teams to overcome the limitations of the call center and create Bots that are truly helpful and easy to use for their customers. And if they succeed, they should see even more customer inquiries coming in over social media. Very few customers are actually reaching out for help every time they are frustrated. If companies can create a fast, effortless way for them to receive help, more customers will reach out, increasing the need for more agents to answer more complicated questions, and creating more happy customers.

Want to learn more about Chat bots? Check out our recent webinar with product manager Dimitri Callens: Are BOTS Taking Over Social Customer Service?