Featured article

Everything you’re getting wrong about using (and providing) chatbots

Chatbots are everywhere.
But maybe that's part of the problem...

Drawing of robot in a suit

The integration of chatbots into customer service has become a prevalent trend in recent years. This next generation of AI-powered virtual assistants promise efficiency, availability around the clock, and the ability to handle a wide range of customer inquiries. However, both companies and customers often have big misconceptions about the capabilities and limitations of chatbots. In this blog, we’ll explore the top six aspects companies – and customers – get wrong about using chatbots for customer service and delve into why understanding these misconceptions is crucial for optimizing their use.

1. The myth of total chatbot automation

One of the most common misconceptions is the belief that chatbots can fully automate customer service interactions, rendering human agents obsolete. If you saw our recent post, this is not confined to chatbots alone. While chatbots can handle a wide variety of inquiries, they are far from being capable of entirely replacing human customer service representatives.

Here’s the three areas where chatbots fall short: 

  • Lack of emotional intelligence: Chatbots are designed to provide information and complete tasks. They lack the ability to understand or respond to complex human emotions. In contrast, human agents can offer empathy and emotional support when necessary.
  • Complex problem-solving: Chatbots excel at handling routine, predictable tasks, but they often struggle with complex, unique problems that require creative solutions. Human agents are more adaptable in these scenarios.
  • Ethical and moral dilemmas: Many customer service interactions involve ethical or moral considerations. Chatbots operate solely on algorithms and cannot make nuanced ethical judgments, unlike human agents.


2. Customer expectations vs. chatbot capabilities

Customers often overestimate what chatbots can do, expecting them to perform at human-level standards. However, chatbots have specific limitations that can lead to frustration if not managed effectively. 

The disconnect between chatbots are humans comes down to:

  • Language understanding: Chatbots may struggle with complex language and context understanding. Similarly, customers sometimes expect chatbots to comprehend colloquial language, idioms, and nuances as well as humans do. 
  • Limited personalization: Chatbots can provide basic personalization based on data, but they can’t replicate the level of personal touch that human agents can offer. Customers often expect a higher degree of personalization in their interactions – especially when they are contacting you to report an issue.
  • Handling complaints and frustration: Chatbots may not handle customer complaints or frustration well, often leading to increased dissatisfaction. Human agents are better equipped to de-escalate situations and offer solutions as well as empathize with the consumer.


3. Overlooking the importance of human oversight

While chatbots can operate autonomously for certain, well-defined use cases, not all are so straightforward. Areas where chatbots don’t have skill training or are more nuanced require human oversight to maintain quality and address potential issues. 

Consider whether your organization can fully depend on chatbots in the areas of:

  • Quality control: Without proper oversight, chatbots may provide incorrect or outdated information. Human agents are essential to ensure quality and accuracy in customer interactions.
  • Handling exceptions: Chatbots may not effectively handle exceptions to the rules they are programmed to follow. Human oversight is crucial to navigate complex or unique situations.
  • Adapting to change: As customer needs and queries evolve, chatbots need to adapt. Human agents can provide insights and updates to ensure chatbots remain effective.

Another factor to consider is how human behavior changes when interacting with a chatbot. An article from Harvard Business Review found that consumers lied twice as much when interacting with a chatbot versus a human. If you’re running all of your product returns and refunds through a chatbot that could be… concerning.


4. Privacy and security concerns

Customers are often wary of sharing personal information or sensitive data with chatbots, fearing data breaches or misuse. Not only can this turn off customers; it can also raise concerns with regulators

The main areas to mitigate are:

  • Data privacy: Concerns about how chatbots handle customer data and whether it is stored securely can impact trust and usage.
  • Security breaches: High-profile security breaches and data leaks can deter customers from using chatbots, especially when dealing with sensitive information like health records, financial services, and insurance.


5. Ignoring the need for a human touch

Customer service is not just about solving problems but also about building relationships and trust. Companies that rely too heavily on chatbots risk neglecting this aspect.

  • Building relationships: Chatbots can’t establish and nurture relationships with customers in the way human agents can. Long-term customer loyalty often relies on these relationships – and many businesses differentiate themselves on a more high touch experience.
  • Customer feedback and improvement: Human agents can gather valuable feedback and insights from customers, which can be used to improve products, services, and the chatbot itself. Loris even enables organizations to find these insights across all your chat, voice, email, and messaging conversations


6. Failure to create a seamless chatbot-agent handoff

Companies that utilize both chatbots and human agents often fail to effectively communicate this to customers. When a chatbot interacts with a customer, it’s crucial to make it clear when human intervention is available.

  • Setting expectations: Customers should know when they’re interacting with a chatbot and when they can escalate to a human agent if needed.
  • Seamless transition: The handoff from chatbot to human agent should be as smooth as possible to prevent frustration and confusion.

As with most things, the answer is finding the balance

The landscape of customer experience is dynamic – more so than it’s been in decades. And chatbots, like them or not, have become a valuable tool that when used correctly can enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. It’s essential for both companies and customers to understand the capabilities and limitations of chatbots.

Customer expectations are perhaps the more complex issue. Subpar interactions with chatbots can sour them to a very wide field of different offerings and technological approaches. To build that trust, focus on making the use cases solid and easy – even add some personality to your bot. But keep in mind that misconceptions will still persist. A hybrid of human agent and chatbot service will help your customers no matter where they are in terms of attitude or comfort level.

Companies need to embrace this hybrid approach, by understanding which use cases can be routed to chatbots and which are best handled by human agents. This concept of skill routing is not new, but chatbots have become this universal gatekeeper as a way to reduce costs, that is impacting experience. In addition to pairing certain intents and use cases with the best resource, transparency in communication, proper oversight, and the understanding that customer service is more than just problem-solving are key to a successful application of chatbots and human agents.

Photo credit: Image by Shawn Suttle