Why customer service chatbots fail (& how to fix them)

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
AI assistant chat

Influencer Marketing Hub says customer service executives are top of the list to face “widespread disruption by the introduction of AI”. If you’re ready to launch an AI chatbot to improve efficiency in your customer service teams and want to keep disruption to a minimum (and make the shift to automation a rip-roaring success), you’re in the right place.

Maybe you’ve been on the other side of the fence and had a bad experience using a chatbot, or you’ve heard of other customer service leaders embracing AI automation only to upset or frustrate their teams and/or customers. Don’t worry! You don’t have to suffer the same fate.

By understanding the eight common pitfalls of launching an AI chatbot and how to avoid them, you’ll be well-equipped to make your own launch a triumph and delight your teams and customers. (We’ve got three other revelations to share with you too that people so often forget.)

Let’s get started…

TL;DR

How do AI chatbots work?

An AI chatbot is a smart conversational assistant that talks to your customers in real time. In customer service, they’re used to automate tasks, which helps make better use of your resources and enhances customer care practices. AI chatbots provide fast, consistent, and personalised help to customers at any time, in any place, and more advanced AI assistants have the ability to learn and adapt over time.

AI assistants have fast become a valuable tool for customer service leaders who want to simplify workflows, improve efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction.

Traditional chatbots

When chatbots first became a thing, they were underpinned by a rigid technological framework. Developers had to give them precise instructions for giving automated responses to customers. Relying solely on static scripts, these chatbots were hugely limited in their capabilities, often leaving customers with frustrating experiences due to their lack of adaptability and natural interaction.

Thankfully, the technology began to shift course. Companies like Stena Line Ferries started to explore their options, including live messenger chat, app integration, and even a hologram. With Air Alaska and Expedia also in the game, travel was fast becoming a hotspot for chatbots. Over time, the AI automation industry started taking off in all kinds of exciting new directions.

Next-generation AI assistants

Fortunately, today’s most advanced AI assistants have come a long way since those early days. These smart communication tools are now designed to have more human-like conversations with customers and better understand their needs. With intelligent language capabilities, they can dynamically adapt to various customer queries to offer more personalised, relevant support. This has unlocked a wealth of opportunities for customer service leaders across all kinds of industries to enhance customer interactions, reduce response times, and even improve team productivity.

The best AI assistants today give you everything you need for customer service automation success:

Natural language processing

At the heart of these next-generation AI assistants is natural language processing (NLP), which is the key to unlocking their full potential. It means an AI assistant can not only recognise what customers are saying in any language, but also what their choice of words says about what they might be feeling, what information or help they need, and what they expect to happen next. You can use all of this insight from NLP to deliver exceptional customer service that is empathic, proactive, and personalised. These days, you can’t have a decent AI assistant running without it.

Unlimited integrations

The best AI assistants on the market today offer unlimited integration possibilities, so you can maximise efficiency. Your AI assistant could connect with your CRM, help desk, or e-commerce platform to access customer information and order history, or even manage support tickets (like our resident AI assistant Clawson) without any intervention from your team. This makes far better use of your resources and customers can enjoy a consistent experience across every one of your channels, whether they’re chatting with your team or your AI assistant.

Conversation review

While AI assistants are becoming increasingly clever at understanding and engaging with customers, you still need a human in the loop working on it behind the scenes to help your AI assistant become a true expert in everything you do. Your customers will rely on your AI assistant to answer highly specific queries about their account or transactions and your unique offers, products or services, so you need a team of AI experts, writers, analysts and psychologists on hand to help train it and make sure the conversations it’s having with your customers are always improving.

Omnichannel support

In today’s interconnected world, customers expect to interact with businesses through a variety of different channels, be it email, WhatsApp, mobile apps or more, and be free to switch easily between them. To meet this expectation and offer consistently good customer experiences, your AI assistant must be able to provide good omnichannel support. Improving your omnichannel customer experience not only enhances customer satisfaction, it makes it easier for your team to manage conversations, track customer interactions, and offer a unified approach to support, regardless of where conversations with your customers are happening.

LLM enhancements

The most recent major advancement in the world of AI assistants is using large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT to make it even easier to launch and run one. You can now use LLMs to quickly generate ideas to train your AI assistant or take any content you already own to feed it into your AI assistant’s conversations. Using AI to automatically generate content in this way is speeding up customer service processes and leads to more fluid, engaging, and accurate customer experiences.

