Customer Service Bot

Edit: I had this post fully written up, but forgot to publish it! Sorry!

Certain people starting in customer service (usually technical people) sometimes have the tendency to turn into what I call “customer service bots.”

About customer service bots.
Customer service bots are men and women who love their operating procedures and follow them down to the letter. Their statements are very rarely more than a couple of words and lack emotion. Customer service bots never expression emotion, either.

Limited phrases.
Customer service bots have an extensive vocabulary that can ask questions like “What is your account number?” or “What is the error message?”. They can also respond to statements and sometimes say things like “Thank you” or “Hold on please”. There is no small talk – it’s all about business.

They get the issue resolved.
Customer service bots seem to get the issue resolved more often than not. Their etiquette may not compare to that of normal customer service representatives, but from my experiences, customer service bots are pretty good at actually resolving issues.

Lots of dead air.
Because of their short sentences/phrases, customer service bots seem to have an unnatural ability to create dead air [PDF download]. It makes the experience even more awkward.

I’m not 100% sure why people turn into customer service bots. Almost every customer service bot I’ve run into is a technical person. They have had technical training and a tech background. There are sales customer service bots, but they aren’t very effective.

So how do you prevent people from turning into customer service bots? It’s hard, because it seems to be more of a personality thing than something specific to the organization or how they do things. Work with representatives that seem like customer service bots. Try to improve their phone and people skills. Both are possible to teach.

If you find that you do have customer service bots, here is what you can do. Mention their bot like traits and see if they are aware of it. They may not be aware of it and can work to improve it. If you don’t see any improvement, consider putting the person in a job that requires less customer interaction and may better utilize the person’s technical skills.

Customer service bots aren’t bad people. They just aren’t overly friendly.

2 Responses to “Customer Service Bot”

  1. Vance said:

    Jun 07, 07 at 4:45 pm

    When you’re in an enterprise support situation (as opposed to consumer support), there are certain things you can’t say and a very specific tone you can use. It’s very easy (tempting?) to turn into a bot once you learn this tone and what’s safe to say, since it helps you avoid crossing any lines you shouldn’t.

    I think only when support personnel don’t have to worry about offending a customer or losing a sales opportunity will support bots go away. I’m not sure how such a rosy future could come about, unfortunately.

    Here’s a simple matrix that shows the problem:

    A = Using Dynamic Language | B = Using Safe Language

    1. Forgiving Customer on Phone.
    A: Neutral to very positive experience.
    B: Neutral to positive experience.

    2. Unforgiving Customer on Phone.
    A: Negative to very positive experience.
    B: Neutral to positive experience.

    So by using safe (bot) language, a support rep can attain a pretty consistent neutral/positive experience for both forgiving and unforgiving customers.

    By using dynamic language, a support rep does have the opportunity to give some folks a very positive experience, but also has the opportunity to cause a negative experience for unforgiving customers. More importantly, this is the ONLY scenario by which the support rep could cause a negative experience.

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jun 07, 07 at 10:22 pm

    Vance –

    Thanks for your comment! Good points. I agree with you – being a bot is low risk. However, if you want to go beyond “acceptable”, there is some risk involved. Customer service bots simply can’t provide a “great” customer service experience.

    Thanks again for your comment.