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CX snags: Consumers say chatbots are still too dumb to get the job done

by | Oct 24, 2018 | Marketing, Public Relations

While most agree that chatbots can be fast and convenient in certain situations, consumers cite a lack of intelligence as their top complaint against automated bots, and 65 percent still prefer a human agent on the other end of the chat, according to new research from CX software firm Pegasystems, whose new survey of 3,500 global consumers finds most chatbots still aren’t smart enough to meet consumers’ high expectations.

Seventy-two percent of consumers generally find chatbots to be helpful to some degree, but the interaction quality can be quite mixed. The majority (58 percent) rank their chatbot experiences as merely “adequate”—doing some tasks well and others poorly. Another 18 percent grumble how chatbots are ineffective or even annoying. Only 16 percent gave their chatbot experience a high quality rating.

Analysts expect chatbot usage to rise significantly in the next two years

This shift could prove costly for brands that don’t evolve their bots. According to Gartner, “25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017.”

CX snags: Consumers say chatbots are still too dumb to get the job done“As chatbots become more pervasive, the quality of the engagement has lagged significantly behind customer expectations,” said Ying Chen, head of product marketing, platform technologies at Pegasystems, in a news release. “To truly depend on digital channels as the first line of defense in customer service, smart businesses need to unite their chatbots with the enterprise systems that can do real work—not just fetch bits of random information. At the same time, they must apply advanced artificial intelligence to deliver true personalized interactions in real time. The results of our global survey show that businesses still have a long way to go before consumers feel they can trust chatbots to give them an exceptional experience that can set a company apart.”

The best bots keep it simple

Consumers tend to favor chatbots for only the simplest queries that can be done quickly. The most popular chatbot use cases are:

  • Tracking an order (60 percent selected)
  • Finding basic information (53 percent)
  • Asking basic questions (49 percent)

CX snags: Consumers say chatbots are still too dumb to get the job doneThe respondents also noted that fast service (56 percent), ability to engage on their own schedule (37 percent), and convenience (36 percent) are chatbots’ top benefits.

When done well, 43 percent say chatbots can be almost as good as interacting with a human, while 34 percent disagree, and 23 percent don’t know.

Artificial intelligence or artificial stupidity?

However, speed and simplicity can only take today’s digital consumers so far. While most brands claim artificial intelligence power their bots, consumers’ top chatbot complaints include:

  • Not enough smarts to effectively answer questions (27 percent)
  • Lack of context in the conversation (24 percent)
  • Robot-like engagement with few human qualities (14 percent)

CX snags: Consumers say chatbots are still too dumb to get the job doneSimilarly, the top reasons consumers would drop a chatbot session are when bots can’t answer their questions (47 percent selected), make them do more work than expected (47 percent) or are too vague in how they can assist them (43 percent). Separately, only 17 percent said they would use a bot to purchase goods and services, further muddying the path from bots to direct revenue.

In no mood for chit chat

The survey found a separate group that have yet to try chatbots at all and have no plans to start anytime soon. These bot holdouts, which skew towards a slightly older demographic, say they haven’t used chatbots yet due to:

  • Lack of any real exposure to chatbots (53 percent)
  • A personal preference to only engage with a human (30 percent)
  • Lack of knowledge on how to use chatbots (23 percent)

A full 45 percent of these consumers without chatbot experience said they won’t try one in the next year while another 30 percent aren’t sure, which presents a roadblock to companies trying to expand reliance on digital service channels. Only 25 percent of these non-users said they would be willing to experiment with a chatbot, albeit with some reluctance. Their biggest concerns stem from their lack of experience: they simply don’t know how to use chatbots (top concern at 46 percent), lack confidence in chatbot effectiveness (31 percent), or worry about security and privacy (27 percent).

Download Pega’s eBook, The Chatbot Revolution, here.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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