Every few years, a new customer service channel arrives on the scene with claims that this technology will be the main service channel and the future of customer service. We’ve heard the same arguments for decades, yet agents remain at the heart of the vast majority of customer service interactions.
As far back as January of 2000, we heard the call center was dying. In March of 2012 the headline still read the same: The Death of the Call Center. That same year in December we were told that social media would replace the call center. Fast forward to 2018, when it was again predicted that chatbots and self-service would bring about the end of the call center. And as recently as May of 2020, headlines argued that coronavirus would usher in the death of the call center. Two decades have passed, and predictions from 2000 and even 2020 are as wrong today as they were when they first appeared.
Even today non-voice channels like email, chatbots, social media, and self-service still only account for a small portion of customer service interactions. Why? Because when customers cannot resolve their issues through non-voice channels, they ultimately turn to agents, because ultimately it takes people to solve problems for other people.
Humans are invaluable in the call center. People want to talk through their issues with other people. Certain issues require a level of explanation that cannot be addressed by bots. Chatbots certainly play a valuable role in self-service, like checking your bank balance. For companies that believed the hype and placed their bets on chatbots to reduce cost and volume, deciding to lay off a large percentage of their staff wasn’t the best idea. When chatbots and self-service did not reduce volume, these companies didn’t have the manpower to handle calls, leaving customers frustrated and angry.
Customers need to feel confident and have trust in their brand experiences, which is impossible to achieve with the impersonal nature of a chatbot or other self-service platform. This rings especially true when dealing with sensitive topics like determining insurance costs for COVID-19 tests, wiring money, or dealing with personal finances. Only humans can understand the complexity and emotional components of these experiences, solve problems that bots cannot, and exude trust that instills brand confidence and loyalty among customers.