Customer Service Tools: Chatbots vs. AI for Customer Support

By Deon Nicholas

As customer service evolves so do the ways it’s delivered. 

These days you’ll see more and more support teams implementing an AI tool such as a more basic chatbot function or a more advanced virtual AI to help them get more tasks done during their workdays. Technology has advanced enough that support reps don’t have to be weighed down by loads and loads of work. 

As much as we all wish we could go back to simpler times, there’s just no way around these tools being created and put to use. 

These advancements considerably boost the productivity and efficiency of your customer service operations. With the emergence of technologies like chatbots and more advanced AI tools, customer support teams are now able to adequately respond to customer concerns, questions, and complaints faster than ever.

However, knowing what these tools can do for us and how they’ve changed the customer support world, you still might have questions about it. 

Today we want to talk about the differences between chatbots and more advanced AI tools and which one is better suited to support customer support teams. 

Let’s get to it. 

What’s the Differences Between AI for Customer Support and Chatbots? 

Before we really break things down, you need to understand one thing: chatbots are AI. Chatbots are just more basic in technology than a customer support AI such as Forethought, which we’ll explain more of below. 

What Is A Chatbot?

A chatbot is a program that is meant to imitate human conversation online. In customer support context, a chatbot there to respond to customer feedback like a customer service representative would. A chatbot is ruled by decision trees that branch off with different options, usually allowing for very basic questions to be answered. 

Let’s say you have a question about powering a tool you’ve just purchased but you don’t have an instruction manual for the tool. You decide to send in a question via the company’s chat widget on their website. You ask about the tool and get a couple questions asked in return that try to narrow down what you’re searching for. In narrowing things down, the chatbot is searching for keyword references in your questions, trying to serve up an answer based on that keyword, and that’s how you get an answer. 

But chatbots tend to run into a few issues. 

Mainly, chatbots can be difficult to maintain due to the amount of manual upkeep needed to keep things updated as often as needed. Every time you update a knowledge article or macro, your decision trees need to be updated. Every time you decide to change the information that will be provided as an answer to your customers, things need to be updated.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a tool that self-updated and continued to learn from your new data and add information? Well there is, and we’ll get there in a sec. 

What Is Customer Support AI? 

Customer support AI, is a computer system that does more than a chatbot can and provides the support that customer support teams are in need of. Customer support AI helps on both the agent side of things and the customer side of things. 

AI tools such as those from Forethought, are more technologically advanced and use machine learning and Natural Language understanding (NLU) to pick up on the intent of a message, the sentiment behind it, and even who the message is meant for. 

Our Solve web widget is advanced enough to guess what information you’re looking for. If 

When messages come in, customer support AI is able to assist customer service agents by surfacing the information they need to respond quickly and effectively to customer questions from a variety of information sources. On the customer side, customers get the most accurate and relevant answers faster than before and don’t have to wait hours for responses to basic queries. 

What Are the Benefits of Customer Support AI?

Think of it this way: you have a genius assistant helping you and you don’t even have to manually update it! 

Using AI for customer support has numerous benefits — it’s able to do so because AI works by ingesting all of your organization’s knowledge about your products and customers. The most effective customer support AI will be able to pull up the most accurate information for a support request because it knows about your organization’s past ticket history, current knowledge base articles, and any macros that have been used. This is the case with Forethought’s AI and below are just some of the benefits that support teams have seen from implementing it. 

  • Accurate answers every time: By having access to your company’s knowledge base, customer support AI helps support representatives find the most relevant answer to a request. No more scrambling for information when it’s at their fingertips. Happy agents makes for happy customers. 
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Because customer support AI allows for accurate information retrieval, your customers will see increased resolution times and in turn will be happier and more satisfied with the support they’re being provided with. 
  • Decreased agent churn: Supporting your support teams starts with providing tools that help agents want to be at their jobs. By implementing AI tools, you’ll see a reduction in stress, confusion, and frustration on your teams. When you have customer support AI, you help remove dealing with frustrated customers who are tired of waiting for support. 
  • Implementation: Gone are the days of waiting weeks or even months for a customer support tool to be implemented for your org. With Forethought, you could be seeing changes in your CX within days.

