Chatbots. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

Or can we? 🤔

The jury is still out on chatbots over here, which is why we felt it was our moral marketing duty to poll our audience on this heated topic.

And people sure had a lot to say! We received plenty of thoughtful, occasionally verbose, answers to our final open-ended question. More on that in a bit.

First, we needed to make sure we were dealing with a crowd who was at least vaguely familiar with the concept of a chatbot.

Here’s what we found:

Question 1: Do you know what chatbots are?

Unsurprisingly, the majority of our audience replied yes to this answer, which means the results of our following questions are pretty valid.

Question 2: Have you interacted with a chatbot before?

Should we consider the 13% who replied “no” the lucky minority because they’ve yet to have the pleasure of conversing with a chatbot during an average session of web-based research, bill-paying or shopping? Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Question 3: On a scale of 1-5, how useful do you find chatbots?

Now here’s where it gets fun.

It appears that the majority (66%) of us are a bit wishy washy when it comes to the subject of chatbots, replying either “kind of annoying” or “kind of useful.”

But some of us are very clearly divided on the matter.

These numbers only tell a portion of the story. Finally (and thankfully), we included a more open-ended question as our final part of the survey:

Question 4: Do you have any subjective comments or feelings about using chatbots?

We definitely struck a nerve here. Nearly 70% of respondents made it through the survey to this open-ended question.

The results were useful, to say the least.

Here are the themes we found:

Chatbots with good logic work

If programmed well, chatbots are generally seen as OK and helpful. If not, they become frustrating, and fast.

Chatbots that dead-end or return irrelevant search results with a question of “How successful were we at solving your issue?” are not helpful in the least.

Chatbots must be able to seamlessly take users through a funnel of information to solve their problems. And if a problem falls outside the parameters of the chatbot, the user should be connected to a real person who can help.

Chatbots that are hard to dismiss are annoying (bad UX)

Chatbots are extremely annoying if they continue to pop up after the user tries to dismiss them. This hurts user experience and, in some instances, respondents said they would actually leave the site (never to return) if they can’t get rid of a chatbot popup.

In other cases, respondents said chatbots were OK as long as they are out of the way and available only when users need them (aka not in their face the entire time).

Chatbots are helpful for the phone-averse

Chatbots offer an easy way for users to find answers to their questions without having to actually call a support line. Some respondents said they “prefer [chatbots] over phone service.”

A few respondents noted that live chats (different from the typical chatbot scenario) are even more useful to people who don’t like calling in.

One respondent mentioned email support is another preferred method (instead of dealing with a chatbot), and wished this existed more.

Chatbots are more useful in some scenarios than others

Many respondents noted that chatbots are helpful for customer-service experience but that they fail in sales-specific instances.

Chatbots work well on ecommerce sites but are less effective on business sites.

Again, this probably comes down to how the chatbot has been programmed and how effectively it solves users’ problems.

A number of respondents noted that most chatbots they encountered were just repurposing the FAQs section of the site. Some found this annoying because they could easily search for this information themselves via site search.

Some chatbots are fast enough, some too slow

Most respondents agreed that chatbots which answered their questions quickly and succinctly were helpful. Some even said they loved the speed and “instant gratification” of a problem solved.

However, others noted that chatbots were too slow. They considered it a waste of their time to have a failed encounter with a chatbot where they could have been more immediately assisted by a real person.

General takeaways:

Based on the majority of the responses, it was clear that feelings about chatbots are mixed. Some understand they’re a necessary part of the future of online user experience and that they bridge the gap between customer and company more seamlessly. Most feel as though they’re not quite “ready for primetime.”

Whether or not you’re planning on implementing a chatbot for your business in the future, your success will be determined by how well you understand what your prospects and customers need from you.

What do you think about chatbots? Let us know in the comments!

Lauren Fox is the Senior Creative Manager at Brafton. When she's not busy annoying the heck out of her one-eyed tuxedo cat Jack, she's either exploring one of the many hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest or cooking up a tasty meal in her tiny kitchen in Seattle.