Where are chatbots falling short of consumer expectations?

Discussion
Mar 05, 2019
Tom Ryan

According to a survey from Uberall, 80 percent of consumers who have interacted with an AI chatbot say the experience was generally positive.

When asked what elements of chatbots need improvement, 43 percent said their accuracy in understanding what customers are asking or looking for. Other areas cited included the ability of customers to get “a human customer rep involved where needed,” 27 percent; and “ability to hold a more human-sounding, natural conversation,” 19 percent.

Drift’s “2018 State of Chatbots” report found different inhibitors to chatbot adoption when it asked 1,000 consumers, “What would stop you from using a chatbot?” The top answer was, “I’d prefer to deal with a real-life assistant,” 43 percent; followed by, “I’d worry about it making a mistake,” 30 percent; “If I could only access it through Facebook,” 27 percent; “I’d prefer to use a normal website,” 26 percent; and “If it wasn’t able to ‘chat’ in a friendly manner,” 24 percent.

Both studies showed consumers becoming more comfortable as they come to recognize the benefits for dealing with specific circumstances. Asked which benefits they’d expect to enjoy if chatbots were available (and working effectively), the top answers in Drift’s survey were: 24-hour service, 64 percent; getting an instant response, 55 percent; and getting answers to simple questions, also 55 percent. Ranking lower were getting answers to complex questions, 35 percent; and friendliness and approachability, 32 percent.

Uberall’s survey found that offers of “deals/coupons/promotions,” cited by 38 percent, was seen as the best potential use for chatbots, followed by “customer service support,” 31 percent; and “provide store locations/hours near me,” 17 percent. Ranking at the bottom was offering “personalized product recommendations,” seven percent; and “give the option of directly buying an item,” six percent.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you rate the benefits and drawbacks of using chatbots for consumers at this point? Will chatbots play a much larger role in customer service and other aspects of retailing in the years ahead?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"As retailers we can be looking for how to effectively support this early technology with human representatives to maintain great service."
"The main drawbacks are the difficulty of chatbots correctly handling complex requests or misunderstanding what the customer is saying..."
"Natural language processing, speech-to-text and other APIs/capabilities absolutely determine how good a chatbot experience will be."

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11 Comments on "Where are chatbots falling short of consumer expectations?"


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Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

Chatbots on websites provide a great service benefit to customers who are asking fairly common questions. Chatbots can provide an immediate solution and reduce the amount of time “live” customer service people spend answering these common issues. As technology evolves, chatbots will play a pivotal role in the advancement of 24-hour customer service for e-commerce.

Where chatbots have failed is on the selling side. Too many groups are turning these into a new form of spam. We see it constantly on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and others. Facebook has taken steps and outright banned many users.

Using chatbots post-sale as a customer outreach tool and review generator will be the next evolution. The caveat is to not become another spam engine. Customers will reject their use and block them.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

It’s like any new technology reaching towards a peak of inflated expectations — these steps are necessary to push the technology forward and build consumer acceptance. Its inclusion in many aspects of retail is inevitable. As retailers we can be looking for how to effectively support this early technology with human representatives to maintain great service.

Min-Jee Hwang
BrainTrust

Many website visitors see chatbots as annoying, spammy pop-ups ads. Chatbots should be deployed more strategically than that, instead appearing only on certain pages or after certain events, instead of nearly immediately after a user visits a homepage. Not many visitors will have the simple questions needed before even navigating around a website.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

With the rise of AI, chatbots will play a much larger role in every facet of the retail experience including customer service. Not only are chatbots more cost effective, they will ultimately be “better trained” to understand the customer need (probably better than the customers understand it themselves). In my opinion, we’re still a few years away from a seamless AI experience … but we’re getting close.

And the idea that chatbots will lead to more errors than what we see in human-run customer service entities will likely be a non-issue.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

The list of things that people find useful with bots is very similar to the things most people find useful with their smart speakers: simple service-related questions and tasks. Most retailers in both worlds are struggling to make product discovery (and hence product selling) feasible and efficient. However, perhaps we can learn lessons from the awesome experiences delivered via AI bots through Sephora’s Virtual Artist apps. They have absolutely mastered the delivery of engaging, personalized and high-value experiences that support product discovery and conversions.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust
First, the report cited is essentially content marketing and is both flawed and biased. I didn’t read all of it and the obvious points are correct, but a huge, huge red flag is the verbiage of the response for the question “What would stop you from using a chatbot?” The “report” is about Drift creating a market for their bot products. Aside from that, all industries are moving to AI, especially one of the easier to implement forms, chatbots. Deployed in a realistic manner, chatbots solve a number of low-level support issues for customers and employees alike. So retail is moving that way quickly, whether all retailers know it yet or not. Of course the potential for problems is tremendous, but those problems stem from only three core issues: Having unrealistic expectations for what can be achieved with present bot (AI) technology, such as expecting users to stay within certain guardrails; Not having a (human) support mechanism that can efficiently/effectively take over a failing bot interaction, particularly by knowing the user/bot conversation that led to… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

As technologies improve, widespread adoption and acceptance of chatbots will grow. However, it is critical to note that not all chatbot technologies are alike. Shopper experiences with one technology might be a complete 180-degree difference from what they are with another. Natural language processing, speech-to-text and other APIs/capabilities absolutely determine how good a chatbot experience will be.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Chatbots have come a long way over the years. They are still computers … not people. They are perfect for simple issues like tracking a package, changing an address or credit card information and other basic functions. Some chatbots are driven by AI that is becoming more and more intuitive and almost human-like. The best systems have the function of the chatbot recognizing that the customer needs further assistance and seamlessly transfers the conversation to a live agent. As the technology gets better, we’ll see chatbots and other AI fueled technology be a larger part of the retail experience.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

From a consumer perspective, the benefit of using chat bots is 24/7 support and getting quick answers to simple questions, like account or order status. For retailers, the benefit is the cost savings of replacing humans with AI-driven chatbots. The savings reported by some retailers exceeds millions of dollars.

While the benefits can be compelling for both consumers and retailers, the main drawbacks are the difficulty of chatbots correctly handling complex requests or misunderstanding what the customer is saying (accents, too slow or fast speech, mumbling, ums, etc.). When chatbots need to keep asking a question over and over again or misinterprets request, it is extremely frustrating for consumers.

Chatbots are continuing to get much better at solving the speech and predictive problems above and when they get much closer to human levels, they will become more pervasive.

Liz Adamson
BrainTrust

We’ve seen chatbots take off in marketing, especially on platforms like Facebook. Click through rates and engagement are extremely high and more and more digital marketers are embracing the technology. As adoption rates increase among advertisers, and more and more chatbots are used to sell products, there will need to be a certain amount of thoughtfulness used to ensure that they don’t become spammy or over the top. Platforms like Facebook are already monitoring and working to keep this under control.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Ultimately people want their customer service needs to be addressed by another human being in the most efficient and practical way. The chatbox journey has been an underwhelming experience over the years, however, it has improved with all the AI, predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities. In recent developments, the chatbox experience has been able in most scenarios cover the customer’s basic needs.

Where we are seeing the most value come out of the chatbox, is the ability for the machines to decipher, understand, and filter your customer service needs to either a self-service solution, or to an actual customer service representative if the challenge is a bit more complex. By no means will chat boxes replace people, yet they can make the customer service process far more efficient.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As retailers we can be looking for how to effectively support this early technology with human representatives to maintain great service."
"The main drawbacks are the difficulty of chatbots correctly handling complex requests or misunderstanding what the customer is saying..."
"Natural language processing, speech-to-text and other APIs/capabilities absolutely determine how good a chatbot experience will be."

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