Your Chatbot Is Frustrating Your Customers: Improve the Experience with Guidance


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Consumers are struggling to complete basic tasks with companies online. As digital interactions continue to become our new norm, customers are experiencing an increase in automation. However, that doesn’t always lead to an increase in customer satisfaction.

If you visit a retailer, bank or insurance company’s website, you’re likely to encounter a chatbot. Like live chat, customers enter the questions they have in the chatbot and intricate algorithms try their very best to automatically present a relevant answer. So, what’s the issue with chatbots? The experience is often misleading for your customers right out of the gate. Not to mention, chatbots are often overused and their limited scope risks leaving your customers frustrated with canned responses.

That said, when used at the proper time and place, and alongside other guidance tools your chatbot can be successful. Here are three noteworthy truths about chatbots, based on recent consumer data, and how you can use them to better reach, engage and convert your customers:

1. Customer frustration with chatbots is peaking.

Chatbots are a great method to improve agent efficiency, but they can create a negative customer experience. According to a recent survey, only 22% of respondents have a positive impression of chatbots, while the overwhelming majority are dissatisfied with the service they offer.

To avoid frustration and increase conversions, you need to connect with your customers. If you are solely relying on chatbots, you’re missing out on better ways to meet their expectations and build trust.

Contextual guidance works in coordination and cooperation with chatbot. Leveraging self-guided tools to resolve basic issues while maintaining some form of live interaction for escalations will put you in the best position to build brand loyalty in the long run.

Many leading companies are including guidance in their customer service strategies. As the COVID-19 pandemic peaked and customers everywhere started transacting more frequently online, People’s United Bank experienced an increase in contact center volume. The company needed a way to address pandemic-related questions with real-time guidance without adding agents. With proactive, targeted information, People’s United Bank has seen a noticeable drop in customer inquiries, resulting in a 58% reduction in daily chats and 37% reduction in daily emails.

Similarly, Boscov’s department store previously had a chat-only solution, but realized their customers accessed chat for topics that could be more efficiently handled without human assistance. Boscov’s identified struggle points and mapped them to targeted engagements that guide customers through the purchase journey. After four months, they reduced chat volume by 50% and saw 62% more revenue through contextual guidance than chat.

It’s time to leave behind impersonal automation and focus on guidance in coordination with your chatbot. The best place for guidance is above and in front of the chatbot. Ideally, your customers should never get to the chatbot with too broad of a question. If this happens frequently, then it’s already failed.

2. Customers don’t trust chatbots.

Despite how often most companies rely on chatbots to handle customer issues, 60 percent of survey respondents say they don’t trust chatbots to communicate their issues effectively. This data suggests that you may be over-relying on a service that leaves customers feeling hesitant, which can lead to a decrease in satisfaction and loyalty.

In the same survey, 33% of people say that chatbots weren’t helpful in answering their questions, and 15% feel they’re too impersonal. Overall, only 22% of respondents have a positive impression of chatbots, while the overwhelming majority are dissatisfied with the service they offer.

To increase customer satisfaction, focus on the channels your customers prefer. Email and live chat continue to be the most preferred digital channels. Optimize these interaction channels by being proactive when you detect customer struggle and offering live chat or email assistance based on urgency and need. Before you invest in technology to support your customers, make sure they will use it.

When your goal is to provide top-notch customer experience, it’s important to let your customers engage with you through the channel of their choice–whether it’s email, live chat, chatbots or a combination of all three.

3. Customers want to talk to a real person for certain issues.

When customers experience struggle online, 57% of them want to be able to talk to a real person. With chatbots alone, you’re simply waiting for customers to struggle and ask a question.

You can avoid this struggle by anticipating it. You can learn why your online customers are on your site and what they need by their behavior. If you guide consumers with useful information before they have to ask for it or even realize they have a question, it’s a win for your customer and your business. Providing 1:1 support over the phone is the costliest service channel, making less expensive digital-first options more appealing to businesses. Use what you know about your customers to guide them to the basic information they need before they even know they need it. Doing so will save your live agents for more complex interactions—and more importantly, save your customers valuable time.

As more business is conducted online and your customers’ expectations continue to transform, a well-rounded customer service strategy empowers you to better serve and engage with your customers, building a long-lasting loyalty.


  1. If I read this correctly, the results were from a study done with banking customers. Have you done similar surveys with other industries, or across multiple industries? It would be interesting to see.

  2. Thanks, Tara. That additional survey is very interesting for retail customers.

    Looking at similar surveys, it seems clear that the phone is a preferred escalation channel. This means that when customers experience a problem that doesn’t seem easy to solve, they still generally think a live conversation is the best way to get a resolution. Companies that make it difficult for customers to call risk making the problem worse, and it looks like your survey backs that up.

    I appreciate you sharing that data!

  3. While the phone is still highest, as has been the case for many years, digital channels (email and chat specifically) are closing the gap on the telephone. My perspective is that customers prefer to remain in the channel they started in which is digital and in most cases they prefer to be guided or self serve over any kind of contact. Further, reactive modes of communication require too much effort on the consumer. We are seeing proactive guidance that shepherds a customer through the digital journey to be highly efficient for the business without compromising the customer experience.


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