Do customers actually like chatbots?

A rising number of businesses have been enlisting the help of AI-powered chatbots to deliver customer service. But how do customers actually feel about this new technology?
11 September 2018

Chatbots: Love them or hate them? Source: Shutterstock

In the world of customer service, chatbots seem to be the talk of the town right now. Many businesses are integrating these shiny AI-powered virtual assistants into their websites to help streamline customer service operations.

Chatbots can help businesses lower customer-service costs by providing answers to frequently asked questions such as opening hours and shipping policies. As a result, less customer service professionals are needed.

For customers, chatbots represent a handy little tool in which to gain information quickly without needing to pick up the phone and wait in painfully long queues.

With these ease and convenience, customers must LOVE chatbots, right? Wrong!

It seems that while chatbots may help your business automate repetitive tasks and save on employee costs, customers are showing a little distaste to the trendy technology.

According to a study by PwC, 59 percent of customers globally (and 64 percent in the U.S.) feel that brands are short-sighted when it comes to automation and the trendy designs of chatbots.

In their rush to join the chatbot craze and present themselves as “innovative” and “tech-savvy”, many companies have “lost touch” with the human element of delivering great customer experience.

For customers, the experience they receive from businesses truly matters. In fact, 60 percent of consumers said they would drop a brand they love after receiving poor customer service.

An independent survey of 3,000 UK and US consumers conducted last year revealed the predominant factors that made chatbots unappealing:

  • 53 percent of the responded found the software to be ineffective or only somewhat effective.
  • 59 percent of respondents complained about the need to repeat information to an actual customer support agent after getting through the chatbot.
  • “Getting stuck and not knowing what to do next” was another major irritation.
  • 22 percent of the respondents said “they are not intelligent enough” when asked why they didn’t like chatbots.

The problem is, many businesses are using AI to replace the human touch instead of augmenting it. And this is by no means a sustainable solution for companies who want to stand apart from their competition.

Businesses must find the balance between providing customers with an excellent experience and delivering efficiency through chatbots.

Customer-facing automation vs internal-facing automation

Perhaps instead of focusing too heavily on using automation to serve customers, companies should favor internal-facing automation.

For instance, investing in technology to improve internal processes such as using data around customers purchasing histories to provide a more personalized customer experience.

American Express is an example of a company who have used this kind of automation to help deliver customer service excellence.

Customers still value the human touch. Source: Shutterstock

The company stopped requiring their call center representatives to follow a script, allowing them to spend as much time on each call as they felt necessary.

As a result, they saw their customer retention increase by 400 percent.

The fact is, customers prefer contact with real people who genuinely care. So, while chatbots can help companies deliver quick answers,

So, while chatbots are helping companies to deliver quick answers to customers, they should not be used to replace humans. Businesses should be cautious not to forget the importance of customer experience excellence in their journey to chatbot adoption.