Opinion over the use of chatbots for customer service seems to be as divided as a family after a gruelling game of Monopoly.
In fact, if customer service was a game of Monopoly, chatbots would probably be the ‘Chance’ cards. They can boost your earnings and improve your service, but, when deployed at the wrong time, or for the wrong things, they can also cost you.
When it comes to tricky customer service situations, chatbots aren’t the get-out-of-jail free card you’re hoping to chance upon.
A chatbot is a helping hand for your customer service team. They interact with your customers via a chat interface and enable you to provide an interactive online experience 24/7/365.
Chatbots are good at helping customers find online resources and content – a specific product or the relevant answer in an FAQ section. They shine at answering questions with quantifiable answers, such as, “When is my next bill due?” They can collect feedback and they can stand in for boring webforms. In other words, chatbots handle routine, explicit tasks. And they’re getting pretty good at it.
However, customer queries aren’t always routine. They can be a lot more generic, and some of them can be wildly tricky to solve. They require emotional awareness and the flexibility to think around problems. Your super useful chatbot is not the answer to these problems.
There are various difficult situations that can feel like customer service jail for stressed-out teams. Emotional or angry customers can create hostilities. A particularly complex query in need of an equally intricate fix can seem to stretch out endlessly. Then you get the tricky situations that come from a service faux pas such as a defective product, a lost support ticket or item, or even a rogue team member causing upset.
Whatever the situation, thorny customer service situations aren’t always fun to handle. Not many people enjoy taking the brunt of an angry customer’s rage, for example. When you find yourself dealing with these tricky situations and you don’t know how to proceed, a get-out-of-jail-free card would be a distinct benefit.
They might be able to support your team, but chatbots can’t get your employees off the hook when things go wrong with customers. They can’t rescue your team from difficult demands, or calm customer frustration, or offer the human touch. Sometimes they can’t even handle the seemingly simple stuff without a bit of support.
But why can’t chatbots handle these issues? It comes down to a lack of flexibility and emotional understanding. Chatbots aren’t human, and as such, they aren’t known for their human touch. Upset customers want empathetic service — they need to know that they’ve been understood. An upset customer doesn’t need the same treatment as an angry one, for example.
So, when a chatbot is handling the tricky customer service situation of an emotional customer, it can fail to pick up on negative emotions. This means it wouldn’t respond appropriately, and the customer will feel either more antagonised, or not listened to. Even if a chatbot does manage, through sentiment analysis, to pick up on negative emotion, it can still fail to respond accordingly.
As for fixes needing compromise, chatbots are unable to perform. If the customer needs a set answer to a question, then a chatbot has you covered. But when conciliation or concession is needed, an inflexible chatbot will leave customers out in the cold. Offering a canned consolation phrase isn’t enough, so a human must handle the problem.
When deploying a chatbot, be careful to avoid using it as a ‘get out of jail free’ card for providing customer care. They can handle the basics, and help your team pass Go a little quicker.
But that’s all they are: a sidekick to your human customer service heroes. So, make sure your chatbot is simply supporting your team, not trying to tackle tricky customer service situations.
Using a chatbot to avoid customer service jail — the tricky or difficult situations in customer service — will likely end up costing you the customer. You might ‘get out of jail’ but it won’t have been free.