Chatbots vs. Live Agents: Will AI Replace Live Agents in Customer Support?

Chatbots vs. Live Agents: Will AI Replace Live Agents in Customer Support?

Posted by on Sep 29th, 2020

Chatbots have arguably become one of the most popular forms of communication between businesses and customers. They’re convenient, easy to use, and most websites already have them built into their homepages and other webpages on their sites. All customers have to do is simply visit a business’s website and they’ll see a little popup window in the bottom right-hand corner of their screen asking if they need assistance. Chatbots are a great tool to use if customers have a quick question or are looking for specific information on your website. But the question on everybody’s mind is, are they a good replacement for real live agents?

There are actually some pros and cons of using a combination of chatbot technology and live agents to handle your customer service interactions.

Chatbots vs. Live Agents

What Is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a useful tool that can help supplement your customer service team and deliver more efficient and timely responses to your customers. It runs on computer software that’s designed to mimic real human interactions via text or text-to-speech conversations when live agents are unavailable.

Chatbots can be programmed to deliver specific realistic sounding responses to common general inquiries, which can help lower customer interaction times and increase satisfaction.

Pros of Using Chatbots

Are Cost-Effective

Chatbots have proven to be far more cost-effective than hiring live agents for a number of reasons. The cost of setup and system maintenance is relatively low. You don’t have to pay them because they’re bots. They don’t require any training and you can program them to deliver specific responses to various customer questions and queries.

Since chatbots aren’t human, they don’t need to take paid lunch breaks or vacation time, which also saves your company a lot of money that can be better allocated to other areas of your business. Additionally, chatbots don’t require paid sick leave or retirement funds.

They Have a Machine Learning Advantage

Believe it or not, chatbots and humans actually have a lot in common. For instance, chatbots have what we like to call the machine learning advantage. What that means is that the more chatbots interact with your customers, the more intuitive they become. In fact, chatbots can learn and store new information over time just like humans can to gain insight into how to better serve your customers in the future. Best of all, chatbots can also learn to closely simulate human interactions via live chats, so that customers won’t ever feel like they’re speaking to a robot.

Offer 24/7 Customer Service

Another benefit of using chatbots to supplement your customer service team is that they operate 24/7, allowing customer to get the service solutions they need even outside of your hours of operation.

Unlike human customer service agents, chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, which saves your employees a great deal of time so they can focus on other tasks.

Cons of Using Chatbots

Chatbots Lack Contextual Critical Thinking Skills

Chatbots possess artificial intelligence, which is instrumental in helping them learn and store vital information based on past customer interactions. But artificial intelligence has its limitations. One of the main limitations is that chatbots lack basic contextual and critical thinking skills.

While they can provide answers to basic and upfront customer queries, they can’t detect sarcasm or frustration in customers based on tone. Chatbots don’t have the ability to redirect the conversation if it takes a negative turn and this can lead to a lot of frustration from customers. Basically, chatbots are unable to communicate real human emotions such as empathy, sympathy, or compassion—all of which are crucial to any customer service role.

Customers Still Prefer Talking to Real People

For all intents and purposes, many customers still prefer to speak to live agents because they provide a very humanistic form of customer service. Live agents have the ability to convey compassion and they can even maintain an upbeat conversation while still providing the solutions and answers that customers are looking for.

And, in this current fragile economic state, many people would much rather support businesses that are employing real people, even if it means slightly inconveniencing customers.

Chatbots Lack Decision-Making Skills

Chatbots can’t offer opinions on anything. All they’re capable of doing is providing practical answers to customer queries. For instance, if a customer needs a list of business locations, contact information, or a list of products, then a chatbot can help with those queries.

But if a customer asks the chatbot for its opinion on certain products and which ones are better suited for certain circumstances, then the chatbot isn’t equipped to handle this type of query because it lacks the complex thinking skills to make specific recommendations. Only experienced live agents are capable of doing that.

Pros and Cons of Using Live Agents

Live Agents Deliver Compassionate Customer Service

As mentioned, live agents have the complex capability of understanding human emotions and responding to them appropriately and professionally. Inevitably, you’re going to encounter some customers who are frustrated—whether it’s related to your business or not. Live agents have the emotional intelligence to deal with these customers and deescalate tense situations while delivering the right solutions based on the specific needs of their customers.

Live Agents Can Offer Product/Service Recommendations

Live agents can listen to customers’ needs and discern the right product or service recommendations based on their needs. They can also ask the right questions to get a better understanding of what their customers are looking for and expect.

Benefits of Using a Combination of Chatbots and Live Agents

Even in this ultra-modern and technology-driven world, live agents still serve an extremely important role in the customer service industry. People like talking to live agents to get a more compassionate customer service experience.

Hiring live agents also helps boost the economy and creates more jobs. But, sometimes, live agents can get overwhelmed with high call and email volumes. Chatbots can help streamline customer service and provide simple answers to basic questions quickly.

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