Do we STILL need to chat about chatbots in 2022?

What do chatbots get right, wrong, and why should we keep chatting about them to find new, improved customer experiences.

August 16, 2022
Do we STILL need to chat about chatbots in 2022?

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may remember that we wrote an article called ‘We need to chat about chatbots’ in 2019. We won’t hold it against you if you don’t – it’s been three years and one pandemic since then. A lot has changed.

At that time, chatbots were considered one of the most sophisticated conversational AI tools on the market. Gartner had previously said that by 2020, people would be having more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse.

But even then, chatbots brought drawbacks that brands needed to consider.

That’s why we posed a question in our blog: what if a chatbot had a face, a voice and a personality that people could interact with one on one? A digital human, in other words. Now, in 2022, digital humans are far more common than they were three years ago, while chatbots have similarly evolved as a means of automated customer communication.

So do we still need to chat about chatbots? We think so.

Chatbots can provide various benefits for businesses, and they’re still going strong in terms of adoption. One report predicts that the global chatbot market will be worth $3.4 billion by 2030, up from $521 million last year.

There’s certainly a place for them in the future of customer interactions, then. Where they fall short, however, is being able to replicate the more human, higher-value parts of the customer experience. In a world that has only gone more digital in the last few years, you might say we REALLY need to chat about chatbots now – more than ever.

Let’s look at the conditions in which a chatbot might excel, when and how they fail, and what can be done to make chatbots a channel the brands who employ them can be proud of.

What do chatbots do wrong?

If you’re expecting your chatbot to do any of the following, you may be expecting too much and dooming them to failure. In which case, there are digital or real-life alternatives to consider adding these more human touchpoints.

1. They don’t portray personality, friendliness or warmth

Cast your mind back to the most recent enjoyable interaction with a brand that you’ve had as a consumer. Chances are, it involved another person.

Perhaps it was a customer services rep who quickly resolved a complaint over the phone. Or maybe an in-store employee went out of their way to give you advice on the best mobile phone to buy for your tech-mad kids. It may even have been a quick bit of banter you enjoyed with a barista while they were serving you a coffee. Or an interaction on social media with a brand you love – or at least the person running that account at that time of day.

All these interactions probably had one thing in common: rapport. Communicating with someone who shows friendliness, empathy and humor helps to build an emotional connection between you and the brand.  

Now cast your mind back again. This time, try to remember the last time you felt the same warmth and camaraderie when interacting with a chatbot. No? You’re not alone. Some 24% of people don’t like using chatbots because they’re unable to have authentic, friendly conversations.

Roughly 45% of customers prefer speaking with live agents, compared with just 26% who said they’d prefer a chatbot, according to a study by One in ten went as far as to say they don’t trust chatbots.

There are ways to make your chatbot more human, sure. But don’t task them with replicating human interactions entirely or you’re missing the point on why people turn to chatbots in the first place, and why they otherwise seek more human interactions.

2. They’re one-dimensional experiences

Chatbots are one-dimensional in a couple of ways. Firstly, a run-of-the-mill chatbot can only communicate via text – they’re missing the speech options that are available in voice assistants, such as Siri, and they don’t have a face like a digital human.

That means they’re a little limited in the emotions they can convey (which brings us back to their lack of warmth and friendliness). But the experience of chatting with a chatbot is also quite one-dimensional.

Most interactions follow a similar pattern. You visit a company’s website or social media page, and their chatbot pops up expectantly in the corner. Often, you don’t need help; it can feel intrusive. It’s the online version of a sales assistant following you around a shop asking, “Can I help you?”, every five minutes.

On the occasions that you do need assistance, chatbots can only usually help with simple tasks. For example, they can guide you to different parts of the website, give you basic information on products and collect feedback or complaints.

