Chatbot vs. Human Chat: Mastering the Balancing Act


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Disruptive technology has changed the way that consumers interact with businesses at all steps in the customer journey – from awareness to consideration, purchase, to loyalty expansion. During the process, consumer expectations have increased, and relationships with brands have evolved.

The days of time-consuming phone conversations between a frustrated customer and service representative should be long gone, thanks to innovations and customer-centric strategies. Customers today expect answers to their questions almost immediately and, perhaps more importantly, want to be able to find the solution themselves. According to Gartner, 81 percent of customers prefer to try solving a problem themselves before reaching out to a live representative.

Digital service channels like chatbots, in-app support, social media, and text messages aim to help, but won’t always be sufficient. Instead, these automated service platforms must be supplemented with human assistance, ensuring customers can achieve the best resolution as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Three Best Practices for Blending Automated with Assisted Service

While the availability of digital self-service options is essential for brands to satisfy the needs of busy consumers, they can only go so far. For example, chatbots and messaging services can answer simple questions like: ‘When will my package arrive?’ or ‘What is my rewards point balance?’ However, when it comes to more complex problems, consumers want the opportunity to pick up the phone to talk through the issue with a live agent.

So, how can businesses successfully blend automated service with human-assisted service? Here are three tips to keep in mind:

  • Focus on the experience: Too often, organizations rush into implementing a consumer chat channel without really drilling down into what the experience will be like on the other end. A vital piece of this is connecting each customer service function – from chat to live voice support – so that the customer doesn’t need to start the process over again each time he or she needs to get in touch. From the customer perspective, there is no end to a brand conversation. It starts as soon as a purchase is made and only ends with the decision to purchase from a competitor.
  • Recognize when human intervention is needed: As noted, the customer’s first step will often be tapping self-service options to navigate an issue on their own – but, in some cases, this won’t be adequate. As such, businesses should be monitoring on the back end and recognize when a customer isn’t getting the answers that he or she needs and proactively reach out with a personalized conversation. The importance of anticipating this need can’t be overstated enough – it shows that the brand is paying attention and ensures that requirements are met before customer frustrations lead to a negative review, social post, or total abandonment. Customers don’t stop buying or patronizing brands that meet and anticipate their needs.
  • Put the customer in control: Regardless of the preferred channel, customers should have full control over how they complete their transactions. Making this process seamless, intuitive and straightforward will go a long way when quelling frustration. It should be easy for customers to provide their honest feedback once the issue has been resolved. Even if the experience didn’t meet expectations, giving customers an outlet to share their opinion will make them feel valued.

Increase Efficiency & Build Strong Relationships

While live chat is primarily being used in ecommerce, every organization should offer a live chat option, as the benefits translate across industries. The industries that stand to benefit most are telecommunications, high-tech, travel, and utilities.

Utility companies, for example, often have a large number of inquiries that deal with billing. These are questions that can be quickly answered via chat and automated further using a chatbot, saving the company resources while keeping customers happy.

The pitfall for companies emerges when too much emphasis is placed on cutting costs and not enough on the end-user experience. While this might be what’s best for the business, it might not be mutually beneficial for the customer. Success lies in finding your sweet spot: between saving resources on workforce and accessibility of agents for human conversations, while always keeping the customer in control.


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