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Chatbots in customer service: Understanding their value, limitations

Chatbots can be a powerful tool to improve the customer experience, but companies have to be careful how and where they apply them, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. At the recent AI World in Boston, Kerravala told SearchCIO that chatbots are gaining a lot of traction in the enterprise, but IT leaders need to understand the technology's strengths and limitations to reap the benefits of intelligent bots. In this video, Kerravala discusses the value of incorporating chatbots in customer service.

What forms of AI do you think are seeing the most traction today?

Zeus Kerravala: The forms of AI that I'm seeing most adopted are basic things like virtual assistants and bots. In fact, chatbots themselves have been widely adopted in call centers. I think one of the dangers for companies is overusing bots and then thinking they're not providing value. What I mean by that is bots are an excellent tool if your problem is low complexity, high repetition -- like asking, "How do I reset my password." But if a customer is trying to do something complicated, like change a part in their car or something like that, a bot isn't going to really help that.

One of the dangers for companies is overusing bots and then thinking they're not providing value.

Organizations should continue to experiment with virtual assistants and chatbots in customer service, but understand that their use cases should be limited to things that are simple with high repetition, and then leave the more complex things to people.

How can chatbots and virtual assistants drive business value?

Kerravala: The most immediate way chatbots and virtual assistants can drive business is through customer experience improvement. My research shows that customer experience will be the number one determining factor for customer loyalty moving forward, even over price and brand. With that being said, I think the definition of customer service is changing. It's not just, "Do I have a polite person in my contact center."

The chatbots today can be used to gather information, to provide information back to customers very quickly. But they also can be used as a way to provide more information to a customer service person or a salesperson, and to be able to give more intelligent answers to that prospect or customer. Chatbots in customer service are going to evolve greatly. Right now they're very rules-based and they have a limited scope, but as companies start to gather more data and do more analytics, chatbots will be able to pull more information and provide more value.

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