Are chatbots revolutionising the customer service industry?

Johannesburg, 23 Nov 2016
Read time 3min 30sec

As businesses globally seek to reduce overheads while boosting customer service and efficiency, there is a meteoric rise of the chatbot and artificial intelligence (AI), linked to automated and intelligent self-service.

Accordingly, many customer service centres are currently being converted to self-service centres with the roll-out of automated customer service software that can proactively and intelligently isolate and solve customer queries and problems by analysing their own databases.

This could remove the human operator completely and begin a global sweep of change across call and service centres. Does this mean AI and chatbots will kill the need for human intervention in the customer service industry? Yes and no.

There's no doubt that chatbots and their real-world counterparts, robots, will take over much of the customer service industry. They're cheaper, can work at any and all times of the day, and can be instantly 'trained up'.

Last year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said 45% of manufacturing jobs would be automated within a decade, up from 10% today. According to a highly cited study by Oxford University and Deloitte, 35% of current jobs in the UK alone are at risk due to automation. For customer services occupations, there is a 91% likelihood of automation, putting it in the top 50 jobs most likely to be lost. For call and contact centre workers, the likelihood is 75%. It is most likely that simpler customer queries will be handled by bots while really problematic, complicated customer queries will remain handled by humans, for now.

According to Chief Innovation Officer at SYSPRO, Kevin Dherman, chatbots can field specific queries in natural language. The chatbot ensures a consistent messaging and customer service within the organisation, creating a consistent customer experience. Also, the bot doesn't need to be trained up like a human; it gets programmed and it's ready to go. This has an impact on the company's bottom line.

The bot is also device-agnostic, interacting with the customer on the device of their choosing as well as using the social media they are most comfortable with, including Skype and Facebook.

Dherman has already created a chatbot that he can communicate with as it mines the company database for speedy answers to customer queries. The algorithm and AI mines the database for pricing of products, quotes are given and orders are created and placed within the supply chain, so the bot as a "digital citizen" becomes a revenue generator within the business.

The AI and machine learning will be the "brain", while the chatbot will be the "mouthpiece". Dherman says the practical application of this for manufacturing and distribution business owners is that the many jobs running on the factory floor and monitored by a person will in future be run by the bot, which will report to the business owner so he is constantly in touch with how the business is running.

If a job is late, the bot will find out why, giving management visibility all across the factory and its supply chain, and in so doing, improve productivity across the business.

But it's not just the manufacturing and distribution sectors that are being irrevocably changed. Dherman says all sectors are in the process of being revolutionised with the dawn of AI and bots, including arts and culture. For example, keywords can be fed into the AI and it can write a screenplay based on some of the most popular plots and story lines of past films. There already exists a screenplay called "Some like it bot", which was written by AI and is acted out by the bot, which is surprisingly funny. Make no mistake, no industry or profession will be left untouched by the rise of the bots.

Editorial contacts
SYSPRO Richard Mc Cormack (+27) 011 461 1000
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