Why chatbots fail? 7 common limitations of chatbots

Why chatbots fail? There are at least seven reasons behind the most common chatbot downfalls. Each of them is strictly connected with a specific limitation of this technology or its bad implementation.

Unclear scope of the chatbot and/or too broad purposes of its utilization

Despite the progress of the last few years, chatbots have not yet got the versatility and capability of improvisation of human brains. A bot still remains a bot, and it needs a clear and precise scope for its utilization.

The problem of the scope of a chatbot is strictly connected with the purposes of the organization that is going to use the bot. In many cases, the goals are too vague or not well-defined, which answers the question why chatbots fail.

Fix: as it is better explained in the article of this blog: 10 Chatbot Best Practices, the first step when designing a chatbot is to clearly define your objectives and your chatbot’s roles.

Setting unrealistic expectations is often the reason why chatbots fail

Most chatbots are based on a set of rules that dictate the answer to give to a specific question by drawing the necessary resources from a database. The richer the database that supports the bot is, the more complete the range of questions that a chatbot can answer.

Unfortunately, as large a database of answers can be, it is hard that it can match any possible human questions. And when the bot cannot understand a user question, it often replies with something nonsensical. This break the user experience and send clients in total confusion.

AI has improved chatbot capabilities. However, we are still far from human brain capabilities or Hal 9000 skills in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Do not forget the case of Tai, an AI chatbot that suddenly started to retweet racist and misogynist sentiments. Luckily, in some cases chatbot fails are more hilarious than dramatic, as it reported in this article about the funniest chatbot fails.

Fix: it is important to stay grounded and set realistic goals with chatbots. Enthusiasm and over-expectations are other common reasons why chatbots fail.

Lack of customer perspective in building the chatbot

The goals of any chatbot must be set from the customers’ perspective. These golden rule of UX design is applied also to chatbot building.

Yet there are still many cases of chatbots that are built without any regard to UX still today. This lack of user centrality in the process of chatbot designing often brings to setting vanity metrics and goals like purely technological results that do not add any value to users, or goals that are limited to a short-term campaign.

Fix: in most cases, UX failures explain why chatbots fail. When it happens, the only possible fix is to revise the design of the chatbot according to UX rules and the results of the UX texts that the UX designers’ teams will need to run to discover the flaws of the chatbot.

Why chatbots fail: chatbot limitations with NPL

Artificial intelligence chatbots utilize natural language processing (NPL) to understand users’ questions, while simple chatbots search for answers through a specific support database.

In both cases, misunderstandings, loops, frustration, and blocked transfers can happen. These accidents are the common reason why chatbots fail from the perspective of UX. Unfortunately, chatbots cannot work out the subtleties of human languages and human communication. Therefore, bots should be limited to a basic usage.

Blocked transfers mean that the chatbot tries to transfer the conversation to a human operator that is not available. Loops and frustration happen when a chatbot is not able to correctly address users’ issues, and, again, the reason behind if often an error in its design.

Fix: instruct chatbots to send the calls that they are not designed to manage or that they cannot understand to a human operator but be careful that chatbot avoids contacting a human agent while the agent is off work.

Another reason why chatbot fails: ugly appearance

Presentation matters also in chatbots. A clean and clear design does not only immediately convey the value of a service or a product (what is beautiful is also good for most people), but it will also help customers to understand chat functionalities.

Conversely, a bad and ugly design of a chatbot will give a bad impression of the organization and its business to users at first glance, which is a common reason why chatbots fail.

Remember that sight is the most important sense for humans, the one that most contributes to the first impression of anything. We dress up when we have an important meeting, do not we? Same for chatbots. They need to dress an appealing dress to better seduce their customers.

Fix: ask a good designer to create an awesome visual experience for your chatbot.

Lack of extensibility and connectivity

Chatbots do not live in a world apart, they must be integrated with the marketing strategy of the organization and the other platforms that are in use.

In other words, the solution to make chatbots able to answer customers’ questions by simply retrieving prepackaged responses from a FAQ database is not a smart solution.

To get the best from chatbots, it is necessary to integrate the bot with the workflows, existing technologies, and communication channels. An example? Slack.

When it does not happen, here we have another reason why chatbots fail. But this is not the chatbots’ fault, as chatbot integration is managers’ and designers’ responsibility.

Fix: want accurate planning, integration, and designing of your chatbot services.

Some other reasons why chatbots fail

Lack of maintenance is another reason why chatbots fail: chatbots need constant care and attention, like any other technology.

Another reason is the resistance to changes inside an organization. This happens frequently in old-economy industries, where digitalization is perceived as a risk of job loss by workers and power loss by managers.

Further reasons why chatbots fail relate to bad design or the malpractices that you are going to find out in the article of this blog: 8 Mistakes You Make with Your Chatbot and How Correct Them.

In conclusion, chatbots can break down, exactly any other technology. The reasons can be multiple, but the most important ones can basically be reconducted to excessive expectations, poor planning and designing, lack of integration with the rest of the platform, and the workflows of the organizations.

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Written by
Marco La Rosa

Marco La Rosa is a blogger, writer, content creator, and UX designer. Very interested in new technologies, he wrote Neurocopywriting, a book about neurosciences and their applications to writing and communication‍

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