Dubbed “the future of customer service,” a chatbot is a computer program designed to mimic human conversation with consumers through either audio or text. The goal of these bots is to provide consumers with access to information and help through a more natural medium of conversation rather than forcing them to hunt through pages and pages of information to find what they’re looking for – or to push them towards a sale.
1.4 billion people used Chatbots in 2015, according to eMarketer reports. And this number is only increasing as companies move to use these virtual assistants to enhance their brand reputation and nurture customers towards conversion.
In some cases, chatbots remove the need for human customer service representatives altogether, but despite their growing popularity they are yet to be fully accepted as ‘the right way to go’. Some argue they are one-step too far, while others suggest that the modern consumer would actually prefer a virtual assistant. What everyone can agree upon is that this new phenomenon brings both advantages and challenges.
Bubbles has explored these differing viewpoints to look at the impact – both positive and negative – that chatbots could have on international businesses offering top level customer service to audiences around the world.
In Favour of Chatbots
Global Customer Service
One of the main advantages of chatbots is the ease of access to information for consumers. Consumers can enjoy instant access to what should be an efficient and localised customer service through a single established source. Where international markets are concerned, the benefits are even greater as chatbots enable companies to tailor the language, style and content to a specific geographic area automatically.
When compared to the cost of training teams around the world to deal with language barriers and dealing with time zone differences, the chatbots often represent a more affordable and more effective option.
On a Level with Your Customers
Social media has long been a term that resonates with successful marketing campaigns, and now chatbots can be integrated into existing social networks. This creates a single online platform where consumers can receive information and advice from brands they are already a customer of or are interested in.
Put simply, social media sites are beginning to encourage developers to produce chatbots for businesses and they’re making them more accessible to consumers. Social media sites are encouraged to enable the change to prompt continued user growth and activity on their platform, while businesses are provided with easy access to a greater target customer base.
From a customer perspective, this means yet more accessible information and crucially, quick responses – no more waiting around for a real person to have the time to write you an email or sat waiting in a queue for your call to be answered by a call centre. It’s an approach that’s catching on; in the past year Facebook has officially opened up its Messenger platform to third-party chatbots, giving businesses access to more than 1.79 billion monthly active users.
The Trouble with Chatbots
It’s widely acknowledged that chatbots can recognise millions of words and phrases, and this is believed by many to provide the user with plenty of useful information that either solves problems or helps nurture sales.
It’s certainly a trusted way to provide the user with the fastest answer possible.
But there are issues when it comes to trying to predict human interaction. Personalised (and personable) customer service has become expected by consumers around the world and this is something that automated chatbots just can’t do … yet.
So until the point that technology catches up to real human conversation, experts have suggested that companies could gain an edge over their competitors by focusing on growing their human customer service rather than cutting it back.
There are challenges here when it comes to providing human support, especially on an international basis, but with good teams in place and careful translation of crib sheets with crucial company information, it is possible.
One of the most notable issues with chatbots is their inability to recognise the more complex issues faced by consumers. Again, this is a language problem; chatbots can only be triggered by certain key phrases. They are still thrown off track when the structure of the query is unexpected or the customer does not understand their response.
As technology expands and particularly older users are left at risk of feeling isolated from the modern world, the presence of a human customer service expert able to adjust and tailor their explanations and responses to the individual in question could become increasingly valuable.
It’s clear that brands need to tread carefully when it comes to chatbots. Yes, they can offer some impressive efficiencies with international expansion plans, but are they really at the point where they can completely replace human contact altogether?
Perhaps the answer is a balance of the two; chatbots to channel early stage enquiries and human representatives to take things further. In both cases, however, international businesses will need to be careful that they translate scripts, prompts and information into the target language. Furthermore, chatbots will need to be programmed to respond to certain key phrases and these might not be direct translations between markets.
It’s a situation echoed in the translation industry itself. With the rise of machine translation, such as Google Translate, this new form of language technology suffers from many of the same issues as chatbots. Specifically, they deliver an impersonal and unadaptable translation solution that is not adjusted to take into account cultural variances that can make language truly relatable.
For now and for the foreseeable future, real human interaction will bring the extra edge to marketing and customer service.
Bubbles’ translators can help translate prompts and scripts for your chatbots as well as feedback, information resources and crib sheets for your human customer service teams. If you’re exploring new markets and considering your customer service options, get in touch with Bubbles to discuss your translation requirements today.