Chatbots in the Contact Center, Part 3: Overcoming Customer Reluctance

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE

Chatbots in the Contact Center
Challenges and Priorities Survey

Customers want easy access to information—and they want it quick. They also have little patience for self-service options that can’t understand their needs or provide accurate answers to their questions. Chatbots increasingly provide a valuable 24/7 channel for simple transactions and communication, but how do you get customers to trust the technology and use it, rather than bypassing it for a human agent?

Parts 1 and 2 of this series looked at typical applications for customer service chatbots, common misconceptions about capabilities, how chatbots can be used to support call center agents, and how to prepare for chatbot adoption. In this post, our chatbot experts offer advice on how to overcome customer reluctance to use chatbots and customer onboarding tips.

The experts who participated in this Q&A series are: Chris Connolly, Vice President Product Marketing, Genesys; Emma Furlong, Lead Content Strategist, Clinc; Dave Hoekstra, WFM Evangelist, Teleopti; Scott Kolman, VP of Product & Corporate Marketing, Five9; Alok Kulkarni, CEO, Cyara; Jen Snell, VP of Product Marketing for Intelligent Self-Service, Verint; Shellie Vornhagen, SVP Marketing and North American Sales, Astute; and Charly Walther, VP of Product and Growth, Gengo.ai.


How can businesses overcome customer reluctance to use chatbots for service and support issues?

CHRIS CONNOLLY: All business leaders contemplating the deployment of bots should consider mindful design of the user experience. Bots need to have utility, but they also need to get out of the way quickly when they are not wanted by the end user or if they are unable to answer the customer inquiry. Putting a bot in the experience with the intent to simply contain the user to that experience will do more harm than good. We recommend that, first, business take the steps to roll out bots internally to an expert audience, and then progressively expand the invited parties before exposing the capability to end customers. We have found that the most successful customer adoptions have focused on specific and narrow tasks. This must be clearly communicated to the end user so as to set clear expectations of what can and cannot be done.

EMMA FURLONG: One of the main reasons customers are reluctant to use customer service chatbots is that they lack trust that the bot will handle their issues successfully. If you can deploy a virtual assistant that defies mainstream expectations by understanding natural language and resolving issues quickly and with accuracy, any reluctance will diminish, if not disappear.

DAVE HOEKSTRA: Make the chatbot a guided tour instead of an open-ended journey. Customers have an inherent distrust of chatbots; not because they don’t trust their abilities, but because experience has taught them that chatbots won’t do what customers need. By making the chatbot gently guide the customer to the queries that can be performed, customers will slowly gain trust that their queries will be answered and their time won’t be wasted.

SCOTT KOLMAN: A few things can be done here to lessen resistance and encourage participation. First, don’t try to fool the customer that they are talking to a live agent. Make it clear that they are speaking to a chatbot. Second, make it easy to escalate the interaction from a chatbot to a live agent, and when you do so, ensure that the text of the conversation is provided to the agent to avoid the need to start all over. In fact, in a recent Zogby Research consumer survey, respondents were asked their willingness to interact with a bot. A relatively small portion were open to it, yet a much larger percentage of respondents (regardless of age) were open to it as long as they can speak to a live agent, if needed.

JEN SNELL: People are increasingly adopting and relying on intelligent systems in their daily routine. To build reliability that will drive customer engagement with chatbots, it’s important to focus on transparency and trust with end users. A chatbot or IVA is much like an employee—the more you train it the better it will become. As the IVA is in training, it’s always important to keep the eye on the overall goal, which is to serve your customers. When the chatbot is unable to answer, make sure that you seamlessly connect the customers with the right person to get them the information they need. Obtaining a positive outcome with little effort will ensure that your customers do not abandon the chatbot.

CHARLY WALTHER: It’s important to remember that a chatbot should initially allow customers to choose their own destiny. If they are reluctant, the easiest thing to do is simply offer them both options. For example, while clients wait to talk to a human via support chat, they could be offered the chance to ask the chatbot some questions in the meantime. In this way, the chatbot can only be a positive experience. If it fails to answer the right questions, then the customer simply continues waiting for the support agent.
This kind of setup also allows the chatbot to take on more responsibility as clients become accustomed to it. As you to collect more data for your chatbot, you can train it to answer more and more questions. Eventually, you will be able to tip the balance and have the chatbot answer more questions than the live support agent. Through gradual expansion in a safe environment, you give customers the opportunity to choose the chatbot for themselves.


What is your best tip for successfully onboarding chatbot customers?

CHRIS CONNOLLY: Make the experience simple, clear and connected with your brand experience. Don’t isolate your chatbot or leave it as a customer experience island.

EMMA FURLONG: The best way to onboard new customers to a chatbot is to show them a remarkable experience. If a customer sees a demo or video of the chatbot in action, and solving real problems, they will be much more likely to drop their misconceptions and try it.

Read Part 4 of this series to learn about trends and developments in chatbot technology that will positively impact the customer experience, as well as advice to ensure that your chatbot solution aligns with your CX and business objectives.