Artificial Intelligence

Is Your Call Center Ready for Chatbots?

By Amy King

0 min read

This year, bots and the rise of popular messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger have dominated online media conversations around trends in technology and communication. From Forbes and The Economist to Time magazine — everyone is talking about the artificial intelligence (AI) online chat tools that use a combination of machine learning and language processing to predict with more than 90 percent accuracy what someone types and needs.

This technology means some brands have started to leverage chatbots for customer service in the hopes of saving on call center costs. But are customers ready for bots instead of talking to a live customer service agent? And is it worth it for your company to invest in software that uses bots to solve customer service issues? Talkdesk surveyed over 2,000 U.S. adults to understand if the raved about chatbot trend translates to the end user: the people who need customer service from their favorite brands. Our survey results show that the chatbot frenzy in the media might not be aligned with how your customers feel when using chatbots.

What is a bot?

A bot — derived from robot — is any application that performs an automated task. They’ve been around since the beginning of the internet: malicious bots have delivered malware to computers and bots are what Google has used to find and add new web pages to their search engine. Chatbots, however, are what have caused bots to earn the limelight this year.

Chatbots use artificial intelligence to hold a conversation with you and automatically complete tasks such as creating calendar invites, ordering food and purchasing the perfect shoes. As popular messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik and WeChat open their technology APIs to developers who can create automatic bot apps, some of the world’s biggest brands such as Nike and Uber are beginning to integrate their services with messenger bots.

Customer Service & Chatbots

Chatbots are not just for fun in messenger apps — they’re being used in customer service technology too. If you’ve visited a brand’s website and noticed the little box that pops up with a photo of someone asking how they can help you, that is often an AI chatbot instead of live chat. AgentBot is an example of a customer service chatbot that offer these live chat popups to your customers. But how do customers feel about these chatbots versus the ability to call and receive live support on the phone from a human? Our Harris Poll survey yielded some interesting results:

  • The majority of Americans (93%) agree that they value a company who staffs their customer support with people instead of bots
  • Nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88%) agree that their customer service experience is better because they engage with a live person instead of a bot
  • 8 in 10 Americans (79%) agree that talking to bots is a waste of their time
  • Men are more likely than women to agree that they can tell when they are talking to a bot instead of a live person (87% and 82%, respectively)

Given this data, you might want to rethink replacing your customer service with chatbots. However, bots can be a great compliment to your customer service process. Since bots can answer hundreds of thousands of service requests at a time, your customer service can appear to be 24/7 — even if you can’t afford to offer round the clock live support. And since 51 percent of consumers believe a business should respond to their queries around the clock, this kind of access is important to more than half of your customers.

Chatbots can also arm your customer service team with more information and make their job easier and quicker, therefore reducing call times and saving your company money. The trick is not to lose that personal touch over the phone, however, since most customers still really need and want this service.

Popular Bot Technology

As more chatbot apps are being created and integrated with messaging apps and customer service, and as artificial intelligence technology continues to improve, we can only expect bots to become an increasing part of our lives. Even if you’re not ready to use bots for your company’s customer service needs, it’s pretty fun to play around with some of them to automate tasks such as ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers or an Uber to your restaurant using Facebook Messenger, or even ordering a Gordita Supreme for lunch from Taco Bell on Slack.

*Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Talkdesk from August 3-5, 2016 among 2,027 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


Amy King

Amy is an Account Manager at Talkdesk. When she's not busy at work, she enjoys cooking, browsing bookstores and going on hikes around the Bay Area.