Thursday, 2 March 2017

Bots are coming!! Will they take away the call center jobs?

Automation, AI and bots are one of the most hyped words in technology these days. One sector that could be affected by emergence of bots is customer support or in layman terms “call center”. Many experts have also predicted that the call center job, manned by a human, is coming to an end and all the call center works will be automated by a bot.

Let’s understand this in detail-

What is a bot?
The word “bot” is derived from robot. It is a machine/program that can interact with people using AI (artificial intelligence) techniques such as NLP (natural language processing), speech analytics, video processing, and past data analytics.

In the customer service industry, a bot can be a chat bot “a bot that can do text based interaction via website live chat or social media chat” or a voice based bot “a bot that can speak and converse with the customer in their language”.

How is it used in the industry?
Few companies have started using bots for customer service but mostly limited to chat support. To look at a few examples -
  1. CNN, the Wall Street Journal – The Facebook chat bot is used for giving interactive news and customers can also subscribe to news alerts using the bot.
  2. TransferWise, a UK based International money transfer startup uses the Facebook bot to assist people in money transfer. (
  3. Bank of America “Erica” –  Erica is a voice based bot which recommends and suggests the right banking products & features beneficial to their customers by using real-time and past data.. It also recommends the steps need to be taken to improve credit ratings of an individual.
  4.  Starbucks Virtual Assistant – Starbucks is going to launch a virtual assistant called “My Starbucks barista” which can  take customer orders by voice or a chat. Customers can furthermodify the order and also order their favorite foods.
  5. BigBoss Facebook bot – Big boss is a famous realty TV show in India, using the bot viewers can get basic details about the contestants 24/7 and also respond to basic queries. It has been developed by Ozonetel Communications.

If you look at these examples, none of these bots are anywhere close to a human interaction and none of the above services would be a replacement of the human workforce in customer support. Bots are typically useful in

  • 24/7 chat support - Companies can respond 24/7 to social media chat and live chat
  • Generis queries and repetitive queries
  • Upselling & cross selling – The bots can do high level of data analytics and help in upselling, like Bank of America’s“Erica”.
  • New service – In the future we will see new products for customer service using bots, like BoA “Erica” or Starbucks “virtual assistant” 
What customer prefers?
Recently Talkdesk had done a primary research on customer preference for support role and what customers feel about chat support
  • 93% of Americans agrees that they value a company who staffs people for support instead of a bot
  • 88% of Americans agrees that customer service experience is better with a live person instead of a bot
  • 79% agree that talking to bots is a waste of their time. (Read More)

Well the results look optimistic for customers favoring a live person support but it doesn’t take much time to change customer preference. The result of survey can change in coming years.

Why bots can’t replace humans in customer support
  • Language – Learning a new language and communicating is a complex task even for humans. In comparison, to build this intelligence in bots which can understand languages and the underlying subtle nuances will be a mammoth challenge.
  • Detecting human emotions - Detecting emotions, sarcasm, and humor is still a distant beyond the reach area for most bots, although ongoing research holds promise
  • Understand the process and human touch -  Customer support is not only communicating an information, the support has to take care of many things like process flow, SLA, the context, customer life-time value and understanding of product/service . Developing and training a bot that can do all the activity of a call center representative with a human touch looks a tough job.

Finally, whenever new technology is adopted certain job do get affected, but new role also emerges.

Written by,
Abhay Kumar


About Ozonetel: Ozonetel is a pioneer of  Cloud Telephony and cloud contact center in India. We are currently serving 1000+ customers across 20+ verticals.

Our platform is integrated with facebook chat bot, if you want to build a facebook bot based application. Just signup for a free demo 

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