We all know what chatbots are, they are everywhere—whether we like it or not. When we make a customer service call, we interact with voice recognition software that has artificial intelligence. When we engage in “online chat sessions” with companies, often we are interacting with a bot—often via Facebook messenger. And law firms frequently use bots to field potential clients. The technology has been advancing at a breakneck speed, and some firms are even using bots to take payments and (gasp!) give legal advice. As technology continues to improve, many are wondering, will chatbots render call centers (and their high carrying costs) obsolete?
Long the source of consumer frustration, chatbots are getting a better reputation. Today, it can be difficult to tell whether you are interacting with a robot or an actual human. Although the technology is making strides, it’s still far from perfect. According to a recent study conducted by eMarketer, 1.4 billion people (billion—not million) interacted with bots in 2015. And that number is growing fast. The future is exciting… Platforms like Kik allow users to select a bot, and talk to it as they would talk to a friend, about a variety of topics such as entertainment and gaming.
With the current state of technology, call centers are using chatbots to run a more streamlined system. A customer who visits your firm’s website can give their contact information to a chatbot, or even schedule a consultation. But when the questions become too complex to handle, the call can be transferred to a real human operator at a call center. The ultimate goal with chatbots is really efficiency.
There are professional-ethical implications that should be considered before delegating too much responsibility to a bot. You probably want to warn prospective clients up front that interacting with the bot does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Some law firms, however, are using bots more like apps—to optimize services for existing clients. Bots today can take payments from existing clients, and even give legal advice (this is more a phenomenon in Europe than in the United States).
The takeaway is to balance your need to generate leads with your desire to convert them. When a potential client makes contact with a chatbot, you want to make sure that they are swiftly transferred to an actual human the moment the bot is unable to provide them assistance. No one wants to struggle to communicate with a robot, we have all been there. If the client becomes frustrated, you won’t convert the lead. When chatbots are streamlined with actual human operators, everyone is happier. The customer feels like they get immediate service, and the operators do not need to waste time on mundane tasks.