In a World of Chatbots, People are Still Your Biggest Asset

August 22, 2017      By Julie Dodd

It’s been said that 2017 is “The Year of the Chatbot” and many organizations are heavily investing in bots to assist retail, marketing, and customer support efforts. These AI-powered technologies have the potential to significantly reduce labor costs, and Gartner predicts that more than 85% of customer interactions will be managed without human assistance by 2020. chatbotsUsing AI to develop pioneering products and initiatives, including the option of self-service portals, is becoming more important to remain competitive. But in doing so, many companies have neglected their primary purpose of serving the needs of their customers. The missing quotient for many businesses is prioritizing people: you need great customer service (and employees) to be truly successful. Unfortunately, this is something SaaS (software as a service) companies often overlook. Because these companies are recurring-revenue based, once a sale is finalized and customers are “in,” there’s a tendency to let automated services take over and focus on service reactively instead of proactively. When it comes to customer service, what do your customers actually want? Automation is capable of incredible things, from streamlining arduous tasks to automatically analyzing and predicting data. But there’s a difference between automating tasks to maximize efficiencies and automating entire service departments. Consider the following:

  • Which automation services will be successful long term? Many companies turn to automation to reduce costs and improve workflow. But when it comes to customer service, automated chatbots are not necessarily the most cost-effective option. Initially, robots may cost less than salaried employees, but if customer service is negatively impacted, this decision will begin to significantly affect revenue and ROI. Automation is best when it completes basic or tedious administrative tasks, so your employees can focus on delivering high-value work. A fintech company, for example, may utilize robo-advising for clients who want to pay a low monthly overhead and prefer less customization. This allows human advisors to focus on clients who want and require more attention.
  • Who does this service benefit? As a company, your purpose is to serve clients and support your employees above evrything else. Keep their needs top of mind. Plenty of automation technologies exist to assist both—Twitter, for example, is utilizing the emergence of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to keep a pulse on the voice of their employees in real time and improve the employee experience. Other companies have systems in place to automatically remind customers of upcoming maintenance or when action is needed on their part.
  • How can we provide the best possible service? People expect great service. Always. This usually means reaching an actual person when dialing the customer service line. In fact, 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with humans for customer service issues, and 70% prefer calling for a quick response. And the primary reason people disliked calling customer support? Not being able to speak to a real person right away—as in dealing with a phone bot. When automation begins to negatively impact customer experience, you must have the insight and agility to quickly pivot.

While the average customer churn rate for a SaaS company of its size is between 6% and 10%, at Ultimate Software, it’s just 3%. To ensure we continuously deliver the industry’s best service, we heavily invest in our customer service resources—more than 80% of our employees are staffed in customer support and product development roles. When it comes to service, serving people should always be the top priority—not cutting costs through automation. Automation is a valuable tool to increase efficiency and manage tasks, but chatbots will never match the personalized and empathetic service of your employees.

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