Chatbots do not save bad customer service

By FINTECH Books Contributor, Susanne Møllegaard
Follow: @SusMoellegaard

The talk about chatbots seems unstoppable. In fact top executives from banks across the globe expect chatbots to become the primary communication channel in 64 percent of all customer contacts in less than 10 years (according to The 10th annual Temenos survey of challenges, priorities and trends in the financial services sector by Accenture/Temenos). Telephone conversations, video meetings and physical meetings are expected to be used in only modest 7 percent of future customer contacts. This enormous change in customer service is almost incomprehensible.

Blind alleys

Personally, my experiences with chatbots so far have been very mixed. While they are tolerable in situations, where my purpose fits the purpose of the chatbot, they are directly causing insecurity and frustration in all other situations. Blind alleys and absurd dialogues result in an unpleasant sense of powerlessness much like the one you experience, when a phone call to your phone company, the tax authority or Microsoft turns into a maze with multiple phone menus instead of doors.

The growing trend of dressing chatbots up as humans with a profile image and a name actually helps to amplify the negative feelings, because you soon forget that you communicate with artificial intelligence, thus getting almost the same expectations to the chatbot as to its human counterpart.

Eternal problems

I realise that the expectations to chatbots in general are great, but unfortunately this is mainly due to the fact that customer service can be a frustrating experience:

– Websites are difficult to navigate

– It’s difficult to get quick answers, when needed

– Service is impersonal

– Internet forms are difficult to understand

– It takes too long to find the services you need

– Services are not available 24/7 (closing time)

This list of complaints is not new, nor is it comprehensive. Everybody experiences frustrating customer service all the time. Therefore, we are also constantly looking for new solutions to these eternal problems. And right now, the solution seems to be chatbots.

This is confirmed by the 2018 State of Chatbots Report (by Drift/Audience/Salesforce/Myclever).  Approximately 37 percent of customers in this survey hope that chatbots can help them get a faster response in case of an emergency. And sadly almost the same number hope that chatbots will finally help them get their problems solved.

34 percent even modestly hope that the chatbot can help them get connected to a real person.


Not a savior

But are chatbots really the savior of customer service? I am not so sure about that. The bad customer service we experience today is not exactly caused by the lack of chatbots. No, bad customer service is rather due to the abundance of complex organisations, bureaucratic processes, rigid decision making, unclear communication and ambiguous expectations to employees and managers. Chatbots do not solve these basic problems. On the contrary, I fear that chatbots eventually will turn out to be the website’s counterpart of the annoying voice response menus of todays phone systems.

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