Consumers: Chatbots still too dumb to get the job done

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Survey finds most automated bots only smart enough for quick, simple queries

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – October 9, 2018Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA), the software company empowering customer engagement at the world’s leading enterprises, today announced survey results from 3,500 global consumers that find most chatbots still aren’t smart enough to meet their high expectations. While most agree chatbots can be fast and convenient in certain situations, consumers cite a lack of intelligence as their top complaint against automated bots, and 65 percent still prefer a human agent on the other end of the chat.

Seventy-two percent of consumers generally find chatbots to be helpful to some degree, but the interaction quality can be quite mixed. The majority (58 percent) rank their chatbot experiences as merely ‘adequate’ – doing some tasks well and others poorly. Another 18 percent grumble how chatbots are ineffective or even annoying. Only 16 percent gave their chatbot experience a high quality rating.

Analysts expect chatbot usage to rise significantly in the next two years – a shift that could prove costly for brands that don’t evolve their bots. According to Gartner, “25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017.”

Best bots keep it simple

Consumers tend to favor chatbots for only the simplest queries that can be done quickly. The most popular chatbot use cases are:

  • Tracking an order (60 percent selected)
  • Finding basic information (53 percent)
  • Asking basic questions (49 percent)

The respondents also noted that fast service (56 percent), ability to engage on their own schedule (37 percent), and convenience (36 percent) are chatbots’ top benefits. When done well, 43 percent say chatbots can be almost as good as interacting with a human, while 34 percent disagree, and 23 percent don’t know.

Artificial intelligence or artificial stupidity?

However, speed and simplicity can only take today’s digital consumers so far. While most brands claim artificial intelligence power their bots, consumers’ top chatbot complaints include:

  • Not enough smarts to effectively answer questions (27 percent)
  • Lack of context in the conversation (24 percent)
  • Robot-like engagement with few human qualities (14 percent)

Similarly, the top reasons consumers would drop a chatbot session are when bots can’t answer their questions (47 percent selected), make them do more work than expected (47 percent) or are too vague in how they can assist them (43 percent). Separately, only 17 percent said they would use a bot to purchase goods and services, further muddying the path from bots to direct revenue.

In no mood for chit chat

The survey found a separate group that have yet to try chatbots at all and have no plans to start anytime soon. These bot holdouts, which skew towards a slightly older demographic, say they haven’t used chatbots yet due to:

  • Lack of any real exposure to chatbots (53 percent)
  • A personal preference to only engage with a human (30 percent)
  • Lack of knowledge on how to use chatbots (23 percent)

A full 45 percent of these consumers without chatbot experience said they won’t try one in the next year while another 30 percent aren’t sure, which presents a roadblock to companies trying to expand reliance on digital service channels. Only 25 percent of these non-users said they would be willing to experiment with a chatbot, albeit with some reluctance. Their biggest concerns stem from their lack of experience: they simply don’t know how to use chatbots (top concern at 46 percent), lack confidence in chatbot effectiveness (31 percent), or worry about security and privacy (27 percent).

Pega surveyed 3,500 consumers across the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Australia for this study. Download the eBook, The Chatbot Revolution, at www.pega.com/chatbot-revolution to find more survey results and to learn tips on improving customer service through better chatbots.

Quotes & Commentary

“As chatbots become more pervasive, the quality of the engagement has lagged significantly behind customer expectations,” said Ying Chen, head of product marketing, platform technologies, Pegasystems. “To truly depend on digital channels as the first line of defense in customer service, smart businesses need to unite their chatbots with the enterprise systems that can do real work – not just fetch bits of random information. At the same time, they must apply advanced artificial intelligence to deliver true personalized interactions in real time. The results of our global survey show that businesses still have a long way to go before consumers feel they can trust chatbots to give them an exceptional experience that can set a company apart.”

Supporting Resources

  1. Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says 25 Percent of Customer Service Operations Will Use Virtual Customer Assistants by 2020, 19 February 2018. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2018-02-19-gartner-says-25-percent-of-customer-service-operations-will-use-virtual-customer-assistants-by-2020.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About Pegasystems

Pegasystems Inc. is the leader in software for customer engagement and operational excellence. Pega’s adaptive, cloud-architected software – built on its unified Pega PlatformTM – empowers people to rapidly deploy and easily extend and change applications to meet strategic business needs. Over its 35-year history, Pega has delivered award-winning capabilities in CRM and digital process automation (DPA) powered by advanced artificial intelligence and robotic automation, to help the world’s leading brands achieve breakthrough business results. For more information on Pegasystems (NASDAQ: PEGA) visit http://www.pega.com/.

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