Are you implementing a chatbot into your contact center strategy, fellow human? I expect the emotion you’re feeling is excited, perhaps a little nervous? In this post we’ll talk about the amazing potential that chatbots can offer–and some of the shortfalls.

Before we dig in, let’s set some ground rules. According to Forrester research, when starting a chat your customers should be made aware that they’re talking to a bot and not a human. Chances are they’re figure it out on their own, so don’t lose trust trying to pull a fast one. Furthermore, you should let them know what it can and can’t help with. For example, your chatbot can start out the conversation by saying

“I’m a bot. You can ask me…”

Here are the possibilities and opportunities from implementing what you might call an interactive agent, virtual assistant, or, if you like to keep it short and sweet, a bot.

To bot or not to bot

Bots CAN save time and money

Juniper research shows that chatbots have the potential to save more than four minutes per call compared to traditional call centers. For healthcare and banking businesses, Juniper reports that chatbots could save more than $8 billion per year by 2022. For 2017 the savings are at $20 million–that’s a lot of robot-powered growth.

But they CAN’T replace humans outright (not yet at least)

If you think bots can replace trained agents in customer support, think again. While they are great for getting preliminary information or delivering quick answers, you shouldn’t rely solely on chatbots for customer service. In an interview, Forrester’s Ian Jacobs compared customer dissatisfaction with bots to the general distaste for interactive voice response (IVR): “There was a reason we called that ‘IVR hell’,” he said. “If companies follow the same route of trying to keep human customers away from human agents, they are setting themselves up for ‘Chatbot Hell’.”

They CAN turn the conversation over to a human when needed

Here are some stats on customer support conversations according to the iAdvize blog: 20% of them can be fully automated, 50% require a human to validate or correct the bot’s responses and 30% of them are beyond a bot’s reach. This is why it’s important to know when and how to escalate a conversation from bot to human, like when the customer writes a long and complicated complaint. This could mean automatically making a customer service ticket or presenting the customer with a direct phone number that can help them find a quick resolution from a trained (human) agent.

They CAN think on their feet (or the robot version of feet)

With the ability to instantly access customer information and analytics, bots can be effective at retargeting and up-selling, as one writer discovered when making a purchase on the web. After buying a black dress, a chatbot asked her “Would you like to find a pair of matching stilettos?” Well, it turns out she did. After all, when shopping online customers only need a slight nudge that can influence their buying habits.

They CAN’T deal with the unfamiliar (but can still be entertaining)

When the going gets tough for you chatbot, make sure you not only have a fallback message, but that you have multiple, creative messages for your customers. “Oops, I didn’t get that” gets old pretty quick. The founder of the chatbot Janis suggests delighting your users with rotating responses that can be unexpected and funny. The key is to follow up with a response that can redirect customers in the right direction:

“Are you still interested in the options I mentioned?”

The rise of the machines

It seems that when it comes to support, customers are greeting bots with open arms–as long as they get the results they need. As interactions between consumers and brands become more common, AI is playing a bigger role in the process. While customer service bots won’t be replacing a good old phone call with a human any time soon, they are enhancing the experience and saving businesses time and money. And we can’t wait to see what the future holds.