Why Chatbots Work (And How to Spot Them)

Pamela Seaton
February 1, 2019

Have you ever used a customer service chat and had the sneaking suspicion that the “person” you’re talking to isn’t actually a person? If so, you’ve probably encountered a chatbot.

Chatbots sound almost human. They’re very direct with their answers, but the language they use often makes it feel like the answers were programmed.

Chatbots (despite any fictional depictions of robots you may have heard or seen) are quite useful, helping businesses navigate customer concerns before having to direct someone to an actual representative. If thought of as the first line of defense to solving customers’ issues, they can be used for engagement, issue resolution, general questions or even closing business. Bottom line: they can get things done fast and sometimes without further involvement on the brand’s behalf.

So why aren’t more people using them?

While using chatbots sounds like a good idea, the adoption of them is still pretty slow. According to Salesforce, only 15 percent of consumers have engaged with a chatbot in the past year, with 60 percent of all respondents having engaged with a brand via email in the same timeframe. While that 15 percent may seem small, says Salesforce, that number comprises a fourth of all consumers who have engaged with a brand within the past year.

According to that same report, 34 percent of all consumers find chatbots helpful in finding human service assistance and 69 percent (editor’s note: nice) of consumers prefer chatbots over apps when it comes to finding quick answers for simple questions.

Chatbots can easily be set up for Facebook or Twitter through bot builders via a social media management tool like Sprout Social or Hootsuite. Chatbots can also be configured through live chat on your own website. (If you’re interested in implementing either tactic, ChatterBlast can help you get started!)

Never forget: the great chatbot of ChowderBlast 2018!

Show me the results!  

According to VentureBeat, in May 2018, Facebook surpassed 300,000 chatbots on its platform alone, which is 200,000 more than the previous year. In 2016, Forbes reported that 34,000 new chatbots took on business functions industry-wide, mostly for assistance in customer care.

Evernote, a mobile app designed for note taking, organization and archiving, set up a chatbot to drive customer care efficiency through its support handle @EvernoteHelps. With a goal of 100 percent engagement (a daunting task), the brand saw an 18 percent decrease in replies sent per conservation (meaning that customers were getting their answers faster) and an 80 percent increase in customers helped on Twitter per week, with 92 percent of users using the service for the first time. This shows that the implementation of the chatbot was a success, with positive results expected to grow.

MongoDB, an open source document database, already had a messaging platform in place, but was looking for a way to scale conversations for sales opportunities. With a chatbot they set up on their own website, the company increased net new leads by 70 percent and sales opportunities by 170 percent in less than three months. This chatbot included tweaks to functionality, such as a meeting scheduler, and set up targeted messaging for users from certain areas, which directed them to specific solutions and conversations.

But wait…how do you know if you’re talking to one?  

There is a way to utilize chatbots for whatever customer service pickle you’re in, from utilizing the messaging feature for the first time to fine-tuning your customer engagement strategy for better results. The goal, overall, is to provide a better service to help you understand your customers, so why not let a handy bot help you do that?

While their use seems somewhat clear and advancements in technology are steadily improving their functionality, some people still have trouble determining if they’re talking to an actual chatbot. Here are some clues:

  1. They respond fast: Most people don’t speak or type at lightning speed, so that’s a dead giveaway.
  2. They don’t speak naturally: While some chatbots have been programmed to not come across as robotic-sounding, the use of constant complete sentences should raise eyebrows. Most people speak in fragments and are a bit more relaxed when chatting in messenger.
  3. They try too hard to fit in: On the other side, are you noticing excessive “lols” or emojis in their speech? That may have been a programmer trying too hard to have the bot sound like a human. While emojis and acronyms are fun to use, it’s pretty rare that someone’s text will be dominated by them in customer service chat.
  4. Use of weird syntax: Are you seeing two spaces after a sentence, too many periods or odd indentations in their responses? That could be a sign of errors in a bot’s programming.
  5. They repeat the same message: While it’s not odd that you may have to repeat yourself in a conversation, most people rarely say the same exact thing twice.
  6. They seemingly send you a link out of nowhere: If you’re in a chat message describing your issue and the response you get is a link to a product related to the discussion, you’re probably talking to a chatbot. They can’t solve all of your questions, but they can certainly recommend quick solutions or next steps.

Before your chatbot sets off on issue resolution, be sure to have a thorough conversation with your programmer to ensure that customers are getting the best experience possible. 

Happy bot-spotting!