What Are the Shortcomings of Customer Support AI?

As you might imagine, there really aren’t too many downsides to have an incredibly knowledgeable machine intelligence aiding all your customer service agents with their work. Here are just a couple shortcomings that come to mind in regards to AI for customer support: 

  • May not be effective for smaller organizations: If your organization is small and despite having support agents who feel inundated with support requests, unless the task you’re seeing has come in hundreds of times, automating things with customer support AI may not have the best outcomes 
  • Customers might still have to wait: Despite implementing a tool meant to reduce resolution times, that doesn’t mean it completely eliminates all wait times. Customers seeking responses to more complex issues may find themselves still waiting short periods for their resolutions.

What Are the Benefits of Chatbots?

The biggest benefit that comes from chatbots spring from the fact that they work independent of customer service agents. This means:

  • Chatbots are rules-based: This might actually be a pro for some organizations. They’re usually effective for small companies with simple products. If you’re willing to put in the man hours needed to maintain decision trees, then a chatbot might be the right choice for your team — answers are always the same if customers follow the same path. Plus, if you’re small, the upkeep is insignificant. 
  • Decreased wait times: Depending on the types of questions that people go to a chatbot for, they likely get answers in no time at all. Chatbots are searching for keywords in your requests and will pull up the response that matches best with the request, so you can get answers instantly (unless your keywords don’t match anything.)

What Are Shortcomings of Chatbots? 

Because chatbots are based on less-sophisticated technology, they just aren’t that sharp in their abilities. 

They just lack the smarts that customer support AI has built in. This is due to the lack of machine learning and natural language processing that AI tools such as those from Forethought are built on. 

To give you an idea of where chatbots fall short, here’s our list: 

  • Limited knowledge: Chatbots only know how to respond with pre-scripted answers and therefore aren’t leveraging your entire database the way a customer support AI tool does.
  • Not meeting customer needs: Due to the rigidity of chatbot responses, customers can get fed up with their specific concerns not being addressed. Customers end up having to contact you multiple times to get things resolved, making for unhappy customers. 
  • Impersonal customer experience: When you’re working with inflexible chatbots that can only serve up a handful of answers, it’s easy to tell you’re not speaking to a human being. That “Connecting you to an agent…” message doesn’t fool anyone when there’s no human sentiment behind the ensuing conversation. 
  • Long implementation times: Chatbots work by giving information based on predetermined rules. This means someone has to do all the work of creating those rules that your chatbot works off which increases implementation times and creates something you have to work hard to maintain.
  • Maintenance needed: Chatbots will break. That’s not to mention their upkeep. They’ll be unable to provide any good information for specific queries and then you’ll have to do an overhaul to reinstate decision trees. With an AI tool, you wouldn’t have to deal with this.

Why Customer AI Works Best

It’s pretty clear what tool is better suited to meet the needs of both customer support teams and their customers: customer support AI. Chatbots based on less sophisticated tech just don’t cut it anymore, especially when you’re looking to improve your customer experience and continue building your organization.  

Chatbots simply cannot respond to customer concerns with the same precision as customer support AI, and you might actually hinder your customer satisfaction metrics when going with a tool that doesn’t bring value to both your customer and your agents.

Working With Forethought

At Forethought, our goal is to enable everyone to be a genius at their jobs. We’re first starting by supporting customer support teams with customer support AI tailored to their organization. 

With AI for your customer support teams, you’ll be able to automate repetitive tasks, create better processes for your customers, and focus on strategizing ways to improve your current KPIs. 

Our AI agent uses NLU to understand the intent of your customers when they’re seeking support answers. She learns by taking your knowledge bases and past support tickets to learn about your customers and what they come to you for the most. 

Customer support AI helps teams serve up the best information to customers in the best possible way and helps maintain or improve customer metrics. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what our AI agent can do for you, let’s chat or check out our customer stories if you’re hoping to learn more. 

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Interested in generative AI for customer support? Check out this guide to learn about the 3 key pillars you need to get started.

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