Anything more complicated means connecting you with a real-life person – if there’s a live chat option – or giving you customer support contact details. In fact, the research mentioned above shows the three most popular reasons that customers give for avoiding chatbots are:

  • I think it’s unlikely to answer complete questions (56%)
  • I’d rather speak with a live agent (42%)
  • I don’t believe it can give me the answers I want (39%)

Among consumers, there’s clearly still some doubt about whether chatbots can deliver a high-quality service when people need difficult tasks resolved.

This is a failing of perceptions around chatbots. As chatbots get better, people will surely trust them with more complicated tasks. And yet the experience will still be the same by nature – one-dimensional. Your chatbot excels by offering functionality. Just don’t expect it to offer an experience, now or in the future.

3. They feel outdated in the metaverse

Forward-thinking brands are already preparing for what the metaverse could mean for their business, as well as who will represent them in these unique virtual spaces.

And let’s face it. Why use a simple chatbot in the metaverse when you could be using a digital twin of a celebrity brand ambassador or a brand mascot? The possibilities are endless with intricately designed virtual characters that fully embody your values and vision.

Imagine a virtual version of Marvel star Tessa Thompson, Armani’s newest brand ambassador, escorting you through one of the fashion house’s digital stores and helping you try on clothes. Now imagine the same scenario with GenericBot 5000 instead – it doesn’t quite have the same impact, does it?

Recent research from Wunderman Thompson shows that 57% of all retail transactions now take place online. What’s more, nearly two-thirds of shoppers want ‘more innovative’ shopping experiences in order to keep them loyal as a customer.

Do chatbots really fit the description of a truly innovative and immersive online experience?

Their conversational skills are often lacking – and businesses know it. A 2022 survey from Mindbowser found that 90% of organizations thought their chatbots didn’t have ‘intelligence’, while three-quarters believed they lacked ‘conversational language’ capabilities.  

Typically, chatbots are used as a highly scalable fallback for businesses when they don’t have real staff on hand to help, leaving customers feeling frustrated and neglected. They’re not designed for a future where virtual interactions could be as sophisticated, immersive and rewarding as real-life ones.

But what do you think? Can you see a future where the metaverse is populated by chatbots?

Where do chatbots go wrong 2022 stats | UneeQ Blog

What do chatbots do right?

A well executed chatbot given the correct tasks can be anything but a failure. So what do they do right, and what should you task them with to make the most of your chatbot investment?

1. They’re fast and effective (for simple tasks)

Chatbots don’t do everything wrong, of course. There are certain situations where they offer fantastic value and efficiency, particularly at scale. That’s probably why a whopping 96% of organizations believe chatbots are here to stay.

It’s perhaps become a bit of a cliché to say that a business’s staff are its biggest asset, but cliches become cliches because they’re often true.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find, attract and keep great employees. Even then, they can’t be everywhere at once. AI chatbots can be – they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever your customers or clients may be in the world.

Simple questions can be answered quickly and effectively, meaning customer service reps and other staff are free to focus on more complex, valuable activities. Your employees can spend more time doing things that grow your business, rather than resolving minor or recurring problems.

2. They have comprehensive and up-to-date platforms

Businesses today rarely have to build and maintain their own software. There’s a platform or tool for everything these days, and that’s also true of chatbot solutions.

There are many chatbot providers, frameworks and natural language processing (NLP) engines available in 2022. If you want to know more about what’s out there and how they work, check out this chatbot FAQs article from last year.

These platforms are easy to use, cost-effective and regularly updated, so having and maintaining your chatbot has never been simpler. Some providers even have ‘one click’ deployment capabilities, meaning a business can have its chatbot up and running with minimal fuss.

Obviously, the more complicated you want an AI chatbot to be, the more time, effort and resources that will need to go into developing it. It’s particularly important to get the conversational elements right to ensure they align with your brand and its values. Our research at UneeQ shows that 32% of companies want more in-depth conversational abilities from their chatbots.

