It's official: Customers love chatbots - but will it end in heartbreak?


Chatbots are rapidly becoming the go-to service channel for the majority of customers - but they continue to have reservations about the technology and its performance. 

14th Feb 2023

A new survey has revealed that despite the negative coverage, chatbots are increasingly becoming the go-to service channel for many customers. But continuing frustrations with the technology and its implementation could see public favour shifting if the problems aren't resolved. 

A study of 1,500 global consumers by Forrester on behalf of Cyara revealed that the majority of respondents listed chatbots as the top way that they typically interact with brands. This was particularly true of UK consumers, with 72% of those surveyed within the UK having usually contacted a brand via chatbot in the last six months.

On discussing what it was that customers liked about using chatbots, the research highlighted 24/7 support, faster response times, and autonomy as its major strengths.

The research also highlighted the versatility of chatbots, with customers using them for a number of reasons, including: looking for a simple response (the most common reason), when they can’t find what they need, and when they need help outside of business hours.

Image from Cyara report showing "How do you typically use a chatbot"

For UK consumers, efficiency proved to be the key, with 77% stating that the most important aspect of a chatbot interaction is getting their questions answered quickly.

The customers that have used chatbots in the last six months rank them higher than speaking directly with an agent or any other digital avenue.

However, chatbot enthusiasts near and far shouldn’t get too complacent just yet, as whilst the platform remains in demand there is definitely still room for improvement.

Where do chatbots need to improve?

Like the parents of a gifted teenager making straight Cs, customers are frustrated by the inability of chatbots to live up to their potential.

This is evidenced in the research, where the global consumers surveyed gave their chatbot experiences an average rating of 6.4/10 – not great, not terrible, just average.

When specifically asked about their chatbot interactions, 50% said they often feel frustrated, whilst nearly 40% of the interactions were said to be negative.

Another area that chatbots struggle is their ineffectiveness in being able to handle complex questions, with almost 75% of respondents highlighting this as a major problem.

Examples of some of the most common pitfalls of chatbot interactions can be seen in the below image.

Cyara report image: Chatbot limitations

These subpar customer experiences are causing consumers to seek alternate means of communication, abandon their purchases, and even avoid chatbots altogether for future questions.

The fallout of these negative interactions is the biggest area of concern for companies when considering their existing chatbot programmes, as they can lead to unfavourable business outcomes.

The issues and frustrations that can accompany using chatbots is pushing customers to seek out alternate and possibly more expensive ways of interacting with a brand.

The research shows that 30% of global customers admitted that after a negative chatbot experience, they would be likely to take their purchase to a different brand, abandon their purchase altogether, or tell their friends and family about their poor experience with the brand.

These figures make for even more worrying reading for UK businesses, with 73% of UK consumers stating that they were likely to abandon their purchase after a negative chatbot experience.

On the flipside of this, the opposite is also true: positive chatbot experiences bring value to customers and businesses.

Following good chatbot experiences, 61% of the global customers surveyed said they are more likely to return to a brand. While 56% of respondents are more likely to seek out chatbots in the future after a positive experience with them – they are also far more likely to recommend that brand to others afterward.

Of course, the fairly large elephant in the room that this survey cannot account for is the rapid evolution of chatbots and AI in recent times, with ChatGPT in particular looking set to make an indelible mark on the sector.

The combination of recent technological improvements and developments, the existing popularity of the platform, and a growing understanding of HOW chatbots should be used and for what kinds of queries – means there is plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to the future of customer service chatbots.

As Dennis Reno, chief customer officer of Cyara, puts it: “Businesses that strive to meet customers’ chatbot expectations can increase customer loyalty, boost brand reputation, and lower contact centre support costs, since customers are less likely to seek out more expensive avenues of communication. And of course, satisfied customers lead to increased sales, which has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.”


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