What Do Your Customers Actually Think About Chatbots?

Chatbots today are what mobile apps were in 2012. Every business wants one. But what do consumers actually think of them?

That’s what we were wondering here at Userlike . We found studies on chatbot perceptions, but we weren’t convinced of their reliability. Most were published by companies with a clear interest in proving the benefit of chatbots, like chatbot building platforms.

image of Switzerland with Userlike logo in the middle

At Userlike, we provide live chat software for human support teams, and we offer a Logic Bot and chatbot API for our customers to connect their bot to. But bots aren’t our main shebang.

In a sense we’re Switzerland; neutral, but curious about the fuss surrounding chatbots since we now offer our own automation options.

Our goal was to learn if respondents had used a chatbot before, how they felt about the experience, and the pros and cons of chatbot use. We also dug deeper to find out how the consumer views a company that employs a chatbot and in which situations a chatbot is helpful.

Some answers were expected, but others were just plain surprising. We’re excited to share our findings with you.

Continue reading for the full results.

  1. Results
  2. Our methodology
  3. Demographics
  4. Get started with chatbots

1
80% of respondents have interacted with a chatbot before

Out of 415 respondents, 333 answered “yes” when asked if they had ever chatted with a chatbot before.

This answer is unsurprising considering chatbot use across websites and devices has risen in popularity since 2016.

graph showing that most respondents have chatted with a bot

About 75% of respondents who have never chatted with a chatbot are over the age of 45.

graph showing people between 45-59 have never chatted with a bot

This also didn’t come as a great surprise since other studies have shown that younger generations are more open to using new technology. Chances are high that Generation Z and millennials are willing and likely to try out your chatbot.

2
Most respondents prefer waiting for an agent, but are open to chatting with a chatbot first

At least 60% of respondents answered that they would prefer to wait in a queue if it meant they could immediately speak with a human agent.

graph showing consumers prefer human help

However, if given the option, more than half of respondents also said that they would be willing to talk to a chatbot initially in order to be transferred to an agent. If you connect your chatbot to our live chat solution, then bot-to-human handovers are possible at any time.

infographic of messaging support in the adoption curve, a major customer service trend

We also asked respondents to rate the most important things companies get right when using chatbots, and 77% chose being given the option to escalate to a human agent as a top answer. At least 61% of respondents also said that they’d personally use a chatbot to find a human agent.

Our theory, based on years of research for our chatbot posts , is that people are used to phone trees that can help with basic account management and expect a chatbot to have those same limitations. Many of today’s chatbots are button-based, which already scream “I’m limited in how I can help you.”

Button-based chatbots are ideal for answering frequently asked questions, but it makes sense to have a fallback option like Userlike . It also helps to take extra care in your chatbot design and funnels so that difficult questions and requests are appropriately forwarded.

3
Respondents like how quickly chatbots respond

When asked to choose the most positive aspects of chatting with a chatbot, 68% of respondents liked that a chatbot answered them quickly. The next positive aspects were that the chatbot could transfer them to an agent and help them outside of service hours.

graph showing a chatbot's quick responses as being the most positive aspect

Respondents also appreciate that chatbots can help outside of service hours and forward messages to an agent. Honestly, isn’t that why chatbots exist in business anyway? They work 24/7, help capture hot leads and take the burden of answering FAQs and performing simple tasks off of your agents. Not to mention they can be incredibly inexpensive .

4
Chatbots are fast and convenient, but have their limits

Respondents like that chatbots are immediately available and respond quickly, but most people said that chatbots had too much trouble understanding their request or didn’t know how to resolve their issue.

graph showing chatbot's incapability to answer question as a main negative aspect

Expecting customers to follow your ideal conversational flow is one of five common chatbot fails . It can result in conversational dead ends or confuse the chatbot, especially if customers are unclear or explain their issue in a way that is too detailed for the chatbot to understand.

According to one of the respondents: “I've experienced very broken chatbots. There should be adequate testing for the bot before it’s used to help people who are already having difficulties and end up dealing with a chatbot that only makes matters worse.”

