Using Chatbots with the Right Intention

Brian Reijngoud, VP of Sales

Chatbots are great tools, but why are you using them? Don’t try to save money or quickly solve your staffing problems with chatbots. Instead, do it all for your customer and use chatbots for the right purpose. And don't forget your agents.

Chatbots, the perfect solution...

Lately, several people have been asking me about my opinion on chatbots. Fair enough: I have been working in the field of conversational AI for a few months now. So, let me be clear about one thing: chatbots are handy tools! Conversational bots have significant advantages. At least, as long as the chatbot can do what it does best: answering simple, repetitive, fact-based questions. Think of things like a password reset, a bank balance inquiry, or choosing the specs of your phone. For those kinds of questions, bots are a perfect solution. And if companies would only apply them there, probably, no one would have asked me any questions about chatbots...

Asking too much from conversational bots

However, we see more and more companies using chatbots as the holy grail in customer service. Chatbots are the ultimate way to control your costs: how many people would I no longer need, how much money can we save? Unfortunately, this thinking leads to companies asking too much from chatbots and their suppliers to over-promise on their performance: what if a chatbot could handle most conversations? Wouldn’t that solve all your staffing and funding problems miraculously? Unfortunately, chatbots can not live up to those expectations. The problem is: chatbots still have a tough time answering complex customer questions. The idea that they are like a real live 3CPO is simply not accurate (yet)! And then again, even if they could answer them, the lack of empathy and humor is highly problematic for the customer experience (here, 3CPO is an excellent example, by the way).

Financial incentives for automation

I understand that companies will always look at the finances of things and that automating customer service can save money. Deploying a chatbot for that purpose is serious short-term thinking, though. What do you expect to happen? Do you want to save a few bucks only to end up with frustrated customers? Saving money over the backs of your customer has never been a good idea, of course, since customers are the company’s most valuable asset. Listen to them! If they leave, so will your revenue……and thus your salary!

Survey: customers have negative associations with chatbots

Don’t take my word for it, though: recent research in the Netherlands - with over 1000 people interviewed - showed that 64% had a negative association or experience with chatbots. And 65% prefer live chat over a chatbot when ordering online. Chatbots are bad for customer satisfaction and customer happiness, according to 75% of the people surveyed. Only 39% state that automated customer service increases user-friendliness. These are telling figures. If you have seen information that contradicts this, carefully consider the source: if a chatbot builder provides the data, be on guard. They might have some interest in the outcome.

Chatbots are not for everyone.

Of course, there is more than one reason to consider chatbots. Companies must automate their customer service since people are becoming more demanding and critical on company service levels with every generation. Take my father, for example. He is very brand loyal and will go to an actual physical store to buy his goods. If it happens to be after closing hours, he’ll simply go back to that store the next day. As for me, I love browsing the internet for good comparisons and checking opening hours ;-). However, if it’s a large purchase, I still want to go to the store to feel the product. Which store is no longer significant. I guess the same goes for my generation.

But the next generation, the one my kids belong to, they are a completely different story. They don’t go online; they dwell online. They use WhatsApp or live chat to ask questions to a company directly. No answer? Long waiting times? A bot that sends you in circles? Bye, bye, company! Hello competitor! They have no patience, no brand loyalty! The spoiled little...

Automation is more than chatbots.

Companies, looking at this trend, are already adjusting the focus of their communication channels from phone to chat, messenger, WhatsApp, and the like. They don’t want to miss out on an entire generation. And with increasing customer demands, it only makes sense to automate and deploy chatbots. However, to use a chatbot successfully with this upcoming generation, you should do one or more of the following things:

  • Keep it simple. Let the chatbot answer high volume, easy to answer questions. Humans should answer all other inquiries, or
  • Invest a lot of time and money in a great chatbot with proper AI. Don’t expect a magic solution here.. An excellent chatbot takes time and requires to be kept up to date all the time.
  • Make work of conversational AI without the chatbot. Human agents will still handle the majority of conversations in the near future. Support them with automated solutions that speed up and improve conversations,

Chatbots, yea, or nay?

Is there a place for chatbots In this fast-moving, brand-disloyal landscape? Absolutely! Just make sure you keep in mind for whom you are using the chatbot. It is better not to try and save money. Instead, deploy a chatbot for customer satisfaction, ease of use, or improving customer experience, and you’ll be on your way to success. Just don’t forget to support your human agents with automation tailored for them.

I’m interested in hearing from you. Have you had a great experience with chatbots? Or maybe a terrible one? Please let me know by emailing me:

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