Blog post

Why Your Chatbots and VCAs Fail

By Andrew Schumacher | September 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

Customer Service and SupportDigital and Self-Service Customer Service

We know that Chatbots and Virtual Customer Assistants (VCAs) have heaps of potential to deliver cost savings and a better customer experience. And yet, we’re often left disappointed by the unfulfilled promises that were sold to us by a vendor. That isn’t because chatbots aren’t or can’t be effective for your business or industry; it’s not the bot itself, but the application of the bot that drives those unmet promises.  So why do our chatbots fail, and what do we need to do to successfully implement them? There can be practical reasons: like not making the bot hard to find on your webpage. You may also rush their launch; not allowing for the requisite 3-6 months to train its machine learning models.  The reality is that many chatbot and VCA implementations are doomed even before launch. 


Complexity: Over-Promising and Under-Delivering


Chatbots fail because we fail to make the necessary tradeoffs for successful implementation. Perhaps we have a chatbot that is far too limited in its capability to handle the complexity of the experience we want to provide our customers. Or, maybe we have an expensive solution that we rush to integrate.


Recently, we polled a group of service leaders and only 10% have no plans of deploying a chatbot or VCA at this time. Since these are popular pieces of technology, it’s important for everyone to understand the necessary considerations for conversational AI deployment.


Let’s take a look at this through the lens of complexity. A chatbot that is relatively inexpensive and takes two to six weeks to implement will only be able to tackle low complexity tasks for a service organization. These include help desks, simple customer service processes (like FAQs), and routing. 


Graphic featuring the levels of effort required to set up increasingly complex chatbots.


The next band of functionalities we’ll find on the spectrum of chatbots and VCAs are complex dialogue flows, higher-level integration into business processes, and natural language understanding. A much larger band of costs and time to implement cover these bot functionalities ($50,000-$250,000 and one to six months, respectively, depending on the level of integration).


Finally, the highest level of complexity delivers personalized service and context to customers through more sophisticated models. VCAs almost always deliver these processes. Here, associated costs rise into the millions of dollars. These platforms can take one to two years of runway for a successful roll out. 


Selecting Use Cases and Why they Matter


All-encompassing chatbot implementations may seem like an attractive solution to improving cost savings and customer experience. But, expecting our chatbots to do too much can lead to unclear pathways to resolution and poor customer experiences. In fact, you should select your use cases far in advance of selecting necessary technology requirements for chatbot deployment.


We have to be deliberate about the use cases in which we will deploy our bots. Consider the following factors when developing a use case in order to improve our chances for implementation success. Those are: 


  1. The channel in which we want to deploy our bot (phone, webchat, mobile, omnichannel, social media, etc.).
  2. The customer segment we want to target. 
  3. The service we want to provide (task, goal, customer journey segment, or product).
  4. The task return on investment (ROI) we are attempting to achieve. This includes Hard ROI (i.e. contact completion rates) or soft ROI (i.e. empathy, stress, satisfaction, or perceived value).


Chatbots are a necessary component of the future of Service and Support organizations. Given the trend of increasing heavy automation and the emergence of machine customers machine customers, chatbots will be an integral part of any Service and Support organization’s ability to ensure future efficiency and CX goals. 


All of these exciting new technologies have the ability to help us achieve those goals. But, we must be aware of the complexities, costs, and scope of our chatbots or VCAs. This way, we can fulfill the promises that bots have allowed us to expect. 




To discuss how to better structure and implement your chatbot strategy, schedule an inquiry with a Gartner expert today, or watch a replay of our webinar on chatbot deployment.

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