While they have been frequently heralded as a tool to handle low-level questions and troubleshooting, the vast majority of firms using chatbots are only asking enough information to help connect them with the most qualified agent, according to research released from Zendesk.
The San Francisco-based provider of help desk software surveyed more than 4,900 business decision makers who were focused on ensuring and/or enhancing customer service, support, and experience capabilities to produce its CX Accelerators report.
Besides the finding that 90 per cent of firms are using chatbots for routing purposes, the report said 57 per cent said the biggest benefit from the technology was agent productivity, rather than a customer-oriented metric like CSAT or NPS score.
The reliance on human agents was also reflected in the state of self-service tools brands are offering their customers. For example, just 40 per cent said they are very effective at refreshing their help center content.
As with similar studies, the report suggested that brands neglect enhancing customer service operations at their peril. Overall, 66 per cent of companies reported that customers are less patient when interacting with agents or service teams. Companies are also 18 per cent more likely to report that customer satisfaction is somewhat or significantly below expectations.
“This is a great start. But these bots should not be asking more questions than is necessary to determine where to send a customer or how to help them,” the report’s authors write. “Backend integration—or a lack thereof—poses another risk. Conversational service simply isn’t possible without streamlined processes that connect bot and human, support channels, or internal teams.”
360 Magazine Insight
One of the underlying message in the Zendesk research is that customer service leaders aren’t using automation to its fullest potential. The statistics, however, offer feedback that serves as a rebuttal: perhaps they are not using bots to gather more data or directly solve more problems because companies don’t yet trust the technology to do so.
It could also be that companies don’t see bots as offering the right tone. For instance, 89 per cent of service/support teams said their goal is to make customer interactions feel more like a conversational experience and less like a transactional experience for customers. Artificially-friendly chatbots rarely sound genuine enough to do this.
Zendesk never addresses the potential skepticism around the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities of bots directly, but it has other data that could move this discussion forward. For instance, nearly half (or 49 per cent), said customer service impacts cross-sell revenues, and 83 per cent of customer service/support employees are trained or directed to uncover sales opportunities in their course of their customer interactions. It’s possible that bots could be similarly trained to identify potential cross-sells and upsells during those initial encounters online.
Much of the report is broken into categories of adoption and experience such as “Starters” and “Champions.” In fact, the report’s gate can be unlocked by taking a self-assessment quiz to personalize how the data is presented. I entered answers I thought would give me the “Starter” version. There was also an option to see the report without the quiz, but it didn’t work for me — and no, I didn’t bother reaching out to Zendesk’s chatbot for help.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.