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The Role of Chatbots in Tech Support

By R. J. Stangle / Jul 19, 2016

UBER started as a simple idea. Press a button and a car comes to pick you up. The technology simply allows one human- the driver to help another- the passenger.

But now, the 60-billion-dollar company is looking to remove the human factor from their business model with an investment in artificial intelligence and driverless cars. When UBER’s vehicles become autonomous, the customer’s experience will still, in theory, match the original business model. Press a button. Car comes to pick you up, but now with shorter wait times and safer rides.

At AppHelp, we envision a similar process for the ideal technical support experience; you press a button and your tech problem is handled. Like UBER, our purpose-built technology currently allows one human-the agent, to help another human- the customer. And, just as UBER is shifting towards driverless cars, the next phase in our product roadmap is the introduction of artificially intelligent systems and chatbots to immediately and seamlessly address our end users’ support requests.

A little history

Despite being a futuristic idea, chatbots have been around for over fifty years. One of the earliest chatbots, a psychotherapist emulator nicknamed  ELIZA, was created back in 1966 at MIT. ELIZA could interpret text and respond to prompts based on a script. And though ELIZA captured the interest of contemporary programmers, academics and futurists, it wasn’t until a bot called SmarterChild was integrated into America Online Instant Messenger (AIM) in 2001 (and later integrated into MSN Messenger) that the general public had the opportunity to interact with this type of technology. You could ask SmarterChild for the weather, sports scores, movie show times and more. At its peak, SmarterChild had over 30 million AIM buddies and accounted for almost 5% of the entire Internet’s chat volume.

Fifteen years later, chatbots have become more sophisticated as advancements in technology have allowed them to efficiently and realistically mimic human interaction through complex algorithms and machine learning. Although it hasn’t quite happened yet, AI bots are getting closer and closer to passing the Turing test, a test of computer intelligence requiring that a human be unable to distinguish whether they are chatting with a bot or another human being.

Google’s DeepMind division has recently created the first AI bot to ever beat a professional player at the ancient Chinese game of Go (no, not Pokémon Go). And although the rules of Go are simple, there are more possible positions on the board than there are atoms in the universe, making it nearly impossible for the bot to systematically analyze the consequences of each possibility before each move. Instead, DeepMind’s AI, AlphaGo combines a traditional advanced tree search with deep neural networks that mimic thought processes in the human brain.

Another huge player in artificial intelligence, Facebook, is looking to optimize its user experience by integrating AI into its Messenger platform. Facebook’s project is called DeepText, a “learning-based text understanding engine” which works to understand and interpret text content with incredible accuracy. It’s able to interpret context, slang, and ambiguity to distinguish whether you’re talking about apple the fruit or Apple the company. DeepText’s end goal is to analyze your conversation and offer services through the Messenger app, such as booking a taxi. But don’t worry, DeepText won’t just spam you every time you say the word “ride”, it can distinguish whether you’re looking to hail a cab or just stepping out of one. Take a look at the video below to see DeepText at work:

Watch the Video here

The role of chatbots in the support experience

When it comes to delivering technical support, the introduction of artificially intelligent chatbots is the next logical step. Chat is already a preferred channel of communication for most consumers, especially millennials. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the most popular chat channels, process a combined 60 billion messages a day. According to Harris Poll, 64% of consumers would prefer to use text over voice as a customer service channel. Chat is efficient for multitasking, provides timely responses, and has the ability to transfer rich media such as pictures, training videos, documents, and hyperlinks. As a result, live chat boasts a 73% customer satisfaction level (an 85% average in our programs) – higher than any other medium.

 It makes sense. Instead of having to call in for a basic email or billing question, a support interaction with a bot can happen quickly and quietly without going through time-consuming department transfers. Bots can easily handle the simple, repetitive, or automatic support requests, freeing up valuable agents to handle more complex or sensitive issues that require a human touch.

Support bots will dramatically increase agent productivity and, ideally, the agent and bot will work together to create one cohesive support experience for the customer. The chatbots will learn to make intelligent response suggestions, prompting the agent based on its analysis of the interaction, thus improving the quality of support as well as reducing response time.

Integrating and adopting artificially intelligent chatbots into our solution is not about replacing people with robots or sending agents to the unemployment line. It is about reducing customer effort, which, more than any other customer experience metric, impacts loyalty, customer spending, and renewal rates. Harnessing this technology, our agents can move to more satisfying and important roles while the chatbots take care of answering questions that can be read from a script. And let’s face it; people won’t love your brand because they prefer chatting with a robot, they will love the time and effort it saves them. Ultimately, the combination of agents and chatbots will allow customers to receive a seamless and efficient support experience – meaning we’ve done our job right.

If you’re interested in seeing our take on the future of tech support, check out our Augmented Reality blog post