Why chatbots don’t work for your outreach program
You’ve been told to automate your Small Business. Feeling pretty chuffed with yourself, you get yourself a Chatbot and program it to respond to all those pesky inquiries.
Your Chatbot is filtering your messages, giving people the information they want, channelling them where they need to go. No more incessant interruptions. At last, you can focus on the real work at hand. Right?
Wrong! Some people are being channelled where they need to go, but the rest are hitting their keyboards with frustration, desperately trying to get the right answers to their questions. They’re trying to unsubscribe from messages they haven’t signed up to receive. Some are bad-mouthing you on private or on social media. Some are in tears (really).
Yes, you’ve solved your problem of constant interruptions, but you’ve lost opportunities and damaged your brand.
There’s a lesson in this.
Never replace the initial experience of your business with a chatbot.
It’s not going to end well. “But…”, I hear you saying, “What if …”
Of course, you could make a Chatbot work if you pour lots of resources into programming and testing, but how much is enough to prevent negative marketing?
Here’s my recent experience of a chatbot.
The other day I contacted a service on Facebook for a client. Her problem was confidential, and I sent a private message asking for help for her. Let’s, for the sake of anonymity, call it ‘The Best Program Ever’ and let’s call the expert running it ‘Rebecca’.
Here’s how the Chatbot conversation went (and I am quoting directly):
Chatbot: “Did you miss out on registering for ‘Best Program Ever? Well, we reopened registrations for 24 hours – if you want to register, be quick or you’ll miss out. Register here ….”
This was followed by a video with an excited pitch which, if I had been in the target market, might have enticed me to register. After all, I know that ‘The Best Program Ever’ really is a good one. But not for me. I’m not their target market. Remember, I was contacting them on behalf of my client and had a particular question which had not been answered.
I passed on the info about the program to my client, told her I hadn’t had my question answered, and then proceeded to disconnect.
I wrote: “Hi Rebecca. Wishing you well for this program. Please remove me from the messenger list. Thank you.”
This was the response: “Hi Rosemary, I’m Rebecca’s #BestProgramBot. Rebecca has asked me to keep an eye on her messenger while she’s out helping clients. How can I best serve you right now?”
Next, I got a #JoinTheBestProgramEver ‘join now’ message and an invitation to a free information session. All I wanted was for them to read my message. I was not in their target market, and I needed to just, well, be left alone.
Then a message came through that said, ‘Talk to our Team’. I clicked on the message in the ‘Talk to a Human’ box. You’ve guessed it, back to a Bot.
My next message read: “Please read my message! Thank you. Please confirm I have been removed.”
Yay! Progress. But alas.
Chatbot: “Hi there Rosemary, sorry I just red (sic) your message. May I ask for the email address that you used so I can remove you from the list?”
To which I replied: “Just checking why you need my email address as these messages are on messenger. Is my identity attached to my email address in your system? Not sure why I need to provide an email address?”
Chatbot: “Great Rosemary. I just need to take a few details if that’s ok with you? Can you just let me know the best email address to reach you on?”
And then, rubbing salt into a wound.
Chatbot: “Rosemary. We noticed that you requested to join Rebecca’s ‘Best Program Ever’ and you didn’t finish registration. Would you like to complete that now? Yes. No.”
I don’t know how I stopped myself from throwing my computer through the window.
I gritted my teeth and wrote: “You asked for my email address to remove me from all messages. For that reason only I am giving you my email address.”
Then, in good faith, I entered my email address — not a good idea.
Chatbot: “Thanks, Rosemary. If you check your email within the next 5 minutes you will see a welcome email from us with further details on the next program coming up. Congrats you made an excellent decision. 50,000 people in a number of countries agree this is a great program.”
By now my blood pressure was dangerously high.
I wrote, in my most restrained online voice: “If these are automated messages they need to be re-assessed. Incredible how hard it is to stop them. I DON’T WANT TO JOIN ANYTHING! I WANT TO UNSUBSCRIBE!”
Ok, here’s where it turned comical.
Chatbot: “Please enter a number. Use digits only.”
Me: “Definitely not.”
Chatbot: “Please enter a number. Use digits only.”
In desperation, I tried the ‘Talk to a Human’ button. You’ve guessed it.
Chatbot: “Sure thing. I’m Rebecca’s #BestProgramBot. Reply with your question and we will be back to answer your query ASAP.”
I finally did speak to a human who apologised profusely and let Rebecca know. Last I heard she was frantically trying to gain control of her Bot.
You get the message
Don’t impose a faceless Chatbot with no EQ on your potential partners, referral network, clients and connections. It’s wrong, and it’s rude. At best, it will lose opportunities for you. At worst, it will create negative marketing.
Take a moment to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and put their needs front and centre before trying to streamline your workload. A Chatbot is not the way to do it.