Are using chatbots for customer service really that successful?

chatbots for customer service

Today I contacted my bank with a query. The only option to me was to communicate with a chatbot. Of course it didn't understand, as my question wasn't the sort chatbots for customer service are usually presented with.

So I asked to speak to a human. The chatbot then asked me to choose between a chatbot and an assistant. It couldn't even react properly to my simple request.

And lo and behold, all assistants were very busy. Was the bank totally relying on the chatbots for customer service to answer the majority of questions asked by its customers? What happens to those with a more complex question? It seems they have to hang on for an hour and a half to get an answer...

Are we destined for an automated world?

Perhaps the assistants were very busy because nobody wanted to deal with a chatbot? Did the bank ever think this would be the case? Adding a well-stocked FAQ page to the bank's website would prevent unnecessary contact with a chatbot as well.

It's no good battling with chatbots for customer service. The company may think they're a good idea, as an AI infused algorithm is a much cheaper option than a human being. But they forget its customers are also human beings, and not chatbots.

What would have been a very simple answer delivered in a matter of minutes took ages because of the lack of human capacity. Looking back on it, my question was something which could have been answered by a comprehensive FAQ page. But there wasn't the option for this...

Take a look at the infographic below:

Are using chatbots for customer service really that successful?

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Company convenience...

Running a business is expensive, especially when it comes to personnel. So if companies can find a cheaper and more reliable alternative, they will. And so it seems chatbots for customer service is the answer.

During the pandemic call centres were effectively deserted. Whereas a chatbot sits on a server and doesn't require a COVID test or wear a mask to work. It isn't going to be struck down with the latest deadly virus.

It stands to reason an automated system which can answer simple questions quickly and effectively should be good practice. This takes up less space, doesn't require a salary or time off, and can cope with irate customers without even blinking an eye.

...versus customer angst

But what those businesses don't consider is how their customers react to chatbots for customer service. How impersonal it is to type in questions into a box, and then wait for an automated answer, usually irrelevant to their query, in return.

85% of companies are now using chatbots posing as humans to answer customer online queries. It seems that human-to-human communication is now obsolete, unnecessary, more of a nuisance than a service. Even if you do get a human, it's still within a chat service.

And then, having finally acquired someone with a recognisable name, you have to wait ages for an answer while they deal with the many other calls on their system. So many people by-passing chatbots only to be let down by overworked and understaffed call responders.

Customers assumed as illiterate or stupid

Whatever happened to good old customer engagement? I know most successful businesses have grown so huge, they haven't a clue who their customers are. They may have employed expensive marketing agencies to provide an 'avatar' of who their ideal customer should be, but not the actual reality.

But it seems companies actually don't care about how their customers feel. As long as they cough up their money, that's OK. If they are irritating enough to have a problem, just let them loose on a chatbot – this will soon sort them out.

Most bosses are so far up the hierarchy, they lose touch with the front of house. They probably have no idea of customer reactions to chatbots for customer service. Or how overworked the humans are behind the scenes who have to mop up the mess the chatbots can't cope with.

A robot doesn't work like a human's brain

Chatbots are very useful for solving simple queries. Queries which are usually covered on the website, or require a simple solution. They are also useful for gathering information to supposedly make the human assistant's processing of the problem much easier.

But chatbots can't cope with complex concerns. It it doesn't fit in with their programming, they opt for the nearest solution. Never mind if it isn't relevant, they have offered a response. But for the human recipient, this usually results in going round in circles, getting absolutely nowhere.

Human brains are designed to cope with complicated conditions. OK, they may not work at lightening speed, but at least reason is applied properly. They understand the situation better, ask questions to obtain better information, and are more likely to deliver the correct solution as a result.

Unappreciated enforced familiarity

To appear human, chatbots for customer service have been adapted to deliver responses in speech mode. But what they don't know, as they are unable to hear or understand the customer, is what demographic they are.

I know my mother would absolutely hate being addressed as "hi there!" and certainly wouldn't approve of any emoji usage. Chatbots are told to express themselves in the same way their programmers would, usually as a younger person.

But they do have the advantage of not getting upset by an incandescent customer shouting down the line. Some bots are even programmed to recognise angry words, and know when they should divert to a human assistant. Pity the poor person who picks up that query!

86% of customers prefer to speak to a human

Looking at this statistic, surely businesses and companies should realise that using chatbots for customer service is not a good idea. Their customers just don't want to talk to a faceless, automated, uncaring system. In fact 20% of customers prefer not to use them at all!

And yet, profits override customer service. Care of customers takes second place. They are made to feel like they're a nuisance for having a problem, needing assistance, or requiring information not available on the website. Just shove them onto a chatbot to sort them out!

But it doesn't. The human assistants are run off their feet fending problems the chatbots cannot solve. They juggle so many inquiries at one time, the response times are huge! I had to wait an hour and a half, and had to log back into the website three times. Whereas a simple telephone call would have sorted everything in just minutes!

Does your company use chatbots for customer service?

How does chatbots for customer service relate to commenting? Well, it's all about communication. Typing in your query into a commenting box isn't easy for some people. Explaining your problem to a human is much easier, especially if the human on the line instantly understands it.

We are being forced into a world of automation, robots and voiceless commenting. Eventually we will lose the power of speech, articulation and the ability to explain ourselves using verbal words. The lack of face-to-face communication leaves us isolated, unwanted, unappreciated and stranded.

If you are a new business, for goodness sake, remember your customers are human beings. Treat them the same by being human yourself. People buy from people, not robots or automated systems. Many large corporates are forgetting this very important fact.

However, if you still wish to go down the route of having live chat on your website, make sure what you instal uses humans and not AI. It may cost more to have human-to-human contact, but the results are far more satisfactory for all concerned.

Let me know your thoughts about this subject in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Alice Elliott
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