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10 July 2019 5 min read

Six Pitfalls to avoid when building your chatbot – how not to frustrate your customers

Rosie Drew

Rosie Drew
Senior Consultant | Customer and digital | London

With many organisations scrambling to jump on the chatbot bandwagon, fearful of being left behind by competitors or missing out on the “next big thing”, it’s no wonder that most people reading this will have had a frustrating experience with a chatbot. With ‘Sorry I couldn’t find an answer to that’ etched into your mind as you turn away from your device, cursing at the fifteen minutes of your life you’ll never get back, you’ll have vowed never to use a chatbot again.

But it doesn’t need to be that way… really, it doesn’t. You can ensure you don’t frustrate your customers by avoiding common pitfalls we’ve seen many organisations fall into when building a chatbot.

Considering whether a chatbot makes sense from the customer’s perspective

A well-executed chatbot should reduce friction in a customer journey, not increase it. Ensuring that customer pain points, and the user value you are seeking to deliver, are identified during design will help to cement your product vision. Why are you building a chatbot? What need are you meeting? What will success look like once your chatbot is launched? Is a chatbot the right technology for the task – or would a simple web-portal be better? If you don’t understand the why, it’s going to very hard to build the what.

Creating a lifeless bot

Users don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a robot, even if they know they are. Your bot’s personality will play an important part in how it’s perceived. The bot should have a well-crafted persona and tone of voice – one that expresses the personality and values of the brand.  In order to start defining your bot’s tone of voice, it can be useful to start thinking about your bot in the following terms: Who they are? What do they like? What would they say?

Introducing your agent to your bot

Building a great chatbot is only half the race. Think about your bot’s human colleagues too, and how bot and agent will interact. Your agents will play a crucial role in this: helping to map out the as-is, assess the feasibility of agent to bot handovers and helping to maintain and grow your chatbot. You want to build a capability, not just a tool.  Crucially, it also allows the bot to escalate to an agent if it can’t answer a customer’s question – avoiding the “computer says no” response and forcing a customer to use another channel.

Considering how to encourage customers to use the bot

Implementing an online channel is as much about influencing customer behaviour and organisational culture as it is about the technicalities of standing up a new channel. A comprehensive adoption strategy (both customers and employees) is crucial. And the communications strategy and change management need to be considered, along with an assessment of the digital maturity of your people. Otherwise you will end up with a beautifully designed but never used channel.

Thinking your bot is an adult, when it’s only just been born

You’ve built, then tested your bot, and now it’s officially launched. Success!

Success, but not the end. Now the next phase begins: measuring performance, and adoption, and iterating your bot. Getting feedback from real users will help you to identify gaps in the bot’s brain, and, in so doing, you’ll be able nurture and grow your bot.

A bot can’t succeed on its own

It needs help! You need to ensure that the bot has the right supporting technology (e.g. links to the right data) to enable it to answer customer queries, and the right operating model to ensure it continues to learn and evolve to meet your customer’s needs.

In summary - a great chatbot can be an incredibly powerful tool - delivering both value and delight to the customer. But done badly it can lead to frustration, and hurt the brand. Having these common pitfalls at the forefront of your mind when starting your chatbot journey will set you on the right path.

About the author: Rosie Drew is a Senior Consultant in Baringa’s Customer and Digital team, with consulting experience across a range of sectors. Rosie is passionate about creating exceptional and useful customer experiences that reduce costs for clients.