"Time consuming, cumbersome, inaccessible" – in a new survey by Bitkom on consumer communication, over every second customer complained about poor experiences with corporate customer service. When asked what the best way to communicate would be, the answers were unambiguous. "Our surveys clearly show that most customers would like to talk on the telephone," says Frank Früh, Division Manager of ECM at the high tech industry association.
However, since service staff isn't always available, Bitkom predicts that chat services will play an increasing important role. They make real-time communication possible, saving customers long waiting times. According to Frank Früh, chat bots represent "an exciting development." This also includes apps which are not developed for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, but for messenger platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. In place of complicated menus, bots provide an optimal interface - the spoken word.
At the moment major advances are being made in the area of natural speech recognition. "Customers can simply tell the chat bot what they want. Language can be used to quickly and directly address any concern," explains Frank Früh. "Expanding traditional text chat bots to include spoken language will provide a major advance in popularity in the not all too distant future," says Früh.
According to Bitkom experts, it may soon be possible for customers to communicate with companies using messenger services without being restricted to office hours or being placed on hold at call centers. Artificial intelligence can help: In the beginning, bots are able to ask for contextual information such as account numbers and answer simple routine questions. Bot expertise increases over time – inquiries need to be forwarded less and less to employees. "Traditional customer service problems such as overburdened services can be dramatically reduced and less time is lost identifying customer accounts and other trivialities," says Frank Früh.
Bitkom has ascertained that the use of chat bots in customer service is far more advanced in Asia. Millions of shops sell their products in China on the extremely popular messenger service weChat and it is possible to call up all kinds of information and entertainment services. Other major messenger services are following suit. WhatsApp has announced its intent to open its service to companies. Facebook has presented its own messenger platform for bot development.
"We can see that in terms of customer communication brand new opportunities are opening up which companies can leverage for themselves," says Bitkom expert Frank Früh. Entitled "No limits: Total digital with ECM" his association will focus on these opportunities on the "Digital Office Stage" at CeBIT. This forum in Hall 3 is being organized by Deutsche Messe and Bitkom. It provides an overview of the most important trends and developments in this area of enterprise content management and output/input solutions. One item on the agenda is the panel discussion "The future of customer communication: Can robots replace service staff?", where Bitkom also includes the chat bot trend.
According to Früh, sooner or later chat bots will be normal, everyday partners in communication. He underscored this prediction with a comparison: "If one had asked carriage owners before the invention of the automobile what improvements they could imagine for their carriages, they probably would have added another horse. They would never have come up with the idea of a motor."