Grand View Research anticipates the global market size of generative AI like ChatGPT will “reach USD 109.37 billion by 2030,” so we’ll only see more and more benefits to using LLMs as the technology accelerates.

You don’t need to know anything about AI to launch an AI assistant

You only need 5-10 of your most common customer questions to launch a next-gen AI assistant and it learns the rest on the job.

It’s now as easy as clicking a button to turn all the content you already have about the most pressing subjects customers ask about daily into automated AI assistant responses. You won’t need weeks of workshops with input from developers, engineers, AI consultants or any kind of technologist. Any member of your team can launch an AI assistant in just minutes and the most advanced AI assistants don’t need hours of training to get going either.

With an advanced platform, everything you need to grow your AI assistant is built in behind the scenes. All you need do is check your dashboard and you’ll start to see patterns in the conversations your AI assistant has with your customers from day one.

8 reasons why customer service chatbots fail (and how to fix them)

If you’re ready to launch an AI chatbot or more advanced AI assistant, there’s no time to waste. Markets and Markets reports the market size for conversational AI is “expected to increase from USD 10.7 billion in 2023 to USD 29.8 billion by 2028”. To make the most of the opportunities available now and to get ahead quickly, you want to avoid any stumbling blocks or wrong turns along the way.

Here we share the most common reasons for coming unstuck with using an AI chatbot (so you can avoid them):

1. You rely completely on AI

No AI assistant, no matter how advanced it is, can replace your real-life customer support agents. You also have to have someone checking everything’s in order and optimising your AI assistant for the best performance if you want to keep it working alongside your teams effectively and detecting the ever-evolving needs of your customers.

Fix: Keep a human in the loop at all times to make sure things stay tickety-boo.

2. You’re automating tasks that shouldn’t be automated

It’s important to strike a balance between AI automation and human intervention, especially for sensitive enquiries that need empathy and understanding. While AI assistants can efficiently handle a range of tasks and resolve many customer queries, they shouldn’t be used to try and address emotionally charged or unusual situations. In these cases, a human touch makes all the difference in providing a compassionate or strategic response so the customer feels heard and supported.

Fix: Use live chat to pass customers over to your teams where needed.

3. You’re trying to pretend your AI chatbot is a human

Pretending your AI assistant is a human can come across as disingenuous which can lead to a breakdown of customer trust. Forrester Research says 63% of people will leave a company after just one poor experience, so you’ll want to do everything in your power to prevent losing customers without being able to save them. Being transparent about using an AI assistant is easy to do and, that way, customers can soon start to fully appreciate its efficiency and support.

Fix: Give your AI assistant a clear identity and choose a strong name.

4. You don’t promote your AI chatbot

Failing to actively promote your AI assistant or hiding it away on a lesser-visited page might result in customers being completely unaware of its existence and the valuable support it can provide. To avoid this, make sure you announce the arrival of your AI assistant, explain its benefits, show your customers what it likes like and where they can find it.

Fix: Give customers a direct link to your AI assistant so they can try it out for themselves.

5. Your customers get stuck in a loop

There will be times when your AI assistant can’t answer a customer’s query because it’s irrelevant to what you do or the AI assistant hasn’t been trained on a specific topic. In these situations, customers can get stuck in unproductive loops, leading to poor user experiences. It’s essential to help customers break free from these unhelpful cycles by always giving them somewhere to turn, whether that’s prompting them to ask the question again in a different way, using live chat to pass them over to your team, or sharing contact deals as a last resort.

Fix: Use a platform with lots of helpful methods of keeping the conversation moving.

6. Your teams aren’t practising empathy

Cultivating empathy in your teams is essential for understanding the needs and emotions of your customers, whether it’s shown over the phone, through live chat, or in automated conversations. Automation drives instant responses from your AI assistant, but the information included in those responses should still be crafted by language and subject experts. Miss this vital step or rely solely on generative AI tools like ChatGPT to produce the works and it can result in a disconnect between your AI assistant and customer expectations, leading to a less satisfying experience overall.

Fix: Teach your teams how to achieve empathy in customer service and embed it into your company culture.

