Virtual assistants, Chatbots, and the angry customer

On exactly three occasions out of four that I had to deal with a virtual assistant/chatbot for a service query, I ended up more frustrated than I had been at the start of my call. In the end, I still ended up speaking to a human to get my issues resolved, having wasted plenty of time while at it. Much as I’m all for tech and new innovations, these are only beneficial and ready to be embraced if they do indeed give a more pleasurable and seamless end-user experience.

Usually by the time a person decides to call the customer care line, they know that they’re in for a long wait, and as thus we try to use all available online resources to find a remedy to our problems before making the dreaded call. Only to deal with a virtual assistant that will ask you to choose from a list of possible issues you may have, often yours not being on the menu, as you already checked the online help and there was nothing to cover it. So, you choose the option closest to your problem, only to be told you can’t be helped and you keep moving round and round in circles.

And that’s before we get to the ones that require you to speak something, as that’s another long article for another day. Given we all have different accents, and I can’t start to figure out which accents these virtual assistants and chatbots are programmed to comprehend. We end up saying the same thing over and over again, and for those who can’t help it, end up breaking gadgets or uttering shabby words in exasperation.

All the above brings me to the issue as to whether customers have any say in how they want their issues to be handled. Assuming the virtual assistants and chatbots do indeed work and I did not have to go through an extremely infuriating experience, do I still have no say as to whether or not I talk to a person when I have a problem? Does my opinion as a customer count?

For most of the organizations that have taken on these innovations, there are plenty of benefits in it for them. These range from reduced operational costs, a supposed improved client experience and of course being reputed as being innovative and progressive. According to a Tata consultancy services survey of executives around, 31.7% of major companies are currently using AI in customer service. This made it the second most common use of AI by companies after IT, making it a wagon for most companies to jump onto.

After my various ordeals, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps there are other people going through the same thing. Wishing that at the get go, when I make a call to the customer care help line, the next question I should be asked after choosing my language preference is if I’d rather chat with a chatbot or with a human. This would not only save my time, but will also help these companies make more informed staffing needs and make for happier customers. After all, the more you know about your customers, the more precisely AI can help tailor their experiences.

Virtual help centers, robotics and virtual assistants may be all the rave right now, but for some customers, especially those that are keen for a quick personal connection and the tech laggards, these are proving to be a nightmare.

Perhaps in the future, AI will enhance customer care centers to the point that organizations will be able to meet customer needs without any glitches. For now, as an often loyal customer, it would really be a great working experience with my service providers if I’m given a chance to choose how I want my problems to be handled should I have any issues with a companies’ products or services. And you can keep the other benefits of AI in the customer care section in the back end and for those who would rather use virtual assistants and chat bots when they have issues.