2 minute read

Chatbot check in: is it the end of the customer service rep?

Retail, healthcare and banking are most likely to ditch human customer service reps and bring in the chatbots


Business can save $11.5 billion by replacing customer service representatives with chatbots by 2023, up from $48.3 million this year.

Chatbots use artificial intelligence programs to enable them to hold fluent conversations with people. These interactions may also trigger automated processes.

Analytical services company Juniper Research says chatbots are much cheaper to implement as customer service agents than people and will dramatically cut response and interaction times via phone and social channels. It expects retail to be the main winner, with more than 70% of chatbots accessed in this sector.

Retail regulation is not as strict as in many other industries and consumers are already comfortable with purchasing and interacting online so trust is less of an issue than in some sectors, says Juniper.

Bots will be used for upselling, marketing and cart recovery in ecommerce as well as for general customer services. Messages can be  sent automatically via a service such as Facebook Messenger to remind consumers of products in their shopping cart, for example. Juniper expects ecommerce transactions via chatbots to reach $112 billion by 2023.

The company says that, providing AI is fed with enough relevant input, machine learning has the ability to pool vast amounts of data from transaction history, website and in-store behaviour to make accurate predictions about what a shopper may do next.

However, it warns that for consumers to give up extra data to retailers for chatbot machine learning, “they will need to be able to trust the decisions chatbots make on behalf of the given data”. It points to the restaurant chain Taco Bell’s TacoBot, which has a jovial personality and answers and deals with questions with wit and patience using the Slack messaging platform.

Total Cost Savings for Businesses from Chatbots & Chatbot Applications ($m), Split by 8 Key Regions, 2023: $11.5 billion

Chatbots in retail chart

Healthcare and banking will also benefit from cost savings. The researcher predicts that consumers and businesses combined will save more than 2.5 billion hours in these three sectors alone through the use of bots within the next five years.

In its research, Chatbots: Banking, eCommerce, Retail & Healthcare 2018-2023, Juniper has made three assumptions for its figures: that retail customer service agent roles are $18,000 and the agent has a year’s experience; a scenario where the bot automates 40% of requests at a development cost of $2 million; and a scenario where it automates 20% of requests at a development cost of $1 million.

Published 11 July 2018
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