Again, we don’t know what types of bots respondents have used. But people are likely to run into communication issues since most chatbots use narrow AI and don’t understand nuance.

One respondent even said: “IT departments have a long way to go before they develop a chatbot that can capably handle the nuances of language and complex questions, which are challenging even for a human service person.”

You won’t be able to cover every question or topic deviation because people can be unpredictable. This is why it’s important to connect your chatbot to live chat so customers can easily request an agent when things go south.

5
Respondents trust chatbots with basic requests

Respondents are willing to chat with a bot for simple inquiries (product specifications, order status, shipping policies). However, this begs the question: How much do people trust chatbots?

At least 54% of respondents would use a chatbot to ask about a product and 30% would use it to pay a bill. Only 23% of respondents are willing to settle disputes through bots.

graph showing respondents would use a chatbot to find an human agent

One respondent said: “I think they’re great if they can successfully help you solve your problem. They are helpful for processing returns.”

Customer service agents answer a lot of repeat questions, which can be easily outsourced to a chatbot. According to the results, if a request is simple or not urgent, customers don’t mind asking a chatbot.

Perhaps if most chatbot’s AI were at the same level of the ten best chatbots of 2021 , then people would trust chatbots even more with their requests.

6
Chatbots should never pretend to be human

More than half of our respondents (54%) want chatbots to make it clear that they’re a bot, which is completely fair. Bots should avoid entering the uncanny valley; it’s deceptive and downright creepy.

example image of a fish chatbot
A creative name, image and text help make it clear that a customer is speaking with a bot

Chatbots aren’t a replacement for human agents, and like we mentioned above, use too narrow of AI to be convincing. You risk losing your customers’ trust if you try to slap a stock image on a bot and name it Mike. You’re just one conversation error away from making your business look like a big fat scam.

7
Few respondents think a company shouldn’t use a chatbot

Only 9% of respondents answered that a company shouldn’t use a chatbot.

graph showing that consumers think the option to transfer to an agent is important

Also, on a scale of 1-5, most respondents selected one or three when asked if they consider chatbots innovative. This could suggest that consumers accept chatbots as the new norm that do have value and are welcome to stay. Or perhaps consumers are curious to see how AI develops over the next few years.

Our methodology

Our results come from a mixture of questionnaires we created on online survey platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and SurveyMonkey . A total of 415 people completed the survey.

Respondents were paid for their time but we represented ourselves neutrally and without incentive for people to answer in any specific way.

Demographics

The survey was 10 questions long and devoid of any confusing technical jargon to make it appropriate for everyone. We learned that most respondents identify as female and are between the ages of 30-44.

pie chart showing that most respondents are women
pie chart showing that most respondents are between 30-44

Not many people 60 years and older responded to the survey, which is unsurprising since only 11% of users on MTurk are above 50. It’s primarily used by people in their 30s and 40s. It’s perhaps the same for SurveyMonkey.

People aged 55+ are also less likely to use software like live chat , which may mirror chatbot usage. Older demographics tend to prefer phone calls since it’s familiar and has a more personal touch.

Get started with chatbots

Though consumers say they prefer waiting to speak with an agent, chatbots can still help reduce service costs by 30% . Their fast response times and ability to resolve simple requests are still distinct benefits that work. Chatbots can’t replace human agents , but they certainly do take a load off of them.

That’s why we used these insights to help develop our own chatbot capabilities here at Userlike. With our Logic Bot , we make it easier for businesses to use automation to create a human connection with customers.

As a customer messaging company, we understand the value of having agents as the first contact for customers. But we also see the value in using chatbots as assistants or as part of your sales funnel .

That’s why our chatbot lives in the Website Messenger and can be set up to proactively approach and navigate customers.

screenshot of BMW's homepage using a Userlike chatbot
BMW uses their Userlike chatbot as the first point of contact

With our chatbot API , you can also connect your advanced chatbot, like IBM Watson or Cognigy . Then you can offer chatbot support that consumers currently value most — instant help when they need it.

Sign up for a free trial of Userlike and reach out to us in the chat on our website if you want to talk bots. For more chatbot help and resources, check out our guide to chatbots in business .