How Chatbots And Human Agents Together Will Transform Contact Centers

How Chatbots And Human Agents Together Will Transform Contact Centers

As chatbots are gaining traction, their various benefits for customer service are being extolled by business leaders across the globe.  However, we are still not at a point wherein human intervention in customer service processes can be completely eliminated. In such a scenario, how can chatbots be used to seamlessly work with human agents to streamline and transform customer contact centers?

The Role Of Chatbots In Customer Service

Good customer service is such an important aspect for the success of business today that companies often go to great lengths to establish the most efficient and effective customer contact centers. While contact centers were traditionally driven by human agents trained to effectively handle customer queries and grievances, automation and AI technologies are also making their way to the table. For most companies with a focus on automating and streamlining a part of the customer service process, chatbots are already on the radar.

Chatbots are essentially conversational AI softwares that use Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms to understand the ‘intent’ behind a question and respond back with the most appropriate answer. According to Gartner Inc, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistants (VCA) or chatbot technology across all engagement channels by the year 2020. This number has gone up drastically from less than 2 percent in 2017.

Before discussing how a co-existential model of humans and chatbots can be leveraged in a contact center, it’s important to understand the different capabilities and benefits of a chatbot.

The Benefits Of Using Chatbots In Contact Centers

Chatbots today can simulate human-like conversation and resolve simple and many complex customer issues. Especially chatbots can easily take over handling simple tasks such as sending an instant response to a customer eg: ‘Okay, we will look into it.’, or answering Frequently Answered Questions (FAQ),  from human agents. This greatly improves agent productivity as usually most customer service questions are low-level and repetitive.

Responding immediately is a very important determinant for customer satisfaction. In this regard, chatbots help companies garner satisfaction and trust from their customers.

Another benefit of using chatbots is that they can be used to handle customer care at odd hours of the night. Unlike for humans, time is not a parameter applicable to chatbots.

If you were to look at the benefits of using chatbots in contact centers, the most important factor is the reduction in cost. In fact, CNBC reports that chatbots are expected to cut down business costs by as much as $8 billion by the year 2022. Some of the economical benefits of adopting chatbots for customer service are:

  • Reduced Labour Costs – Organizations that have integrated chatbots as a first line of service in their customer service team have seen a considerable reduction in labour costs. While a human chat agent can effectively chat with about three customers at once, efficient chatbots can handle an unlimited number of interactions simultaneously. This means that a chatbot could be employed to handle as many customer concerns as possible, transferring the service process to a human agent only in case of very complex queries.
  • 24/7 Presence – Customers today are extremely demanding due to which it is a good idea for companies to have round-the-clock customer care. Because let’s face it, customers pay for more than just the product. They pay for good service too. But in order to employ human agents for 24/7 service, the cost required is huge. So what can a company do to provide good customer service WHILE cutting down on costs? Use a chatbot. Using chatbots to handle after-hour queries with an option to escalate to a human agent only when required, is practical. This way, customers trying to establish contact do not feel deprived either. The company too is happy as no additional resources need to be hired.

    And the greatest thing about chatbots is that unlike humans they don’t charge by the hour. Whether you have implemented a chatbot for 9 hours in a day or 24, it costs the same.

  • Lower Training Costs – Customer care agents need constant training in order to keep them updated with ever-evolving products and processes. Additionally, every new hire also needs to be thoroughly trained. But the cost of training these resources can quickly add up and get out of hand. Chatbots on the other hand are capable of constant learning. Even in case of newer data, an update can be made to the centralized chatbot builder platform and revision cascades to the overall chatbot operation. They also pick up on customer behaviour patterns to deduce what the best response to specific questions might be.

According to Gene Alvarez, Managing Vice President at Gartner, more than half of the global organizations have already invested in automated solutions such as chatbots for customer care, as they realize the advantages of automated self-service. Gartner research also reports that organizations report a reduction of up to 70 percent in call, chat and/or email inquiries after implementing an automated solution such as a chatbot. According to the Aspect Consumer Experience Index, 70 percent of millennials report positive experiences with chatbots, and many prefer chatbots for the convenience and immediate gratification. Along with increased customer satisfaction, a 33 percent saving per voice engagement has also been noted.


