Common Chatbot Mistakes: Why is Your Bot Failing?

Illustrator: Fran Marrero
chatbot mistakes

Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself getting frustrated while interacting with a chatbot. The odds are there are a lot of raised hands out there. But don’t blame the bots! The likely culprits of these notorious fails are the chatbot mistakes you commit in the creation process. 

Chatbots have become a very popular option for customer service, lead generation, sales, promotions, you name it. Drift’s 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report mentions respondents using conversational marketing solutions to get simple questions answered, access content and other resources, book meetings, or make purchases. There is a lot bots can do, but despite their rising popularity, they still make a lot of mistakes. Or should I say, the people who develop them do. So much so that, according to Drift, just under half of the respondents classify their user experience with conversational solutions as positive. 

Back when they first rose to the spotlight in 2016 thanks to Facebook’s Messenger, chatbots were expected to be the next big thing and solve a handful of problems for companies. Overnight, it felt like just about every business was creating and implementing chatbots into their strategy. That was until they failed to meet expectations. Facebook’s M project began shutting down just two years after it started, and people realized they weren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Top 5 Most Likely Chatbot Mistakes in Bot Creation

A successful chatbot for your business, one that leads to customer satisfaction, requires work. 

Fortunately, the technology has come a long way, and chatbots can much more easily respond to real life users’ needs. But much like humans, they’re not flawless, and there are some mistakes that keep popping up in chatbot development. 

1. Mask Chatbots as Human Beings

When customers click on a chat icon on any given website, they don’t know upfront if they’ll be connected to a human on the other end or if they’ll be talking to a chatbot. 

With the AI capabilities available today, businesses can show a tendency to train their NPL-based bots to sound as human as possible. And that’s fine. But even the best-trained chatbots have their limitations, and it’s very easy to trick them into showing their true colors.

Here’s why you shouldn’t let it come to this point — trust. 

If you want to establish a good relationship with your target audience, you need to build trust. That’s why you should always disclose to the customer who or what they are talking to, in your bot welcome message, for example. 

Giving your customers full disclosure also helps to manage their expectations. This way, customers will know upfront they’re interacting with a bot and be aware that, if it is unable to solve their problem, it will be due to its nature and not to a person who is unable or unwilling to help. 

2. Unusual Means of Communication

Chatbot communication is text-based communication. As such, it should strive to follow the same “etiquette” as if it were on the other end of a conversation with a friend. Here are some things to consider if you are to avoid this type of chatbot mistakes:

  • Message length: chat conversations, whether on Messenger or WhatsApp, tend to be broken into smaller messages. Instead of overflooding a customer with text as they open the chatbot to start a conversation, consider splitting your message into several smaller ones. Even if you have a lot to say upfront, this way it will feel more natural. Let’s not forget that customers tend to resort to chatbots for shorter interactions, so if they need to read a long message before they get started, they might not even get to that. 
Source: Userlike

  • Time to reply: although people usually turn to chatbots for immediate responses, not taking a breather before replying doesn’t seem like the normal flow of a conversation. We know chatbot replies are automated anyway, but consider keeping two seconds between each chatbot message for a more natural feel. 
  • Consider the channel: depending on the product or service you sell, you will attract different kinds of customers. To better engage with them, you should consider users’ preferred channels of communication when implementing a chatbot strategy. Do you insist on calling that friend who never picks up the phone? You should aim to meet people where they are. That could be directly on your website, but it could also be via Messenger or WhatsApp if that is what works best for your customers. 

3. Lack of Visual Elements

This common mistake could be related to chatbots using unusual means of online communication, but it takes it one step further. Even if your bot complies with the unspoken rules of online chatting, it might still be missing a piece if all it uses to communicate are words. 

Typed out messages, as opposed to spoken ones that can rely on facial expressions or other gestures or visual cues, can leave room for misinterpretations. That’s why we started resorting to emojis, GIFs, and even videos to convey meaning to our online speech that words alone just can’t do. 

When developing your chatbot, you should be sure to include visual elements in addition to the text. But be careful! Unless you want your chatbot to come across as a boomer, don’t overdo it with the emojis. 

Source: Userlike

4. Bland or Non-Existent Personality

As customers, even if the chatbot doesn’t disclose it from the get-go, we sooner or later realize we are not interacting with another human being. However, that is not an excuse to have your chatbot sounding like a machine or a robot.

Bots offer an extra great opportunity to solidify your brand and its personality among your customers, so they really should be consistent with your brand values and mission. 

When developing your chatbot, keep in mind to attribute to it a persona and a personality, which will shine through the tone of voice, wording, and other speech inflections along the text, as well as the name you decide to give your bot, its avatar, and other visual elements. 

5. No Purpose

Chatbots are a proper business tool that can be used for a lot of different things — customer service, lead generation, sales, content suggestion, bookings, and the list goes on. They’re more than just a nice-to-have, and you definitely shouldn’t implement one just because all the cool kids are doing it. If your chatbot doesn’t have a clear purpose, it could end up hurting your business as your customers won’t see any benefit in it and won’t think you’re very cool at all. 

I’ve already mentioned the chatbot baby boom back in 2016. At the time, Business Insider reported that eighty percent of businesses wanted to have a chatbot strategy implemented by 2020. Last year, there were reportedly more than 300.000 chatbots on Facebook alone. Yet, how many of them are actually being used to move businesses forward? I tried sending an emoji to the Jamie Oliver Messenger channel and got nothing in return. 

Before diving into the chatbot world, determine whether or not your business needs one. Are your customer support agents struggling with a growing backlog and leaving customers with no answer? Are your sales representatives failing to convert leads because they’re cold calling everyone and not just the qualified ones? Your chatbot needs to have a clear mission and do its job well, or else it can end up being a hazard. 

To Sum it Up

There is no shortage of chatbot fails lists going around the internet. 

However, to err is human, it’s not the bots’ fault. 

By avoiding these common chatbot mistakes, you’ll be giving your chatbots a hand and possibly helping them get a spot on the good bots list.