Will a Chatbot Take Your Job Away?

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Chatbots, these inoffensive-looking, AI-powered web tools we constantly see popping up on websites, social media, and messaging apps, have lately taken the customer service industry by storm. The latest chatbot versions are equipped with state-of-the-art machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities, which makes it increasingly hard to tell them from a real human. (Just check out Wendy’s Twitter bot for a quick demo.)

Naturally, these technological advances have been sending chills down the spines of thousands of customer support reps, even in countries where inhumanly low-paying work traditionally guaranteed a stable career, like India. So, are chatbots advanced enough to take away people’s jobs?

What Is a Chatbot & How Does It Work? 

Chatbots are AI-powered applications that can mimic human interaction when having simple conversations or chats with human users in natural language. Nowadays, you can find chatbots embedded in websites, messaging apps, or mobile apps.

More and more businesses use chatbots due to their visible advantages over their human counterparts: they don’t request to get paid, don’t need launch breaks, they do as you say, and can work 24/7 without going on a strike or having a mental breakdown.

While at first glance, chatbots look simple, the way they work is quite complex. A good chatbot must complete at least two core tasks to get a promotion (we’re joking, chatbots don’t need promotions either):

          Correctly understanding what the human user wants.

          Delivering the right response to the user request.

Since humans can ask the same question using different wording, chatbots must be very good at identifying user intent. User intent can be extracted from the chatbot’s own database, perfected via machine learning (if available), or can be manually pre-programmed by the chatbot’s owner. For instance, for questions X and Y, the chatbot must always reply with the answer Z, etc.

Failing to correctly understand the human user’s request will inevitably lead to an incorrect answer. If the request is correctly understood, the chatbot can use a predefined text to reply. This text can be sourced from:

          The chatbot’s knowledge base

          The data provided by the human user (this includes answers to a chatbot’s disambiguating questions)

          A database stored on the company’s servers

          Data provided through third-party applications.

How Can Chatbots Help Businesses?

It is estimated that around 80% of big companies have added chatbots to their online operations so far. The chief purpose of a chatbot is to improve the customer experience while helping the enterprise saving time and money.

Chatbots are especially useful since they can take over repetitive tasks and let customer service agents handle the issues that cannot be automated, such as finding solutions to complex problems requiring quick thinking and creativity.

A chatbot can do many things for a business depending on its complexity:

  •         It can schedule meetings and appointments through its in-built calendar.
  •         It can authorize and complete pending transactions.
  •         It can offer customers a quick response to their queries.
  •         It can make reservations.
  •         It can offer quick customer support by cutting the average handling time of a request, helping build loyalty with the company.
  •         It can help businesses slash operational costs.
  •         It can make it easier for reluctant customers to get access to customer support.

The functions of a chatbot depend on the type of chatbot. There are rule-based chatbots and AI-enabled chatbots. Most modern chatbots are a combination of both. Rule-based chatbots are basic bots that offer the requested information through preset answers. For instance, you can instruct the bot to offer the human user three options to his or her request. Rule-based chatbots don’t include AI, machine learning, or Natural Language Processing (NLP).

AI-powered assistants like Hoory are able to process the input of human users thanks to their NLP capabilities. In other words, these AI-based chatbots can identify and understand human language, which can be very handy, especially when it comes to identifying user intent. In other words, an AI chatbot will be able to extract meaning from a conversation and provide the right answer/solution to the user’s request.

Will People Lose Their Jobs to Chatbots? 

Chatbots have already left human live chat operators without a job, so is this type of seemingly harmless automation a real threat for the rest of the workforce operating in the customer service industry? The default answer would be no because there is still the need for training, configuring, and improving chatbots (until they can do it themselves, that is.)

The real reason chatbots in their current form will not take away people’s jobs is that they lack two fundamental human traits: human-like problem-solving skills and empathy. According to a 2019 study involving more than 6,000 financial services users, whenever a company revealed the identity of the chatbot to its potential customers, the likelihood of a successful transaction plunged 79.7%.

Study authors also found that when people learn that they are not talking with a human customer service representative, they tend to buy less and are less cooperative. When asked about their abrupt change in behavior, most customers revealed that they either did not trust a machine with solving their requests or felt like they were treated with a lack of respect by the company by not assigning them a human operator.

A whopping 86% of surveyed customers said they would rather have a human customer service representative solve their requests, and 71% said they would think twice before doing business again with a company that uses chatbots. Just 31% fully embraced the new technology.

What all these people just implied is that they are not able to create an emotional connection with a bot. And emotions and connections are essential for the retail and service industries. If you want people to buy your product or service, you need to engage them emotionally first. Rarely do people see something as purely transactional.

Another reason current chatbots cannot replace people yet is their limitations. Even when AI-powered, a chatbot will not be able to answer all of the customers’ questions and solve all of their queries. Complex issues are often passed on to human operators. 

Also, a chatbot finds it hard to read the subtext behind a conversation, aka the user’s real intent, which only an emotionally developed individual can. These issues might be corrected in the future, but for now, chatbots are not advanced enough to take over all human jobs.

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