7. Your AI chatbot is slow to load or respond

Unbounce found a whopping “70% of consumers admitted page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer,” so you can’t bank on customers waiting around for a slow chatbot either. Make sure you have all the technical expertise and support you need to keep your AI assistant running instantly.

Fix: Use an experienced platform provider to buy in your AI assistant ― it’s faster, cheaper, and you can rest well at night knowing it’ll be reliable.

8. Information you share isn’t helpful or is poorly presented

Effective conversation design avoids overwhelming your customers with large chunks of text or complicated responses in the replies they get from your AI assistant. When you buy in an AI assistant a lot of this is prepared for you ready for launch, and the day-to-day management of it is made so easy anyone on your team can do it. (Or you can choose a managed service where it’s all done for you.)

Fix: Use links, videos, images, emojis, and more to make AI assistant conversations more natural and enjoyable for your customers.

Other secrets to maximising your potential for chatbot success

To launch your chatbot or AI assistant successfully, you’ll need to define your goals carefully. Using the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework is just one way to do this. You’ll then need to get all your teams on board to start meeting those goals and consistently track your progress along the way.

Customer satisfaction is always a top priority in customer service goals, but while focusing on this, companies all too often overlook three key factors that will help to facilitate your success:

1. Take security and data protection seriously

It might be ridiculously easy to launch an AI assistant these days, but taking appropriate care of your data is not so effortless. Customers want assurance their data is secure and being handled responsibly.

You’ll need to consider every element of information management, including security for your account, your customer data, compliance and GDPR, change management, cloud security, vulnerability management, and much more. Unless you have a team of engineers, developers, AI specialists, and security analysts with lots of experience, it’s far easier to use an established conversational AI platform from a reputable supplier than it is to try and build all this from the ground up (it takes years!).

2. Let your AI assistant learn from real customers

When you launch an AI assistant it can be tempting to add responses for all your most frequently asked questions or as much as you can about your products, services or offers in the hope it will then perform better. For today’s more advanced AI assistants, in fact the opposite is true.

The key to success is to start with a MVA (minimum viable assistant) and let your AI assistant learn on the job using real customer enquiries; it soon susses out what’s most important to people. Guessing and attempting to address every possible issue can actually hinder the performance of your AI assistant, interrupting its natural evolution and decreasing improvement overall. So start with either a part-built AI assistant suitable for your industry, or use a supplier with an advanced platform that can automatically take content you’ve already written and automatically turn it into AI assistant responses without you having to even lift a finger.

3. Know the true purpose of live chat

Live chat is often incorrectly used as an extra communication channel, but Business Wire highlights its many clear benefits, including “improved website experience, increased average order value, increased sales, lead generation, and a better understanding of customer requirements“. It’s no great surprise the live chat market is anticipated to grow significantly.

Half of marketers are already using real time engagement to give customers help at the time they need it most to improve their overall experience, but live chat isn’t there to pull in every new enquiry you get. Companies have been known to launch live chat only to switch it straight back off again when their support teams become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of conversations.

The trick to using live chat effectively is to only trickle in the queries your AI assistant hasn’t yet been trained to answer or sensitive, more complicated queries that are better handled by human agents. Leave everything else to your AI assistant.

Over time, as your AI assistant is trained to answer more and more queries and you introduce more channels or integrations to assist with that, the more enquiries your AI assistant will start to solve from start to finish without any interaction from your support teams. As a result, live chat interactions go down and, at the same time, become more valuable to your customers who get human support when they truly need it and instant AI-driven responses the rest of the time.

Lean on conversation review services that provide automatic training suggestions, so you can grow your AI assistant effectively (or use a managed service and have an expert team do everything for you).

Launching a successful AI chatbot has never been easier

Chatbot usage doubled after the pandemic with customers becoming more familiar with the technology. Now, LLMs (large language models) like ChatGPT are disrupting customer service automation again, propelling AI technology forward at a phenomenal pace. McKinsey reports generative AI of this nature could add up to “$4.4 trillion a year to the global economy” and make us more productive than ever.

All sorts of industries are benefitting from the use of advanced AI assistants. From leisure companies and grocery chains to Barking & Dagenham London Borough Council who hit a 533% ROI in just nine months after launching theirs.

The best part is, you only need to pay for what you use, so there’s no risk in getting started with advanced AI today.

Launch a successful AI assistant right now

Now you know the secrets to AI automation success, you can create your own customer service AI assistant in just minutes.