As advanced as automated website chat bots get, they are a poor substitute for human interaction.
Do bots have their place?
Probably — but it isn’t in the customer service industry.
Have you ever had an amazing customer service interaction with a bot that was programmed to help you? At most it was “satisfactory” — the bare minimum we find acceptable in customer service. It actually matched yo with a correct answer to your question.
It is essentially a mini-search engine that delivers a single answer at a time (and when was the last time a chat bot got you to the right answer on the first try?). I actually prefer a traditional search results page because it gives you a list of 5-12 possible results based on your query. It actually saves time by giving you a handful of results instead of doling them out one at a time like a stingy sibling who’s been forced to share their M&Ms with you.
How about the bots masquerading as humans?
Ever been tricked by a bot into thinking you were talking with a live service agent? How annoying is that?? About two responses in your radar is up because the responses have been a little off, but you chalk it up to a potential translation glitch because you might be dealing with an outsourced support person. Then the bot doesn’t understand what you typed at all and it almost has to confess that it was a bot all along and it can’t answer your question after all and you’ll have to wait for a reply from (gasp!) a live service agent during normal working hours.
Stop frustrating your customers by remote control
Absolutely provide live (human!) support whenever possible. Absolutely provide an online help database that your site visitors can search for answers whenever they like. But also be absolutely honest about your business hours, customer support response time to questions sent via chat or email, and even about any programmed bot you’ve made available to try and help customers.
Just be honest (with your customers and with yourself) about the fact it’s a glorified parrot that can only repeat back pre-programmed answers and is incapable of emotional reasoning and creative thought.
A human customer service agent can sense your stress and respond accordingly. A human customer service agent can relate to a problem with an order and the need to replace an item in time for your grandmother’s 90th birthday party. A human customer service agent can arrange for a late pick-up by the Fedex truck or even stop at an after hours drop-off box on their way home after their shift.
A bot can only quote your return policy and provide estimated arrival times based on standard shipping times.
When you have a service problem would you rather have an empathetic human customer service person helping you or a bird-brained bot that can only parrot back policies and platitudes?
Which do you think your customers would rather have serving them when they need help?