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Chatbots Useful for Some Customer Service, but Can't Do Everything Yet

Marketers are looking to chatbots to personalize the automated aspects of customer service, but many believe the technology still has some ways to go before catching up with their expectations.

According to an April 2019 survey from Ada and Forrester Consulting, 89% of customer service decision-makers in Canada, the UK and the US believe chatbots and virtual agents are useful technologies for personalizing customer interactions.

More than 90% of respondents agreed that factors like understanding the value of the customers’ transactions, providing personalized responses and automating actions based on responses are important. But far fewer companies felt that their chatbots are capable of successfully fulfilling those needs.

If industry leaders are trepidatious about chatbots, the consumer outlook is even more skeptical. There is a significant discrepancy between the way businesses and customers feel about chatbot effectiveness, according to a survey conducted throughout 2018 by NICE inContact. While 63% of contact center decision-makers in the US, UK and Australia felt that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for customers to get their issues resolved, only 33% of consumers in those countries felt the same.

Despite these frustrations, adoption rates of chatbots are expected to soar in the next 18 months, according to a survey conducted by Salesforce in November and December 2018. When the firm polled 3,500 multinational customer service agents and decision-makers, it found that 23% were using chatbots, but an additional 31% said they planned to adopt the technology in the next 18 months—indicating a projected growth rate of 136% in that timeframe.

However, if chatbot technology fails to meet and keep up with key aspects of customer service success, adoption rates could slow.