Customer service online has not always been so successful for businesses. Finding a way to properly address concerns without interacting back and forth could take some time, hence why internet customer service used to mean taking emails about problems, and sending an email back asking them to call your phone line.
Now we have gotten a lot more advanced. Whole customer service teams are manning social media pages. Chatrooms are being placed within websites with an agent able to fully access a person's account following the same standard verification they would use on phone call.
The Future of Customer Service Is Here: A.I
A new kind of customer service tool is being launched, and it is fascinating, exciting, and (for some experts) a little scary. Artificial Intelligence is becoming a hot button issue in the technology world. Experimentations have been improving their function more and more with each new test. The boundaries are being pushed every day.
Tej Kohli wrote a post on the company's blog recently on just that topic. They brought up the use of limited (but effective) chatbots in China that allow customers to ask questions, and then be given step based solutions to their issues. Businesses there have specifically been using the program WeChat for the task.
Other program have been popping up all over the place. For several years Chatbots.org has been a dedicated community discussing and furthering the development of A.I for various tasks, including customer service representation.
Pandorabots (an interesting choice in name, given the controversy surrounding A.I) allows you to create customized chatbots. Their service includes Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS), which combined with their API to allow users to easily integrate speech interfaces into the app and customize interactions. There are special features for business use.
You can see for yourself how an interaction with an artificial intelligence bot goes by checking out CleverBot.com.
Facebook Announces Chatbots
Always eager to incorporate growing technology into their own services (look at their latest video streaming feature), Facebook announced at a conference this week that chatbots could be coming to Facebook Messenger very soon.
The move would allow people to troubleshoot problems, get basic questions answered, and be connected to a human representative if the help didn't solve their issue. And if Facebook sees success with the venture, it will only be a matter of time before other companies are given the tool to empower their own customer service teams with the tech.
What I find most interesting about this move is what it could mean for the future of social media under businesses. Already Facebook is a leading tool for brands, as it has been customized again and again with them in mind ahead of the customers that they appeal to. Allowing chatbots gives Facebook yet another leg up over platforms like Twitter, which have greater restrictions on communication and access.
Before long Facebook could be the undisputed master of customer service on the social web, leaving Twitter more of a reputation management tool. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, though it does raise questions about the use of these bots for small businesses versus the bigger guys that already get preferential treatment from Facebook.
After all, their entire promotional system has been changed to generate ad revenue for the site. Most of this profit comes from corporations, not smaller brands with smaller budgets. Are chatbots on the site going to further the disparity?
Maybe, or maybe not; it is possible those tools could be implemented for the benefit of smaller brands who can take advantage of a workforce that never gets tired, or annoyed, or needs a break. Certainly human error would be reduced. It could be the self driving cars of the customer service world.
Prominent scientists like Stephen Hawking, and engineers like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have been vocally against the further development of A.I. They warn that by their nature, artificial intelligence bots are more intelligent and adaptable than humans. They are also more quickly able to learn.
""I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight," Musk said in a 2015 interview. "Maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish."
Aside from the risk of destroying all of humanity, there is the issue of manipulating learning robots. We saw just such a display with Microsoft's teen girl A.I. on Twitter, named Tay. Within less than 24 hours the project had become a PR nightmare, after tweet manipulation from users across the social web used the learning mechanism against Tay and left her saying pornographic, racist, and other horrible things.
This kind of incident might make some corporations a bit nervous when it comes to leaving customer service in the hands of an artificial intelligence. Even one far less sophisticated than the program they tried to show off.
Hacks present another potential danger, as regular digital break-ins are a normal part of corporate life. With chatbots in place, those outside threats may be a bigger risk than just to financial or account information. Though increased safety measures may eliminate the bulk of that risk.
Are Chatboys The Way Forward?
Once upon a time this entire article might have been theoretical. That is no longer the case; chatbots aren't something in the imagination of engineers. They are in use right now, and artificial intelligence as a whole is developing at an incredible rate. Technology is in the middle of a boom, and we can barely keep up with all the incredible advances we are seeing in the industry.
While they might not be the force of digital power we see in films, they are alway empowering us and changing the way we interact as companies. That is quite the change.
What do you think about chatbots? Are you worried about A.I.? Excited? Let us know in the comments!