According to the 2017 Aspect Consumer Experience Index, a national study of 1,000 American consumers that investigated attitudes, preferences and behaviors regarding customer touch points and engagement within the context of self-service, customized or personalized service and the hot topics of messaging, virtual assistants and chatbots, 45 percent of customers don’t care if their online purchase or customer service is handled by a chatbot or a live person — as long as it’s handled quickly and accurately.

So, what does this mean for the call center?

Customer service and support professionals have likely been under the impression that chatbots and AI will take over all contact center jobs. In fact, in the report Gartner Predicts 2017: CRM Customer Service and Support predicted the use of virtual customer assistants, A.K.A. chatbots, will increase by 1,000 percent by 2020. One thousand percent!

In 2018, 1.5 billion people around the world have the ability to send and receive messages via SMS, according to GSMA Intelligence. In the age of texting and smartphones, people are more and more inclined to use chatbots for simple transactions and interactions. Consider the 2017 Aspect Consumer Index, that reported 59 percent of consumers prefer customer service that doesn’t involve talking.

Is the proliferation of chatbots the end of customer service as we know it?

The 2017 Aspect Agent Experience Survey found that 70-80 percent of calls agents take are easy to moderate requests. The survey also found that nearly half of agents prefer it that way. Agents said they’re generally satisfied in their role. Chatbots can step in and handle the easy, frequently asked questions allowing live agents more time to resolve complicated questions and issues, but that doesn’t mean live agents are going away. It turns out that a large majority of agents feel more satisfied and more committed when tasked with complex inquiries. In fact, they see a lot of opportunities.

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Agents surveyed said chatbots will:

  • Improve agent skills – 79 percent
  • Make agents feel like they are having a bigger impact in the company – 72 percent
  • Enable agents to provide more personalized service experience for customers – 64 percent

And, 44 percent recognize chatbots could take the monotony and mundaneness out of their jobs — which is a win for companies as agents become more engaged.

The 2017 Aspect Consumer Experience Index uncovered that 48 percent of American consumers feel interaction via their method of choice is the most important part of a personalized experience. The bottom line: human interaction isn’t going anywhere. And nearly all the consumers surveyed said they absolutely want the ability to transfer to a live agent should a chatbot interaction become too complicated to handle.

The data shows that customer service chatbots are not only addressing the desire consumers have for self-service, but they are also creating opportunities for agents to boost their skills across the call center. When chatbots aid contact center agents, they become a valued resource that allows agents to offload the repetitive and easily-answered questions. In turn, agents can expand their knowledge base and provide more value to their organization.

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