Prepare For a Customer Backlash Against Chatbots

Chatbots, or bots for short, are programs that automate responses to social media inquiries via text chat. We first discussed this inviting technology in the post “ What Are Chatbots and Will They Affect the Call Center?” While chatbots promise to answer questions fast, facilitate communication, free customer service staff, and potentially draw customers to vendors, they could also cause problems. What if they fail to deliver as expected? If they provide errant information or point users in the wrong direction, customers will revolt, using the same social media platforms to express their ire. While chatbots offer much to companies and their customers, as well as the contact centers that connect them, it is naïve to expect bots will perform without a hitch. Indeed, initial user reports of tapping messaging bots to automate basic transactions suggest more frustration than success among the tech-savvy users who tested them. This implies that customer-focused e-commerce sites will need to offer an alternative when bots fail to deliver. A contact center is the ideal solution, not to replace chatbots with people, but to provide a fallback position and backup option when these self-learning, computer controlled tools learn the wrong answer and misguide customers – over and over. While one person can make one mistake with one caller at a time, the automated nature of chatbots allows them to repeat an error hundreds or thousands of times in quick succession before human intervention can correct its misdirection. Even after fixing this initial bot problem, there comes a massive amount of human effort needed to correct this automated miscommunication with hundreds or thousands of confused or frustrated customers. While one bot could be dispatched to correct the miscommunication of another bot, will customers be receptive to this? How will they know which bot to believe? They could even dismiss the second bot as spam. No, people will need to correct any chatbot customer service errors. This is not to criticize bots. Chatbots have much to offer and, in time, will conduct themselves with distinction—in most instances. Yet to assume that flawless execution will occur is simplistic, so a plan B must be in place. Is your contact center ready?   Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706. Peter DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.