Chatbots: Yes or No?

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Chatbots: Yes or No?

Dec 04, 2020

There are very few things in life as frustrating as dealing with an automated system that cannot be bypassed and cannot efficiently achieve what you want it to. Most people are more familiar with this experience on the telephone. Many companies today have some sort of twenty-four-hour automated service lines that can supposedly solve any ordinary problem that a human representative could, but in my personal experience this is often not the case. Similarly, websites that offer a chatbot as a customer service option may claim that the chatbot is capable of everything that a human customer service representative is capable of, but this is almost never the case. Allow me to further break down why I do not support the idea of a chatbot as a website’s form of customer service.

In the ideal world, you could use a product or service without having to ever contact a representative from the company. The only reason you would ever want or need to contact someone from the company of a service or product you use regularly, would be if something wasn’t working right or wasn’t going according to plan. This means, any time you are on a company’s website looking for customer service options, or calling their customer service phone number, you have a problem. I guess it is certainly possible for someone to intend to leave a great review or commend an employee they had a positive interaction with, but the vast majority of the time people contacting a business or manufacturer of something they use they are having an issue. This means, whatever the reason is your calling the customer service line, odds are it is inconveniencing you and you want it fixed as quickly as possible. In my personal experience, machines are not as capable of solving a wide variety of issues as humans are. Machines are fantastic at solving one type of issue or problem, for example a calculator will always be faster than a human, but most of the time issues that users or consumers cannot figure out on their own require some troubleshooting, and a well-trained human being is almost always going to be capable of solving a wide range of problems more quickly and efficiently than a machine.

I find the viability of chatbots and automated customer service lines particularly interesting because they are inventions that would be so incredibly useful if they actually worked efficiently. The idea is so appealing, an automated bot that I can chat with that will answer anything from a frequently asked question to a very specific, unique problem I’m having. Yet, this is not what most chatbots today actually do. They’re capable of the former, but not the latter. Many chatbots and automated customer service systems simply regurgitate the answers to frequently asked questions, or repeat an obvious script they’ve been programmed to say which doesn’t actually apply to me as a unique user. Ultimately, the technology will eventually arrive at a point where these systems are incredibly useful, probably even more efficient than a human, yet as of now it seems they are still a work in progress.

Dane Morrow, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: When you communicate with the customer service department of a brand, do you use the chatbots that are on many of their websites. If so, why? If not, why not? The class covers copyright and social media. Dane is a Communication Studies major.

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