“How may I assist you today?”

A decade ago, that message might have come from a human customer service agent on the other end of a phone line. Nowadays, it could appear in a pop-up chat box as a customer browses a website — and ever more, that message might come from an automated smart bot.

Known as artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots are software that can be automated to respond to people’s queries. TechWorld defines chatbot as “a user interface which can be plugged into a couple of data sources via APIs so it can deliver info or services on demand, like breaking news or weather forecasts.”

Chatbots, nevertheless, have a specific benefit: They enable brands be — or at least appear to be — more hands-on in answering possible customer queries and apprehensions by acting as an integrated part of the browsing/shopping experience. The smart bot is right there, waiting to respond to your queries, and then to connect you to a human customer service agent for more intricate questions if needed. There’s no 1-800 number to call, and there’s no waiting on hold.

This is the promise of artificial intelligence and the reason why businesses are investing heavily in the chatbots. A recent report by MarketsandMarkets, has estimated the value of the AI market to have been around $703.3 million in 2016 and believe that value could quadruple by 2021 thanks to “the huge desire to comprehend shopper’s actions, growing demand of intelligent customer interaction and implementation of cloud-based technology.”

Learning Valuable Chatbot Lessons from Clippy

The term chatbots may have a familiar feel because of the revolutionary paperclip known as Clippy, the pop-up that you would come across when drafting a document in Microsoft Word. The rate of the software disruptions, and the questionable effectiveness, turned Clippy into a symbol of ridicule. Yet, Clippy survived a decade, from 1997 to 2007, before Microsoft abandon the project.

Even though his relentless interruptions were exasperating, Clippy did teach us a number of valuable lessons — namely, that smart bots are there to serve clients, not the other way around. And, as Clippy showed, line between useful and disruptive, or supportive and stiff, is quite thin. Understanding that subtle balance, though, is absolutely necessary to the success of artificial intelligence.

Benefits of Chatbots as Contact Center Assistants

There is no doubt that having chatbots respond to customer queries can help guarantee a favorable customer experience, while giving your brand a general boost by being seen employing the latest consumer tech trends. Smart bots are perceived as a great way to resolve easy-to-answer queries off the shoulders of human representatives, so that they may concentrate on more complicated matters.

For instance, during the holiday season, most inbound contact center customer service calls are basically order status inquiries. This is the kind of job that is most suitable for artificial intelligence systems.

A chatbot could take an order number, cross-reference that order with delivery status and give the buyer a swift response. This could have taken a human customer service agent more time

Chatbots are only as effective as they’re programmed to be

Even with artificial intelligence’s promise, not everyone has bought into the idea of chatbots. People seem to have learnt from their mistakes since it wasn’t long ago when everyone thought automated voice systems would solve everything yet it turned out to be false.

In actual sense, enterprise chatbot platform as a whole is creating a difficult environment within customer service organization. Chatbots have to possess a higher skill set in order to solve more complex customer issues associated with the current customer service environment

Moreover, smart bots aren’t omniscient. They’re only as good as the programmers make them, and they aren’t as flexible as human agents. For instance, if you call customer service desk, and order for a coat in the color lilac, a human rep will likely direct you to a purple jacket. Order a lilac jacket through an artificial intelligence system, you are likely to come back empty handed unless the system is programmed to equate “lilac” with a light-purple product.

Some snags in the last few years have also given AI an unfair assessment. In 2016, Microsoft’s Tay bot was quickly taunted by Twitter users into giving vile statements. It took a few hours for Twitter to corrupt an innocent AI chatbot and give it a bad rap. This could have dire consequences to a brand.

Despite these growing issues, AI isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. This is because chatbots are designed to adapt in every situation and making them best fit for customer service. There is a growing demand for automated customer service as e-commerce grows and thus chatbots are becoming more vital than ever before. The good thing about artificial intelligence and machines is that they keep on evolving and becoming better. Thus, this makes chatbots more sophisticated and adept in the future.

How AI is Improving Brands

It’s no secret chatbots has yet to be perfected, companies are still taking this moment in time to try out the call center ai software as it develops. Airbnb has employed Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa as a tool to assist welcome guests. Meanwhile, third-party developers have been working on creating chatbots that could act as intermediary between renters and owners and thus resolve rental related queries. The bots automate answers to frequently asked questions like, “where is the closest hospital?” and “does this apartment have a rooftop?”  These are simple enough to program, and can save owners time and money.

Elsewhere, makeup brand Estée Lauder employs AI in Facebook Messenger that helps people to buy the right shade of foundation by using a facial-recognition tech. The service has downsides, though: A easy question matching skin tone to available products appeared to work, but the avatar dialer couldn’t answer any more queries.

What makes smart bots so incredible is their ability to combine automated AI support with real, live agents. They enable humans to take over without customers noticing when questions become too difficult for their understanding.

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