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GUEST COMMENT Are bots the right way to approach customer service?

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It’s been widely reported that Facebook is looking to introduce chat bots to replace customer service. But great customer service is the heart for the majority of businesses; is automating the interaction really the best path for customer service to be lead down?

Some areas of customer services have been automated by the use of bots and do work well; there are virtual assistants, which have been designed to animate a knowledge base. Ordering fast food through apps saves resources, as a representative at the other end doesn’t have to take the order.

Customer engagement

With more hectic modern lifestyles, customers with questions need a communication channel that instantly allows them to contact an organisation but still have that human contact that we beings crave; someone does care about their issue or query, and is happy to answer any question. One of the most common things that frustrates a potential customer is trying to find an answer and the business representative being limited to a script.

Automating chat would mean instant answers, but the chat bot is scripted, which could lead to a lot of people not getting the correct answer whilst the bot learns. What about someone who’s more relaxed in chat and types like “G8 ty…” (Great, thank you)? Will the bot know every single way a person can type? Will it be able to ‘write’ back in the Queen’s English? Or will it adapt to mirror how the customer is typing? We’ve all seen people getting frustrated with self-serve tills in the supermarket, having bots at the other end of chat is most likely to frustrate customer’s more and ruin their opinion of the brand.

Facebook’s plans

Forbes reports that: “Mark Zuckerberg’s grand plan is to help businesses build bots on his chat app, so they can hold automated chats with people that eventually lead to bookings, sales and greater brand awareness.”

Facebook have obviously looked into this further and how possible it is, otherwise, they would not have unveiled their Messenger to be hosting this in the coming year; however, it is interesting that they have been speaking with companies that provide web chat software. With web chat all about having a one–to–one chat with a business representative, and bots about automating the service, do they really know what they are doing?

It could just be a deception to coax businesses to use Facebook services for their customer service. Customer data will be transmitted through Facebook’s servers, allowing Facebook to gather the data and promote similar ads to the customer.

Should your business jump on the bandwagon?

Business web chat software has been around for decades and has adapted to have balanced automated features. If it was better for live chat to be completely automated, surely chat providers out there would have developed it years ago!

Businesses rely on management information from comprehensive reporting suites to measure success and quality control. Can a consumer driven platform like Facebook really deliver advanced reporting capabilities demanded by industry?

Even with Facebook encouraging businesses to use automated chat bots, there is still the need for human interaction as discussed by Five9’s vice president of product marketing, Mayur Anadkat: “For some historical perspective: many people thought the traditional call centre was dead, back when the Internet started to become mainstream. But data shows that more calls come into call centres than ever before.”

Rather than replacing one communication tool with another, customer service channels have adapted to work in conjunction, creating an Omni-channel approach. There is a choice of how customers prefer to contact a company and it is soon evident when customers avoid using a certain channel.

Amazon released the ‘Mayday Button’ back in 2013; this was supposed to boost customer service up a notch. The Kindle Fire, which first introduced the ‘Mayday’ button, enabled users who were experiencing difficulties, to have a two-way feed with a customer service representative from Amazon. However much it was a success for Amazon, across the customer service industry chat providers found that customers still have the same reluctance about video chat support as before the button was released.


Humans are creatures of habit, and majority shy away from being on camera. And just like Amazon these automated chat bots are likely to be more beneficial to Facebook rather than revolutionising the customer service industry. The ‘block’ button is more plausible to be selected as customers would prefer to have dealings with real representatives despite whether it is via physical or digital methods.

So will your company be following Facebook down the rabbit hole and implementing automatic chatbots? If you have any thoughts about Facebook developments or anything else mentioned in the article, leave your comments below.

Gemma Baker is marketing executive for UK web chat software provider, Click4Assistance.

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