A Bot Will Now Take Your Payment


August 03, 2017

The August Blog Series | All About Fintech

Issue 5: A Bot Will Now Take Your Payment

You probably feel comfortable taking customer service advice from a bot -- so why not make a payment through one? Chatbots are becoming a popular way for customers to self-service, and many eCommerce vendors are now taking the plunge and also letting chatbots process payments for them. Not only could this signify a new wave of self-service eCommerce, but it could even have some implications regarding artificial intelligence and customer service.

The Quick Proliferation of Self-Service Chatbots

Natural language processing is the breakthrough that many companies were waiting for in regards to automated self-service. For devices to be able to process audio queries, they also needed to be able to process the use of natural language -- the way that people form their questions when they are not speaking to a machine. Natural language processing has been pushed by companies such as Google and Apple for their virtual assistant applications. The advanced algorithms involved in language processing are likewise being used throughout a variety of different technologies, including chatbots.

Previously, chatbots could really only understand very basic things, such as keywords. They could then forward more complex queries onto human representatives. Now chatbots are able to answer fairly advanced questions -- and they are able to "hold a conversation." Being able to answer inquiries contextually means that chatbots can now perform more complex tasks than they previously could, such as fulfilling orders and taking payments. There are some clear advantages to this: it reduces the amount of overhead for a business and ensures that customers get the help that they need immediately. When properly implemented, chatbots reduce the costs for an organization and improve upon customer satisfaction.

The Major Concerns Related to Chatbots

  • Security. Chatbots can be as secure as any online form. However, they may not be as easy to regulate -- especially early on. Users will only be able to tell whether their chat is secure by trusting the company with which the chatbot is associated, which may be a fairly nebulous standard.

  • Mistakes. Because a bot is a "dumb" artificial intelligence agent, it may not be able to pick up on mistakes that a customer service representative might -- such as a completely incorrect total, or an order being submitted that is impossible to complete. These are issues which can already occur when using an online eCommerce payment portal, but that are generally caught quickly by live representatives.

  • Care. Customers may fear that the proliferation of chatbots could lead to reduced customer care, as it will become increasingly difficult to talk to a live operator when chatbots are normalized. On the other hand, chatbots can always be used in conjunction with customer care representatives -- and the option to escalate to a live representative can always be visible.

...But You've Already Done This

Not lost in the discussion of chatbots should be the fact that most consumers have made payments through bots before. A chatbot is not dissimilar from a telephone payment system, through which the system automatically prompts the user to walk through their payment. In fact, it's virtually identical; the only difference is that a chatbot functions on the Internet, and a telephone payment system functions through the phone.

The limited environment of the phone means that interactive voice response systems, or IVRs, have had to be less advanced for payment-related applications -- they need to ask specifically for your payment card number, expiration date, and card verification code, no more and no less. But that is not materially different from what a chatbot is doing; a chatbot is simply able to perform more complex tasks, such as also creating and dispatching an order.

Though there may be concerns regarding the security and safety of a bot, it is not new technology -- it's only a new implementation of existing technology. More exciting are the cultural ramifications associated with using natural language bots to process requests and provide customer service. In the future, many businesses may be able to entirely automate much of their customer service departments, freeing businesses up to operate with lower overhead and improve the bottom line.