Tech support is infested with sh*tty "AI" chatbots

A bit more than a month ago I was stuck in a country (not my own) due to the coronavirus lockdown. Being a privacy conscious internet user, I have 2-factor authentication enabled for most accounts that support it. When I needed to access these accounts, while being overseas, without access to my cellphone my problems started.

Firstly, if you have 2-factor authentication enabled, I'd advise using an authenticator app instead of receiving an SMS on your cellphone. An app will work regardless of your location as long as you have an internet connection.

Secondly, when I tried to contact tech support for most companies I got trapped in a maze of chatbots, useless "how-to" articles and Twitter bots sending me back to the support site where I initially started. Most of the time I couldn't get hold of a human to talk to and explain my problem.

In the few instances I got hold of an actual human being behind a computer the support went just fine and my problem got solved in a matter of hours.

This brings me to my questions about "AI" chatbots and the supposed "benefits" they have:

  • have you ever had an encounter with a chatbot where it solved your problem or at least directed you to the right resources?
  • should the human experience play a bigger role in tech support?
  • am I the only person that gets incredibly frustrated with shitty tech support?

Unfortunately, tech support is one of those things that you don't use everyday, but the one day you need it will make a HUGE difference in your attitude towards a company. Your thoughts are appreciated!

  1. 2

    It's all about managing the customer's expectation, best is to be upfront that they're talking to a bot initially and offer some form of first response / information collection. At the same time show the customer while the bot is running that what is the customer's expected wait time to talk to a live agent, this will help trigger a decision making process whether the issue is worth the time, to consider attempting the bot's help or to wait for the human agent. It's down to making a structured decision making process for the customer while keeping options open for them.

  2. 2

    Just for a moment, I think everyone needs to pause and take a look at things from the 'other side'.

    When my SaaS had only about 100 customers, I used to openly deride things like auto chat bots and even canned responses in support emails. I used to pride myself that my company always hand typed responses and gave personalised 1 on 1 service to our customers, and I thought that would continue forever.

    Roll forward to us having 1400+ customers and I can tell you that we now used canned responses all the time on our support lines. Still haven't got to the stage of an automated chat bot yet and I want to resist that if at all possible.

    But when you get the SAME, and I mean the EXACT SAME query coming in 20+ times per day (and YES, we have FAQs, videos and guides that explain it both within and outside of our app which is proving futile because for some reason people just don't want to read the instructions on the screen and think it will be easier to ask a person?!?!?!?!), then you have to weigh up one of your support team being caught up all day typing in the same response to customers, rather than tackling actual problems that need resolving.

    For instance, we have a nifty pricing page on our website, and also within the app when people go to the subscription page. Yet we constantly get trial users emailing us with "How much does your system cost?" many many times per day. That is something that perhaps a bot type user could easily answer (or at least point them back to our pricing page) without us having to pay a CS rep hundreds of dollars per day to keep cutting and pasting the same answer.

    1. 1

      I love this comment! I was going to ramble about how much I hate chatbots and what it was like working in tech support for my first job.

      I say: Definitely give automated messages a go! If they're online, there's no reason not to suggest links to common questions as they type or whatever.

      So just a little devil's advocacy:
      But also, small companies thrive on great support. There's another post right now about Hey.com, and what it's like when something goes wrong with your Google account. It's frustrating, and when you can connect with the company you're giving money to, it really stands out.

      I also think about the nightmarish stories from big tech, when Google, FB, Twitter, AirBnB, PayPal, etc automatically decide to shut off business services.

      (When I worked in tech support, around 2002, the web hosting company I worked at had such poor systems and was so understaffed, our wait times were around 1 hour the majority of the time)

  3. 2

    I recently had to deal with the chat support of a neo-banking app.

    For whatever reason they froze my account and the only way to find out what's going on was through the chat. But guess what, it's a shitty "AI" bot that does nothing more than query commonly asked Q&A.

    After looking through their website i found that you can switch to a human if you type "live agent" in the chat (they hide it very well). Even then, they take forever to respond.

    Took 2 lessons from this:

    • Neobanks are not your bank, it's just another glorified Paypal.
    • Tech companies hide behind chatbots to avoid real customer service.
  4. 2

    No you’re not the only person. My first interaction with EVERY chat widget I come across is

    “Any humans around?”

    If it’s clear there isn’t then I’m out

  5. 1

    Flip what you're describing on its head. Are you really at your most pleasant when you're talking to customer support? Probably angry, frustrated, annoyed, upset, right?

    I single-handedly coded the customer success chatbot at my old company and the support teams were so glad to have a streamlined way of managing support tickets and mean people. We could take data from the conversation, take note of how much of a jerk someone was and we could ban them, never have to talk to them again. Do you know how valuable this single feature is? The worst people who spam a customer success line tend to be lonely, bored, lazy ppl and they tend to come back like 50 times a year. And you wouldn't believe the things that they would say to my team.

    I posit to you, Tech support is infested with shtty customers. A lot of them. Not you I'm sure, but you're not the customer that we try to ban. That's why Tech support is infested with shtty "AI" chatbots. Blame the other customers shrug.

    I agree, getting helped by humans is the best thing. But that's simply not scalable. It's like asking why we should all just be consultants instead of doing SaaS?

    1. 1

      why is the last paragraph italicizing lol

  6. 1

    Personally, I don't like chatbots but I know they add value because they are meant to answer the most common questions that users have. Your particular situation is a bit uncommon, so I figure that you're going to be one those users that won't find a solution from the docs or chatbox.

  7. 1

    On our website, we have a default bot but we don't hide that and have a text that says "I am a bot but would love to connect you with a human once you answer a couple of questions". This filters out any irrelevant/bad apples and also does not mislead clients. I hate chatbots that show the pic of a human thinking u r talking to a human being when its a robot.

  8. 1

    Definitely. Having a human immediately help you is the best kind of support. Having said that, there’s a good balance to be found between always talking to a human and finding the solution yourself if that’s quicker. Support also has to figure out a way to deflect some of the repetitive requests, especially when volumes are really high. Never hide humans behind articles and AI bots though. That’s the worst kind of support service.

    1. 1

      I agree. Maybe there is a place for chatbots to help direct someone to the right channel to find support. However, with my specific issue (recovering my account while 2FA is enabled) I knew a chatbot wouldn't be able to help me. Then having to navigate through all the useless information before getting to someone that can understand the context of my problem adds a lot to the frustration.

  9. 1

    Love everything about this post. Chatbots are the very definition of impersonal customer service—they are glorified phone tree routing. https://www.outseta.com/posts/4-neglected-truths-about-live-chat-for-start-ups

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