Chatbot or Human: “Customers need to know who they are talking to”

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Posted by Luke Zaki on 11 Jul, 2019

Chatbots can be powerful customer service tools but it’s important consumers know immediately if they are talking to a bot or another person, says Adam Croxen, Managing Director of Future Platforms.

In the build up to the agency’s breakfast event – Exploring the business benefits of chatbots on July 31st, Adam explains below why he thinks chatbots present an opportunity and a challenge for retailers and other businesses.

Adam Croxen

Adam Croxen, Managing Director of Future Platforms

Question: What is at the heart of people’s frustrations with chatbots?

Answer: “We’ve worked on – and looked at – a range of chatbots in different sectors, including travel, transport and retail, and our research shows it is a big source of frustration when people are not sure who they are really talking to. Do they know if it is another person or a chatbot? It’s really important to give your customers context and, if that’s clear, you can remove a big potential source of frustration for them.
“Personally, I know that if I’m not sure I’m in a live chat environment or talking to a chatbot, I become uneasy and uncomfortable. It can get to the point where I am virtually doing a Turing-test to find out! It is really poor practice when businesses try to make chatbots appear to be live – whether it’s due to bad implementation or a deliberate masquerade.
“Generally a business which isn’t secure in its own voice can create this problem without meaning to. There is that strange corporate facade which some businesses adopt – it is deemed to be very professional but it comes across as very cold and impersonal. Yet, if you have the confidence to say ‘this is a chatbot’ it will help. Whether it is a chatbot or a human, you find that if a business is comfortable and authentic in its ‘voice’, people have a confidence in that voice and your customers can feel capable of being open and honest and, even, playful!”

Question: What is the biggest misapprehension people have about chatbots?

Answer: “While there is a sense that they are simply gimmicks, according to eMarketer, by 2020 chatbots will be the third most popular customer service channel for business, after the phone and email. Unfortunately, we know that, in the past, a lot of businesses have adopted tech either too quickly, or without considering the user and customer experience and, ultimately, the impression it might create.
“Think of the original automated phone lines – in sectors like banking, insurance or utilities – where you can feel trapped in a loop, without an option to access the service you want. With chatbots, we can see that we are encountering implementation of technology in areas where it is poorly thought-through and executed.
“In general, you have customers approaching you at a point when they have reached some level of distress so it’s important to get this right. Digital solutions make matters worse when they are not conceived around a clear user-need. Unfortunately, the business need – such as cost saving – is often given greater priority.”

Question: What is the greatest opportunity for business with chatbots?

Answer: “Cost reduction and revenue generation. If we are attempting to mimic this human kind of way of communicating then that is with cost reduction in mind – delivering a customer service that is amazing. And it will be both quicker and more consistent than a human could be.
“Think how this would work in a physical shop: I was in a sports shop recently looking to buy some football boots for playing on Astroturf. The shop assistant was happy to tell me about the ranges of boots on offer and whether I had a favourite brand or was restricted by budget.
“You can take that experience online. In a way, a chatbot can be like a personal shopper. In a store, sometimes I just want to wander around and look through the rails. There aren’t questions I need answering. But, when you need help, a good sales person can sell you the things you didn’t know you wanted. Great sales people read you well and know what you want, and what buttons to push and how to excite you.
“Part of that is intuition in the real world. But, in this case, you can understand when to approach someone who is shopping online – they have looked at three pictures of boots in five minutes so they don’t know what they want to buy. So, my chatbot is going to ask them if they do need help and then offer some choices.”

Question: What is the one thing you want people to take from the event on 31st July?

Answer: “There’s a huge opportunity here. You should start looking at this space and invest. Start. And Learn. Because there’s a lot to learn … You should start small and build it to be part of your customer service and e-commerce strategy. The way people develop their interactions with conversational interfaces – voice and chat – are going to lead to massive changes. Businesses will need to learn, iterate and get better in all these areas in order to make progress and feel the benefits – from cost savings to revenue generation and customer satisfaction – chatbots can offer.”

Event details: Exploring the business benefits of chatbots

Date: Wednesday 31 July 2019

Time: 8.30am – 10:30am

Location: The Gherkin, St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8BF

Suitable for: Attendees from the transport, retail and restaurant (QSR) industries

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