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Your Chatbot Needs Better Small Talk

If you work in customer care, you’ve been talking about chatbots for about a decade. Your organization may have been using a chatbot for almost that long. You’ve heard or participated in all the chatbot debates, and likely heard the following:

  • “Chatbots ruin the customer experience”
  • “Chatbots save the contact center big money”
  • “Chatbots are an obstacle to interacting with a human agent”
  • “Customers prefer interacting with chatbots”

One thing that’s not up for debate: Chatbots are here to stay. According to the Salesforce “State of Service 2021” report, decision makers between 2018 and 2020 reported an 87% increase in their teams’ use of chatbots.

I expect this increase to continue. Chatbots work better than they used to, customers have grown accustomed to them, and most people would do anything to avoid the 1-800 phone number and the IVR.

However, it is also clear that chatbots need better small talk. Whether they’re successfully replacing a human agent or interacting with the customer before the human agent takes over, chatbots must be configured to greet the customer with natural-sounding phrases that start the self-service interaction right. Too many organizations accept the chatbot’s preset greeting text or start the conversation by presenting questions they’d like the customer to ask.

Customer service small talk (greeting words, opening questions, invitations to interact, etc.) isn’t small at all. The conversation starters we humans use when we interact with customers influence how well we resolve their issues and how satisfied they are with our service. The same holds true for chatbots. When they’re bad at small talk, they harm important customer service outcomes.

Learn from the chatbot small talk mistakes these companies made, so you won’t make them with your chatbot.








There’s no excuse for bad bot small talk. After all, you have more control over what your chatbot says than you do over what your human agents say. Don’t let your chatbot harm customer experience by sounding false or ignorant. Don’t let it cause the customer extra effort. Develop your chatbot so it has the social graces required to start a conversation.