6 ways chatbots miss the mark that will make you rethink your strategy

If you are business owner with an online platform, then chatbots have likely been on your radar. For those of you that are unaware of the fad, chatbots are a computer program that integrates with an already existing messaging platform. The bots are designed to interact with people based on their questions and comments, providing automated responses. When used correctly, chatbots can screen basic questions, reducing employee time wasted and often saving money on additional personnel. Essentially, they are a perfect add-on for a sales and customer service strategy.

Chatbots can be a vital element to interacting with consumers. But, as with most technological advances, there are a number of obstacles presenting themselves with the use of chatbots. Below are six things that chatbots are lacking in today’s tech world.

1.      Grasping Emotion.

If you’ve seen any robot movie in the last 10 years, you know that robots don’t have the firmest grasp on human emotion. Emotions are complicated and even as humans we struggle to express emotion in text only conversations.

Although a robot’s inability to express and understand emotion is something many of us are grateful for, it can prove to be a problem for customer service.  

If a customer reaches out to chat bot using sarcasm, or expressing frustration, the bot will unlikely be able to detect the subtleties in language. Think about it: have you ever misconstrued the meaning of an email or text message? Me too. If a customer senses they are speaking to a Bot, their frustration is likely to grow. Frustrated customers are the worst kind, especially if they love social media. A quick interaction, a screen shot, and an active social account can lead to a tarnished brand.

2.      Going off Script

Sure, you have customer service agents on call to answer any question that stumps your bots, but what if the question is just worded a little differently. Bots are running on scripts, we can feed them a few different varieties of how questions may be asked, but if they are faced with a less conventional situation, they may not be able to handle it. Not everyone speaks the same way, some use slang, abbreviations, acronyms and more. In the world of ‘text talk’ even humans have a hard time keeping up.

Additionally, your bots may encounter those speaking English as a second language. Those who are not fully fluent in English, or any other language for that matter, may put words together differently. This is something a human customer service agent would be able to detect; however, the bot may think the conversation is spam, or provide incorrect information. Since ChatBots are used for customer service, an incorrect answer or misunderstanding isn’t going to help anyone.

3.      Help wanted.

There are essentially 2 types of chatbots: one for quick emergency help, and another for longer form customer service answers. Depending on the nature of your product or service, one or the other may be appropriate for you. As consumers, when we see a chatbot, even if it’s just a general question, we ask for ‘help’. As the site chatbotmagazine explains: “{help is} the first thing that we ask when we are in crisis, agonising, or even chatting with bots!”. Humans can discern the difference between the ‘help’ of a simple question, or the ‘help’ of a crisis, but bots do not share the intellect. Before inputting a bot, you may want to think about the severity of “help” your customers may be asking about. We ask for help if we can’t find a product, or if our house is on fire, the bot will often struggle to identify the difference. Obviously, this can lead to several problems on the customer service and the tech side.

4.      Surprise!

Of course, your product is fantastic and groundbreaking, and miles away from your competition. However, even if you’ve done bug fix after bug fix, there are still bound to be problems you can’t foresee. If you have your bot in place to answer questions from a confused user, you are likely to then have both a confused bot and a confused customer. Even though we can load our bots full of potential situations, the surprise scenarios are going to leave some people (and machines) scratching their heads.

5.      Gateway to Spam.

Bots aren’t yet privy to the complex world of scammers. When humans see certain behaviors their spam alarm sounds loudly, however, Robots in their naivety often open the doors to spam. This can cause problems for the bots themselves and for their owners. Even though typical spammy phrases can be flagged, bots may still expose your brand and your site to hackers. As technology advances, hackers change their ways and look for new windows of attack. Make sure your bot is ready for an attack and be aware of some ways your brand can be exposed.

6.      M.I.A

Chat bots often need to be monitored in case there is an issue they can’t solve. When a customer visits your site and your chat bot is offline, they are left without a viable option for help, and they may look elsewhere. If your chatbot is only available during your work hours and you have an international product or service, you may be leaving out thousands of customers.

Some food for bot:  Some frustrated customers are going to remain frustrated whether or not you have a bot or a human customer service agent in place. Before implementing a new chat bot system, you may want to think about the nature of your business, your typical customer profile, and how urgent responses are needed. Chat bots aren’t for everyone and if you don’t have the resources to have them run efficiently, their presence may negatively impact your customer experience.

Chatbots are everywhere. Only time will tell if they cause more harm than good in the realm of help desks and customer service. As with everything in our tech powered world, these bots will continue to change and improve. After considering the above challenges, is having a chatbot still worth it? That’s up to you, your brand, and your staff.

Cara Chatellier, Marketing Specialist, Scopic Software
Image source: Shutterstock/Montri Nipitvittaya