Bad Bot vs Good Customer Service

bad robot with word bad robot on a wooden floor with reflection

Bad Bot vs Good Customer Service

Updated May 2022 (originally posted December 2019) The chatbot. These digital interface tools have become a familiar, sometimes funny, sometimes maddening part of online customer service. Even with the growth of AI there are many bad bots, but they do not have to crush good customer service. 

Bad Bots

Chatbots should take simple, repetitive customer service inquiries off the plates of agents, not drive customers crazy with a series of pointless, circular questions leading nowhere.

Bad Bot: Hi, how can I help you?
Customer: I want to book a reservation
Bad Bot: Sorry. I don’t understand that. 
Customer: Reservations
Bad Bot: Please try our help FAQ. If you have any further questions, please contact us again.
Customer: I already tried the FAQ and that’s what brought me here.
Bad Bot: Sorry. I don’t understand that. 
Customer: WTF?
Bad Bot: Glad to help!

If a chatbot is unable to answer a customer question, whether due to technical error or the question being outside of the bot’s programming, customers need another option. Good customer service makes it easy for customers to escalate to an agent or offers another alternative like email or a callback.

Notice: You Are Not Speaking with a Human

When using bots, be transparent about it. Don’t fool your customers. They should know if they are talking to a bot or a person. Also, recognize bot limitations.

Those trying to evolve the quality of chat in bots, as with the competition “Second Conversational Intelligence Challenge,” have run into problems.  Apparently even the highest scoring bots were so bad that the testers rebelled:

“Perhaps indicative of how loathsome chatbots are, humans who volunteered to test the things for free, by conversing on Facebook’s Messenger app, mostly ended up tuning out the bots or engaging in “senseless” and even “offensive” conversations, the researchers write. Those free evaluations “in the wild” were such a mess they had to be completely eliminated from the evaluation of the bots.”
“Why Chatbots Still Leave Us Cold” by  Tiernan Ray 

Use Chatbots Wisely

It is important for both customers and businesses to manage their expectations of chatbots and the AI that fuels them.

During the pandemic, companies leaned on self-serve options like bots to keep up with surge in demand, providing customers self service when resources were slim. In many cases these options increased CSAT, but that isn’t the whole story. The Applause 2022 survey results showed 51% of US respondents and 57% of European respondents preferred to wait for a human agent:

“The fact that more than half of respondents preferred to wait for a human agent instead of using a chatbot, IVR, or voice assistant speaks to a potential lack of confidence which perhaps is based on previous experiences. When a user has a bad digital experience, it is difficult to change that perception. This is a moment when quality can be a real differentiator, separating a brand from its competition. If customers expect these solutions to disappoint, they are predisposed to anticipate failure and quickly lose patience with any alternative that isn’t a human interaction. Therefore, there is tremendous advantage to those who are able to deliver better experiences that can exceed the service level they have been conditioned to expect,”

Luke Damian, Chief Growth Officer, for Applause.

Applause Survey on AI and Customer Service Shows Higher Expectations but Lower Satisfaction

It is advantageous to use the best of AI at its current level of development. You can still have a customer service bot that uses friendly, welcoming language without trying too hard to make it conversational. A great example of this overkill is detailed over at with the now defunct weather bot, Poncho:

Funny, yes, but chatbot conversation that is on par with an awkward exchange at a boring party doesn’t inspire confidence or loyalty. 

Good customer service is transparent and provides answers your customers seek. Great customer service wows and delights too, like NatGeo’s Genius Einstein bot and 1-800-FLOWERS’s GWYN.

Chat Bot Evolution

Bots are here to stay. In 2020 the estimated value of the chatbot market worldwide was already 430.9 million USD with yearly compound growth expected to be 24.9% through 2028.

There is a bot for almost everything now. Check out There is a Bot for That for bots that can help you write a book, find a job and even swear at you. #$&!

As funny as some bot fails are, a bad bot poses a threat to your company’s reputation when it fails. Do your due diligence when designing and implementing chatbots. Use bots to do what they do best and leave the complex interactions to your best human workers.

Where bots excel and support your customer service efforts is in their ability to reduce the repetitive drain on your skilled agents and speed resolution for your customers. Where bots fail is in not fully answering customer questions. It is best when bots stick to the simple interactions and then escalate to human agents when the questions are beyond the bot’s scope.

This doesn’t mean that AI is no longer a part of the solution.  AI assists the human workers in the resolution of customer issues. CSAT.AI is a quality assurance feature that ensures the customer query is answered, and gives agents the ability to self-correct during the engagement. This supports success for both sides. 

Humans and AI working together is the winning combination for good customer service.