In many ways, chatbots and other forms of automated messaging have come as a real gift to both businesses and customers.
They’re cost-effective, much faster than emails, far more convenient than waiting on hold on the phone and are a great way for your audience to find the answer they came for without ever leaving your site’s homepage.
But, like most forms of AI technology, chatbots aren’t without their imperfections. Recognising the limitations of chatbots is important as it will allow you to offset them with other, more personal support solutions.
At Telbee, we believe it’s always best policy to provide additional conversational interfaces for your customers - and to let your buyers decide how they want to be spoken to and heard.
Today, we’ll be outlining the biggest challenges presented by chatbots. We’ll also dive into how supplementing your support channels with voice messaging can help to counter them - and improve your relationships with the people who matter most to your brand.
#1 Chatbots lack a human touch
It’s no surprise that customers generally prefer to talk to a real person about the problem they’re experiencing.
It can be frustrating feeling like you’re a ticket number being dealt with by a computer, rather than a valued individual being spoken to by a real person.
Customers are demanding more personalised experiences than ever, and according to Walker, customer experience is so important these days that it’s actually overtaking price and product as the key differentiator between stores.
Treating your customers like people - and letting them feel heard by other people too - is a crucial part of delivering the high-quality experience that customers demand. In fact, Acquia recently reported that 85% of marketers say "a human touch is needed, in addition to technology, for a positive customer experience."
With this in mind, using a chatbot on your website which sounds a little cold, doesn’t speak colloquially or doesn’t have a name can seriously dampen the customer experience and potentially damage your relationship with your customers.
Of course, there’s a delicate balance here, as a chatbot which relies too heavily on humour or liveliness is at risk of misreading the tone of an unhappy customer - and will likely end up frustrating them even more!
While computers can often miss the mark completely when it comes to getting the hint, humans have an innate understanding of each others’ tone of voice. After all, voice has been our most powerful relationship-building tool for millenia!
A lot of the time, in meaningful conversations, it’s not about what you say, but how you say it. And without that touch of empathy and human understanding, a chatbot can never relate emotionally to a customer the way that a person can.
#2 Chatbots often get it wrong
As well as being a little impersonal by nature, chatbots do unfortunately often miss the mark completely when it comes to understanding the gist of a question.
Most chatbots rely on a simple set of rules programmed by humans. Take them by surprise or use wording that their programmers never considered and you’ll be hit with the classic response of “I’m sorry, I don’t understand”; a pretty frustrating response which undermines the convenience of instant messaging completely.
And although that response may be irritating, it’s unfortunately very common. In Helpshift’s study of internet users in the USA, 48% of respondents associated chatbots with unhelpful responses, with many complaining that bots often simply redirect to self-serve FAQs.
#3 There are some questions that only a human can answer
According to one report by IBM, chatbots can successfully answer up to 80% of routine questions. But do you really want 20% of your customers to be unable to find the information they’re looking for?
Unfortunately, even if we are able to one day create a chatbot that never malfunctions, redirects or misunderstands customer queries, there will always be some questions that a chatbot is simply not equipped to answer the way a human can.
For example, if you were to ask a chatbot “Which of these dresses would suit me?”, they’d either be completely stumped or give you a very generalised response based on a few of your physical characteristics. A person, on the other hand, could give you expert recommendations based on your unique preferences, opinions and look.
Sometimes, you just can’t beat human intuition when it comes to providing your customers with a genuinely helpful, informative response. And that’s part of why providing multiple avenues for communication is so important.
#4 Chatbot pop-ups can be pushy and poorly timed
The final problem with chatbots that we need to be aware of is the danger of a push-based communication model.
This was the problem faced by Microsoft’s Clippy the Paperclip; an automated assistant who disappeared in 2007 not because he served no use, but because he had a tendency to pop up at all the wrong times and ended up getting on people’s nerves!
Millennials, in particular, have little tolerance for intrusive forms of communication from brands. Your brand’s reputation takes years to build and only a handful of negative experiences with an annoying bot to tarnish.
Use voice messaging to couple convenience with character
So how do you allow customers to contact you quickly and easily while still making sure that you don’t annoy them, waste their time or leave your personality out of the equation?
Ideally, you want to combine the convenience and cost-effectiveness of instant messaging with the personal touch of a phone call. We’ve found that the best way to do this is to introduce voice messaging to your website.
With our voice messaging platform Vox, you can install fully customisable voice recorder buttons onto your website or store. Your customers can then send you voice notes directly into your voice inbox, which you can respond to personally with your own voice note.
This allows you to engage your website’s visitors in real, human conversation - while still enjoying all of the ease, convenience and speed of a chatbot service.
Let people choose how they want to be heard
We’re certainly not arguing that chatbots aren’t a worthwhile investment for your business.
There is definitely a time and a place for chatbots, but they’re not right for every person and every situation - and the sooner we recognise that, the better!
Bear in mind that chatbots are just one effective way of communicating with your customers - not the only way.
Ultimately, you should ensure that your customers have options, and can speak with you in whichever way feels easiest and most natural for them.
Some days, that could well mean getting a quick answer from a chatbot. But on other days, it may be far more appropriate to engage your customers by voice, where you can discuss complex or sensitive issues in a lot more detail.
Give your customers the chance to choose how they want to be heard - and spoken to - and they’ll come away from every conversation with you feeling satisfied, valued and understood. That’s when you’ll really have them coming back for more!
To find out how our voice messaging platform can supplement your website’s existing support channels, get in touch with Telbee today!