In the wake of Meta’s chatbot failures, customers are growing frustrated dealing with chatbots rather than people.

A new report from the Institute of Customer Service revealed that artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots have become a rather unsatisfying experience for the majority of customers.

The institute found that if chatbots are poorly tested, they can damage customer experiences and business operations. It noted that the failure of the AI tech can affect customers’ trust and satisfaction in using chatbots overall, whilst simultaneously hurting the businesses’ profitability.

“Two in five people (42%) avoid chatbots when making a complex inquiry and 15% lack confidence in using technology to contact organisations,” according to the institute’s report.

A blend of chatbot technology and people is needed for businesses

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said businesses are facing tough operating conditions, but technology could help.

She said technology can offer businesses genuine opportunities to serve customers better and reduce inefficiencies, as excellent automation and service are not mutually exclusive.

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“Superior customer satisfaction requires the appropriate blend of technology and people to combine efficiency, empathy and responsiveness to personal circumstances,” Causon said.

If technologies like chatbots were “well designed and implemented”, most customers would be happy to use them.

The report says “70% [were] interested in the potential benefits of technology being used to prevent fraud or enable switching to the cheapest energy suppliers.”

There is still a demand for good technology in customer service as 82% of customers used digital means to regularly contact businesses.

Businesses must not lose sight of the bigger picture

The reports also warn businesses about “the false economy of cutting back on essential customer service channels and personnel”.

This follows the cost of living crisis affecting public spending. Managers told the institute the chance to save costs, meet customer expectations and the opportunity to serve them better, were good reasons for deploying CX technology.

However, it was revealed that “just 57% of organisations are effectively testing the suitability of new digital support channels for potentially vulnerable or excluded customers, and a half of customers say they have (recently or in the past) been forced to step in and assist digitally-excluded friends and family members.”

“Despite its transformational potential, in practice, current AI capabilities are often nowhere near as advanced as we might like,” Causon stated, “we therefore need to think hard about where we deploy and how we use AI to build better customer experiences.

“What we must never lose sight of is that both customers, and indeed many businesses, still see access to a human person as an essential option in the delivery of effective customer service.”

COVID-19 showed customers still want alternatives to chatbots

It appears not every customer is willing to completely rely on chatbots, however. Twenty percent of people said it was an easier quicker option to call businesses on the phone. Whilst 15% said they always preferred speaking to employees on the phone. There may be some issues that can’t be clarified, reassured or resolved online using chatbots.

The institute’s report revealed 54% of UK business managers and employees were focusing on decreasing the volume of customer contracts. However, 68% thought businesses giving customers the option to speak to someone over the phone was still important, especially during the pandemic.

“What we must never lose sight of is that both customers, and indeed many businesses, still see access to a human person as an essential option in the delivery of effective customer service,” Causon concluded.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.