Do you like talking to chatbots? Do you feel cheated when you click that chat button, type a message and realise it is not a human sitting on the other side? Join the team. You are not alone. Most chatbots offer a poor user experience. If I asked you if you like interacting with chatbots, what would you say? Chances are, you would say no. Simply put, chatbots don’t offer a good experience to customers.

Why is it such a bad experience?

There are several reasons why customers don’t like interacting with chatbots, and consequently, chatbots don’t produce the desired results for the business.

Glorified Menus

An example of a click bot
An example of a click bot with e-bot7

Many bots are no more than glorified click menus that offer you limited options and guide you through a maze. It’s basically no different from a regular menu in the form of a chat. How is this a better experience than finding myself through the menus of the website and filling a contact or order form? It’s not. In fact, it’s worst and it takes longer.

If the chatbot is offered on a messaging App like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, then a menu might be useful, since you are not on the website. The problem is that many of them are just a menu. No chance of entering free text to search for something, or to simply ask a direct question. No better than calling the hotline and pressing “1” for topic A, “2” for topic B, or 3 to speak to a real person.

I’d rather speak to a person right away, than wasting my time.

The COVID-19 Chatbot by the WHO

Lack of context

There are several reasons why customers don’t like interacting with chatbots, and consequently, chatbots don’t produce the desired results for the business. To me, the main reason is lack of context. Have you ever interacted with a bot that:

  • doesn’t know where it is
  • doesn’t know you (even though you are known to the brand)
  • doesn’t know where you are
  • doesn’t know what device you are on
  • doesn’t remember their own last sentence
  • asks you the same thing over and over
  • …. the list could go on.

90% of chatbots out there are like this!

Example of a bot with no context
Example of a bot with no context

Chatbots with a rich context are unfortunately rare and still very complex to implement. The products that enable development and maintenance of chatbots do not offer an easy way of maintaining context in a conversation, making it it very difficult to provide a chatbot that is more than answering FAQ or guiding customers through fully scripted conversations.

 

How do we fix this?

There are techniques to make the experience less unpleasant, like Conversational Design, a discipline of UX. If you design your scripts thoughtfully, give your Conversational AI some character, you might be able to provide a better user experience.

Another option is to set the expectations low – reveal the fact that the customer is dealing with a (not so smart) Conversation AI from the start. Lower expectations are the secret of happiness.

Paulo Nunes

I'm an entrepreneur and AI enthusiast, CEO of Two Impulse