When Is Agent Intervention Needed?

While chatbots can seamlessly handle simple queries and to an extent complex queries as well, there many arise situations where the issue can be resolved only by agents.

This is where human intervention becomes essential.

Imagine a scenario where a customer is in distress and needs immediate help with something. While a human agent can understand their emotion and urgency, a chatbot cannot.

Another scenario could be during a new product/service launch. Let’s say your company has launched a new product/service. There’ll be a spike in help requests from customers who’re still trying to figure it out. If your existing chatbot is not trained to answer these new types of questions, agent intervention will be required.

There could also be situations where a customer is trying to solve a rare problem personalized to him/her and reaches out for help. In such cases chatbots may not always provide the best answer.

Human Agents And Chatbots - A Coexistence Model

Essentially, organizations must look at fostering a coexistence model with chatbots working in line with human agents and augmenting productivity. Chatbots can be used as the first line of agents to the existing customer service process and to fulfill basic, preliminary tasks such as aggregating user data, answering repetitive questions, sending relevant information and taking down the details related to customer concerns.

In case of an escalation or upon a customer’s request, the chatbot can also handover the conversation to a live agent. This concept is called “agent handoff”. Ideally any customer service chatbot should also provide an option to switch to live chat. It should also be intelligent enough to understand the context of the conversation and suggest customers to chat with a human agent.

In a nutshell, here are a few situations a chatbot should transfer the conversation to an agent:

  1. Customer directly requests to chat with a agent
  2. Critical and time-sensitive issues
  3. Complex conversations: The bot should be intelligent enough to understand it can’t provide the right answer
  4. User’s sentiment: If the customer sounds frustrated or angry
End User Graph

Learn more:  Human Hand-Off In Service Desk Bots

This process not just ensures a quick response time from the customer care team to the concerned customer, but also makes the work of human agents much simpler. While quick response and efficiency is a chatbot’s USP, human agents can bank on their emotional quotient to win customer trust.

Human Agents Training Virtual Customer Assistants

Training, calibrating and explaining AI-enabled systems requires human-in-the-loop architecture


An AI system needs a human-in-the-loop feedback system to constantly learn and become intelligent. And throughout its lifecycle, an AI system interacts with different types of people who influence its intelligence. In the case of consumer-facing chatbot, even the smallest customer’s feedback like “click here if you are satisfied with the solution” can help improve the machine learning algorithm of chatbots. In addition to consumer training, contact center agents can also classify outliers and exceptions and help modify the chatbot training data and behaviour accordingly.

Educate Your Agents About Chatbots

A concern about chatbot implementation among your agents is the perceived threat they pose to their employment. Although we are still a far way off from completely doing away with human staff in contact centers, the existing workforce feels threatened. This is a demotivating factor for the employees, and something that the organizations need to factor in when trying to bring in chatbots.

While most contact center staff may look at chatbots as their competition, it is not the case.

Educate your agents about how chatbots can solve low-value customer issues and make their work more productive and streamlined. Demonstrate the capabilities of the chatbot so they can better understand its functioning.

The Future

Sooner or later, the implementation of customer service chatbots will become imperative. Chatbot adoption can help organizations provide round the clock service to its customers, partly reducing the workload on its human customer care agents while cutting down on staffing costs. Essentially, chatbots can help organizations provide better customer care with fewer resources.

Although we cannot completely eliminate the human touch from customer service, chatbots can be used to cut down on human intervention as much as possible. This can be achieved by using chatbots to manage a larger volume of customer needs while reserving only the most complicated issues for human agents.

Knowing the potential that chatbots today possess, the question begs to be asked; Can chatbots completely replace human customer service? At this point, no. But of course, chatbots do have a bright future, with more and more organizations implementing them in multi-operational capabilities. Although they might not oust the human workforce in contact centers, chatbots sure do reduce operational costs and improve process efficiencies, making them a valuable addition.

Even at the most rudimentary level, contact centers that embrace the coexistence of chatbots and human agents, will surely deliver superior customer service.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please feel free to get in touch with one of our enterprise chatbot consultants for a personalized consultation. You may also be interested in exploring our chatbot builder platform (BotCore).

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