3 Times When You Might Not Want to Use a Customer Service Chatbot

man in blue suit analyzing consumer data

This is the last thing you ever expected to hear from Astute, right?

Chatbots for customer care are a powerful tool, but it’s not a good idea to deploy a bot just for the sake of it.

In our work with consumer brands around the world, we’ve heard a lot of excitement about what automation and chatbots can do, but there will always be tasks that make more sense for a human agent to perform. And there is some debate about what types of customer interactions should and should not be handled by a virtual agent vs. a live one.

It’s a fair question: just because a customer interaction can be automated via chatbots, does that mean it should?

Why Are Chatbots So Popular?

First, let’s talk about how we got here.

Chatbots allow consumers to interact conversationally with brands on the channels that are most convenient for them, like mobile apps, the mobile web, or messaging. Beyond engaging in conversation, bots can gather information from consumers and make decisions about what steps to take to resolve an issue. They have incredible potential to enhance customer experiences across digital channels.

And consumers understand that potential. In a recent study, consumers reported they’re interested in using chatbots to get instant responses to questions 24 hours a day. And while the Millennials are usually cited as driving this technology, Baby Boomers are actually just as interested in using chatbots for customer service.

4 Things a Bot Can Do That Might Surprise You

When asked about what functions a bot should and shouldn’t perform, many CX professionals name actions they believe a bot can’t do, assuming limitations to the complexity of activities that a bot could handle. But in fact, chatbots can be built to handle even complicated interactions, like completing transactions, submitting claims, and other multi-step processes.

Consider that 72% of today’s consumers want to find their own answers instead of contacting you to solve their issues, and Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with brands without ever interacting with a human. Given these trends, it’s possible that chatbots could become the preferred path to resolution for your customers.

Here are four situations where you might not think a chatbot could perform the task, but they actually can.

1. Handle highly emotional customer moments, like starting a car insurance claim after an accident or answering questions about a product safety recall.

While some people may seek out human connection and empathy in a time of distress, others don’t want to compound the emotion – and some just want access to important information as quickly as possible. The key element is choiceBest-in-class companies allow their customers to choose the type of interaction they want to resolve a high-stress issue.

2. Deliver information you don’t want made publicly available.

Many companies understandably want to keep some information close to the vest, and have not made certain types of information accessible via web search or FAQ pages. Because advanced chatbot technology is able to pull information from internal, privileged sources and deliver a one-to-one message to a customer, it’s the perfect platform for answering questions where you may not want the information to be on your website for all the world to easily find.

If it’s alright for a live agent to provide that information when asked directly, it’s a good use case candidate for a customer service chatbot.

3. Complete really complex interactions.

As mentioned above, chatbots can be configured to address some pretty complex issues. This is due to the fact that sophisticated chatbot solutions are driven by a type of artificial intelligence called narrow AI, which enables a bot to perform one particular task extremely well. By stringing together multiple intelligences, each in control of performing one part of the process, you create the capability to handle complex interactions – almost like how individual cogs in a machine each work together to accomplish a task.

Many think of a chatbot as replacing a web form or performing only simple ask-and-answer functions, but they can engage customers more deeply, gathering information to solve complex problems or complete multi-step processes.

4. Communicate about sensitive issues.

When thinking about functions a bot should not perform, a popular example is a consumer having an allergic reaction to a product. But if the issue is a true emergency, what would a live agent do differently than a chatbot? Either way, wouldn’t you tell the customer to seek professional medical attention?

If it’s not a medically urgent case, the customer may prefer to simply report it to a chatbot and seek some kind of compensation. As in our first example, not everyone seeks empathy in these situations – sometimes they just want a quick resolution with minimal human interaction. In fact, there are many cases where people feel more comfortable reporting problems or voicing complaints to a bot because they know they can’t hurt its feelings. It’s like the story of kids learning to read who felt more comfortable practicing reading to dogs, since they know the dogs won’t judge them. Some customers may feel they can be more candid and direct when complaining to a chatbot vs. a live agent, and the bot can kick off any follow-up processes as needed.

With all these examples, giving customers choice is extremely important. Different customers prefer different types of engagement, and at any point in a self-service interaction it should be easy for them to escalate to an agent without switching channels or having to repeat their story.

3 Times You Might Not Want to Use a Bot

In the situations above, you might not expect a bot to be able to handle the interaction, but they can. In the examples below, a bot probably can handle the interaction – but you might not want them to. Certain exchanges just require a human touch.

1. Situations where you believe more empathy and finesse are needed

It’s up to you to determine if there are delicate situations where you may want to auto-escalate to a live agent, essentially making the decision on behalf of the customer to engage a human agent instead of virtual one. Ask yourself if there are issues you prefer to always be handled by a human, no matter what. Ensure that the self-service solution you choose gives you the flexibility to control these processes.

Also consider times where a customer may express great anger or frustration in their communication with the chatbot. These are perfect times to auto-escalate to a human agent (passing along all the context of the interaction, of course) so that they can handle the customer with uniquely human finesse.

2. Occasions where customers want you to bend the rules

Sometimes, customers want us to bend (or break) the rules for them. A customer who is not happy with their resolution, be it the amount of the goodwill coupon they were given, the value of their cancelled flight voucher, or any number of other situations, can be a real challenge for any human agent to handle, let alone a virtual one. The decision to break a rule is a human one, so is probably best handled by your live agents. However, that doesn’t mean that a chatbot can’t triage the case and gather the necessary information, and then pass it onto a live agent.

3. Issues with potential to become litigious

Any consumer relations professional will tell you that risk is always a factor. There may be types of cases that your organization has identified as high-risk, including situations that have the potential to become a lawsuit. These matters must be handled with great sensitivity. Just as a chatbot can be programmed to auto-escalate cases where customers express anger, they can be configured to auto-escalate conversations that contain certain keywords you’ve identified as indicative of high-risk cases. Those cases can then be routed to the person or team most qualified to handle them.

Whatever use cases you choose for your self-service chatbot, remember that consumers always want:

  • Choice: Allow them to choose how they want to engage
  • Easy transitions: If they want to talk to a human, don’t make them switch channels or devices
  • Transparency: Be straight with them about when they’re interacting with AI vs. a human agent

Chatbots are an exciting technology with numerous customer care applications, and it’s important to map out the right approach for your business. Talk to the experts at Astute to create your self-service strategy today.


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