3. They’re making businesses more efficient

As we’ve said, one of the things that chatbots do really well is alleviate customer service workloads. They can triage queries, helping to direct people to where they need to go without the need for human intervention until a problem becomes too complex for them to resolve.

How efficient is this? Luckily, some well-known companies have revealed the effectiveness of chatbots across their operations:

  • Recruitment firm Adecco was able to reduce live chat enquiries by 75% after introducing a conversational AI chatbot.
  • Cosmetics company L’Oréal uses a chatbot to streamline its job applications process, with a 100% satisfaction rate and engaging with 92% of candidates in an efficient way.
  • Global Telecom, a Philippines-based telecoms giant with 62 million customers, reduced the number of inbound customer calls by 50% and improved team productivity three-fold.
What do chatbots do well 2022 stats | UneeQ Blog

Clearly, chatbots have their uses. But are they the best we can do? In a world where business success is increasingly about creating unique, personalized customer experiences, are chatbots really the best representation of the brands they work for?

In a word, no.

If you want your customer-facing technology to provide more of an experience – with humor, friendliness, warmth, two-way interactivity – today and in tomorrow’s metaverse, there are alternatives to chatbots.

The rise of digital humans

It might sound like a terrible Terminator movie sequel, but the rise of the digital humans has much less Hollywood drama to it.

Digital human technology can be used to make automated customer interactions more memorable, more empathetic and more, well, human. To create an experience outside of the mundane – and one we naturally enjoy as people, hard-wired for emotional connection.

And this reality isn’t decades in the future. Gartner has already predicted that a quarter of people will be spending at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026, whether it’s shopping, learning, playing games or working. Virtual worlds are growing and becoming increasingly interconnected. Chatbots simply won’t cut it.

But Gartner also believes that digital humans will become one of the key technologies for building the metaverse, with half of B2B buyers interacting with one during the buying cycle by 2026. We expect similar usage patterns to emerge across the B2C landscape.

Brands don’t have to wait until the metaverse is on their doorstep to start, however. Many companies are already transforming their AI chatbots into more sophisticated customer support technologies – and you can too.

Allowing your chatbots to live their best lives

No one wants to scrap a project that’s taken time, money and other resources to get off the ground – particularly not at the moment when leaders will be looking to be savvier than ever with their dollars.

Fortunately, that’s not what we’re suggesting. You DO NOT need to scrap your chatbot.

Take financial services firms, for example. A Cornerstone Advisors report from last year showed that two-thirds of banks were focusing on improving customer experiences as their biggest priority.

But only 30% were investing in new technologies to do so. More than half (53%) want to get more value out of their existing platforms instead. In the current economic climate, we expect that to be true for many other industries.

So, what’s a good way to leverage your existing technologies for better customer experiences? Well, if you’ve got a chatbot, you’re already ahead of the game because you can use it as a starting point to develop your very own digital humans.

A digital human can take your automated customer interactions to the next level – moving beyond simple text-based responses toward rich, rewarding conversations that provide a more engaging experience. It is these key interactions that build rapport between your customers and your brand.  

Want to see how your chatbot might look as a digital human? Connect it to UneeQ Creator and design your brand’s own customized AI-powered digital human today.  

You can choose its face, voice, language, name and more. From there, you’re free to develop your digital human even further and, if you’re happy, deploy it across multiple channels, including websites, mobile apps and physical kiosks.

Your digital human then offers a higher-value experience, sitting between routine chatbot and exceptional customer-facing staff channels. They bridge the digital divide that’s left businesses capable of providing only two types of experience – slow and human, or fast and boring.

Let’s keep chatting about chatbots

Do we still need to chat about chatbots? Of course. They offer a fast, convenient and efficient automated solution for many businesses that are looking for scalable customer support. But if brands don’t recognise their chatbot’s inherent flaws, the technology will continue to erode their customer experiences, instead of enhancing them.

Brands must prepare for a time when the conversation needs to move on, because that future is fast approaching. You could argue that it’s already here.