Messaging and Bots: Replacing Call Center Services

Traditionally, service centers have primarily operated using telephones, and voice communication remains vital for businesses. More than email, in-person, live chat, mobile app, self-service, search engine, social media, online community, text message, or bot, the phone is the customer service channel used most in the United States.

According to Microsoft’s “State of Global Customer Service Report” report, 74 percent of respondents have contacted customer service by phone. Email is the next most popular channel at 62 percent. About as many people begin a customer service interaction over the phone as start their search online. The phone has the widest reach of any channel – in fact, it can reach every customer.

However, in the business-to-consumer world, we invariably have to cater to different classes of users. Age often determines preferences, and there is growing evidence that using the phone to contact a human agent is not necessarily the first choice for many consumers. For millennials, who have grown up with social media, messaging appears preferable.

Messaging apps are at the heart of the mobile experience. For instance, 34 percent of U.S. survey respondents chose messaging as their favorite smartphone feature, according to Fluent. Half of US consumers say they prefer to use some form of messaging for customer service, reports Aspect.

Messaging is a new service channel that is a natural medium for bots. Many businesses are introducing a bot into their customer service mix. According to Jack Kent of IHS Technology, the popularity of messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat, makes them a logical medium for business.

In April, China Construction Bank (CCB) opened the first fully automated bank branch in China. Located in downtown Shanghai, the groundbreaking bank branch operates entirely without human tellers. An increasing number of shops, restaurants, and offices across China serve humans exclusively with robotic assistants.

Most businesses choose to introduce bots to provide a specific customer service. The quality of these bots varies depending on the provider’s objectives. Many bots are limited in scope and capability because their primary purpose is to test new technology, business process adoption, and user experience.

Bots can resolve customer problems without human intervention. Unlike humans:

  • There are no queues or waiting times. Bots can scale to handle as many calls as required.
  • They are available 24/7 – day or night and on the weekends.

Bots have certain advantages when deployed on a messaging channel, including:

  • They do not have to be downloaded or updated – the customer just connects to the messaging service.
  • The customer can navigate a bot without any special knowledge simply by asking a series of questions. This is ideal for one-time and occasional customers.
  • A bot can manipulate all kinds of media: text, photos, video, and downloads. The customer can upload a picture of a broken product or receive pictures, documents, maps, etc. to solve their issue.
  • The service operates on the user’s time frame, and a record of the transaction can be maintained.

By combining bots with transformative technologies like blockchain and Big Data, the customer service industry can delight customers and lower costs at the same time.


Download the new white paper to learn what happens when technology, people, and data combine to enable “segment of one” experiences, better predict service needs, proactively engage customers prior to product modifications, and much more.


Phillip Vaughan is senior director of SAP Leonardo Center of Excellence for Asia Pacific Japan at SAP.

This story originally appeared on the Digitalist.