News & Insight

Will Chatbots Replace Humans?

Chatbot seems to be the new buzzword in customer experience, but will the rise of chatbots mean the end of human engagement specialists (agents)?

Don’t bet on it. While artificial intelligence and machine learning have made significant progress in understanding human language and enabling chatbots to hold a human-like conversation, there’s something still missing for most customers: the human touch.

Despite the digital age—or maybe because of it—what customers desire most from their interaction with brands is to know that someone cares about them and will help them resolve their issues. In fact, STARTEK will soon be publishing research results that clearly show this preference for human connection regardless of channel.

More than 30,000 branded chatbots that have been released for Facebook Messenger in just over a year.

Source: Josh Constine and Sarah Perez, “Facebook Messenger Now Allows Payments in Its 30,000 Chatbots,” TechCrunch, September 12, 2016.

Should you use chatbots?

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t deploy chatbots for low-value/low-complexity customer interactions. Chatbots can be a cost-effective self-service tool that increases customer satisfaction while it reduces your cost to serve. When designed correctly, chatbots can effectively free up your human engagement specialists for higher value (both to the customer and to your business) interactions.

Digital ≠ no human interaction

The trouble with the chatbot craze is that companies make the mistake of thinking that all digital channels require less human interaction and conversation. In fact, digital channels require even more human communication skills than ever. When a chatbot fails to enable a customer to self-serve, it takes a human engagement specialist to step in and engage with that customer in a meaningful way.

And that engagement is critical to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime customer value. Customer engagement is an emotional connection with your brand, but you only get an emotional response when there are people communicating in an authentic way. True customer engagement requires human dialogue that builds and strengthens the emotional connection. Chatbots—at least in their current and near-future forms—cannot create an emotional connection.

Wanted: conversation specialists

It doesn’t mean that just any human will do. Now more than ever, your company needs to hire and train engagement specialists to be conversation professionals who can frame adverse situations thoughtfully, educate customers, and anticipate customer needs. While chatbots have their place in self-service, authentic conversation based on scientifically proven dialogue habits is the best approach to drive a significant and lasting impact on customer satisfaction.

10% NPS improvement

Human engagement helped a communications service provider increase Net Promoter Score and unsolicited compliments while decreasing escalations. Find out how in this case study.