Why Chatbots Can’t Replace B2B Support Just Yet

October 29, 2016

2:30 pm

Technology has continually changed the way that customer support works. Even in the last few years, the business world has seen the rise of automated telephone, social media, email, and live chat customer service strategies have become common practice for startups and corporations alike.

There is now speculation that chatbots may soon replace human customer service agents. In April of this year, Mark Zuckerberg spoke at a developer’s conference in San Francisco. One of the things he mentioned was that in the near future bots would be able to answer basic questions through the company’s Messenger app. This would be accomplished using artificial intelligence technology.

While chatbots might be the wave of the very near future with B2C brands, it is a long way from being a viable option in the B2B space.

Chatbots Basics

Chatbot technology interfaces with you on chat or messenger apps and are rules based, meaning they operate using machine learning Any messaging application can be modified to use chatbots and their technology gives companies opportunities to provide information to mobile customers who do not want to spend time browsing their website

As far as history goes, the current upswing in popularity of chatbots is due to two factors. These are increased mobile use and the popularity of messenger apps. However, the first iteration of a ‘chat bot’ was coded in the 1960s.

User Experience Expectations

Let’s be honest, when it comes to accepting new technologies and new ways of doing things, B2B has never been as adaptive as B2C. It’s still not unheard of for people in B2B to seek ways to bypass technology all together and reach out to their contact person in order to get help with a problem. Nobody wants to create a situation where a B2B client is confused or angered. Imagine a client thinking they’re in live chat with a human being, and then getting canned bot responses.

“When a decision maker goes online seeking help, there is a certain of quality of engagement that is expected,”Jeff Babb, vice president of Netswat. “In our experience this requires the abilities that only a live person can bring to the table. At this point, I have yet to see a solution that interacts with clients intuitively enough.”

The Technology Isn’t Smart Enough

This article from Venturebeat touts an 85% rate of accuracy when it comes to providing correct answers. This may be great when it comes to B2C customer support. Unfortunately, many B2B clients have a need for much higher levels of accuracy. A fifteen percent rate of error is pretty steep in industries such as healthcare, aerospace, and precision manufacturing.

It’s also important to keep in mind the 85% reflects the ideal maximum. Think in terms of what can be reproduced in a university lab. It’s unlikely that an out of the box customer service solution would get close to that point.

Cost of Integration Is Too High

When a company adopts a chatbot solution, that technology must be able to integrate existing customer support solutions. It must also be able to interact with data from other systems. Setting this up and maintaining this could be astronomical. Then there is the matter of training.  This is another cost issue. The end result could be much more work for customer support staff. It will certainly be expensive for the company.

There may be a place for chatbots in B2B customer support at some point in the future. Unfortunately, the technology is not there right now, nor is the willingness of B2B companies to adopt this solution. 

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She’s slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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