There’s a new demographic of employees entering the workplace. They don’t look like ordinary ones. They’ve been stripped of a heart, emotions, and limbs. But, despite their unfamiliar appearance, they are consistently winning over employers and replacing ‘normal’ employees. These new strangers to the workplace are chatbots.
Many companies and executives have been so eager to take advantage of the promise of new technologies that they don’t devote enough time to understand the dangers, and the ethical issues at play. We don’t allow strangers into our homes without carefully vetting. The same should be true for chatbots.
1. Understand the hype
Companies of all shapes and sizes have welcomed chatbots into their workplace. Who can blame them? Chatbots promise to respond to and engage with customers in a more efficient manner than humans. They can have conversations with hundreds or thousands of customers at the same time. And they can work around the clock at peak performance without 7 to 9 hours of sleep or a caffeine fix. Chances are your company has, at a minimum, thought about using chatbots.
2. Be cautious of strangers
Yet, while chatbots have a lot of promise, as a leader, you can’t afford to ignore their important effects. There is no substitute for human interactions. Chatbots haven’t reached a level of maturity that allows them to have emotional intelligence. Customer interactions are most meaningful when they are filled with emotion and trust. This can only be accomplished by a human with emotional intelligence.
3. Listen to customers
Many companies falsely assume that customers want to interact with chatbots. By doing so, they get a quick response and avoid waiting on phone lines listening to cheesy music. But assumptions are dangerous. According to research by Aspect, nearly half (42%) of consumers still want a human customer service agent to help them answer their most complex questions. What’s more, 75% of consumers don’t believe chatbots are able to handle complicated troubleshooting issues. Think about the complexity of your customer interactions carefully before inviting chatbots to conversations.
Chatbots are surely knocking at the door. They seem to have your best interests at heart. It’s important to do your research before inviting them in. As a leader, it’s important that you don’t blindly deploy chatbot technologies without considering the effects on customer service. Consider, for example, “Tay.ai”, the chatbot created by Microsoft in 2016. Despite Tay.ai’s potential, Microsoft suspended it within hours after it emitted racist and inflammatory remarks. The dangers of chatbots are real and fatal.
I care deeply about helping leaders and advancing the human resources profession. I have authored two books, The Art of Executive Coaching and Stress-less Leadership, and maintain a regular blog. I am also a leading contributor for The Society For Human Resources Management, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Association of Talent Development.
As an active animal advocate, I donate 100% of all book proceeds to animal welfare.
The opinions in this article are my own, and do not reflect those of my publishers or employers.