Why Your Customers Might Stage a Chatbot Revolt

It’ll happen when businesses use chatbots when they really shouldn’t.

Written by Cory Halbardier
Published on Jul. 09, 2024
Why Your Customers Might Stage a Chatbot Revolt
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Generative AI will unleash a wave of new chatbots. Businesses are already exploring possible uses for it, including new ways to interact with customers. 

A survey of 600 business owners found that nearly half want to use new AI programs to offer digital personal assistants, nearly half want AI to be involved in customer relationship management, 35 percent want to use AI to produce contentand one-third want to use the technology for product recommendations.

When Not to Use a Chatbot

  1. Don’t use them when you are a relationship-based business that sells big-ticket items that depend on human connection, detecting nuance and establishing trust. 
  2. Don’t use them without enough data to train them on. You cannot take an off-the-shelf product, start running chatbots and expect them to complement, much less replace, trained customer service agents.

Spending projections bear out the idea that AI-powered chatbots will be big. Mainly due to the launch of generative AI, a la ChatGPT, corporate spending on them will rise to more than $72 billion by 2028, up from $12 billion spent in 2023, according to Juniper Research data. 

While some organizations will successfully hand over more customer service jobs to chatbots, others will struggle.

In businesses where trust is paramount, for example healthcare and law, customers will push back, and hard, whenever an algorithm replaces a  human representative. If consumers decline to do business with a company because it is overusing AI, that business will soon discover that the AI deployment it undertook to boost efficiency and cut costs is actually making normal business operations more expensive. 

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Why Customers Can’t Stand Chatbots

If your business’s customers rely on human connection and expertise, then you’re aware that data about customers is just one piece of the puzzle.

Consumers often need a live connection with a person — someone they know they can return to whenever they need to resolve an issue — before they feel comfortable writing a sizable check. That’s why a divorce lawyer can’t be replaced by a chatbot, for example.

Customers in many industries actually pay for customer service, which a chatbot cannot really provide, however much AI strives to make it more personable. Just ask any consumer who has gotten caught on the chatbot merry-go-round, where asking multiple different questions always leads to the same not-helpful answer.

Instead of saving time and boosting the efficiency of customer interactions, chatbots often waste time by misunderstanding intentions or failing to grasp the nuances of a more complicated question. It takes a human being to understand nuance. AI will not change that, at least not anytime soon.

If consumers can’t find that human connection when they need it, they will find a company that provides that connection.

Big corporations may be able to automate certain aspects of the human connection because they are sitting on many years’ worth of customer data that can be used to create next-generation customer service chatbots. But smaller companies simply don’t have the same tools so they shouldn’t try to take on the same job. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) can use automation and AI to more easily bring people together.

Related ReadingHow We Built a Chatbot That Uses Generative AI

How SMBs Can Wisely Use Chatbots

Smaller businesses want to improve operations and sales functions. New forms of AI promise new ways to do that. But SMBs must understand which situations are suitable to handle with AI and which are not.

Reasonable use of AI, for example, can include generating introductory emails and text messages to engage with a customer or prospect. But when a consumer replies, the best an AI algorithm can do for a smaller business is connect that customer with a human expert, as opposed to continuing the conversation. In this way, human representatives are using AI to augment the skills that took them years to learn, as opposed to substituting a person for an algorithm.

Chatbots have been with us for years, but generative AI offers the hope of a whole new generation of digital assistants. But it will be megacorporations sitting on a wealth of customer data who deploy these bots. For SMBs, it will be a matter of learning what can be automated and what cannot if they are to keep their customers happy.

For SMBs, the rollout of new AI programs offers one main value proposition: improving the connection between one person and another. The sooner SMBs understand they cannot automate the human connection that underpins their business, the sooner they can get busy putting generative AI to legitimate use.

If they think they can replace the human touch with an algorithm, they can expect their customers to revolt.

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