When Bots go Bad – Avoiding the Pitfalls of Poor Chatbot Deployment

Once the nadir of online lead generation, the ‘thing’ we were all told we needed to engage our audiences, could it now be that the chatbot is dead, lost to overuse, misuse and user derision.

The chatbot cursor blinks, asking for the umpteenth time for a piece of information provided five lines ago.

This is online banking, so the security should be tight. But should it be so tight that it takes roughly as long to ask an accounts question as it does to set up a brand new challenger banking brand?

We’ve all been here. We’ve been here with our bank, our telephone company, our online shop of choice, and when ordering our Friday night takeaway. We’ve all repeated the same information several times and screamed (or, more likely, written): “please let me talk to a human!”


Chatbot deployment has ballooned over the last few years. Chatbot specialist Drift’s 2020 ‘The State of Conversational Marketing’ report put the figure at a 92% increase since 2019.

But in all likelihood, you don’t need a statistic to tell you that, because you’ve seen chatbots everywhere, and herein lies the beginnings of the problem with bots.

Chatbots promise automation, time-saving and an increase in personal or conversational marketing. All good things, which is why a huge percentage of companies have added them to their websites since 2019.

This explains why Gartner predicted that, by 2021, ‘more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development’. Yes, chatbots are outpacing app spending.

And that’s not all. By 2022, chatbots should be saving businesses $8 billion per annum, with 2.5 billion human hours saved per year by 2023.

All of which has led to the proliferation of chatbots in our daily lives. Unlike an ephemeral and creative marketing campaign, which may or may not work, chatbots offer businesses a universal truth; ‘deploy us, human masters, and you will save time and money.’

But at what cost?


The global chatbot marketplace is predicted to exceed $1.3 billion by 2023. For context; that’s roughly the same level as Twitter’s current advertising revenue.

In a marketplace that size there will be some mistakes. There are plenty of bad Twitter adverts. There will be plenty of bad bot deployments in the next two years as well.

Drift’s report contains a fascinating section where they highlight that ‘Experiences with Conversational Marketing Solutions Are Mixed’.

Just 44% of users say that their experience with chatbots has been positive. 43% put themselves into the ‘OK’ or ‘neutral’ range. 13% consider their experience to be ‘negative’ or ‘need improvement’.

In a traditional Net Promoter Score feedback system, that looks suspiciously like just 44% of users would class as ‘promoters’, with the remaining 66% potentially disparaging chatbots to some degree.

A separate study of 5,000 consumers and 500 marketers, across three continents, seems to concur; 45% of that study’s respondents labelled chatbots as ‘annoying’.

It’s very clear that with overuse has come misuse. Chatbots don’t always ‘do what they say on the tin’. There’s a strong case that it’s more likely that your website chatbot is turning away customers than it is helping you to convert or satisfy them.

Bots promise saved time and saved money and, very often, they also deliver on those promises.

But if chatbots are saving your company time and money, at the expense of customer goodwill, willingness to repeat purchase and overall brand satisfaction then it’s high time for a rethink.

Saving the bot

It should be no surprise that it’s no longer enough to just have a bot ready and waiting for your website visitors; if the bot isn’t helping you to connect with more customers, or is having a detrimental effect, then it is doing more harm than good.

There are good chatbots out there. There are GREAT chatbots out there. A properly deployed chatbot takes time, testing and a programme of rigorous optimisation, which can seem like a lot of work, but the payoff is worth the effort. Rather than frustrated customers hitting caps lock to demand to “SPEAK TO A PERSON” you can resolve problems, signpost solutions and increase sales, conversions and, most importantly, happy customers.

If you’re serious about channel shift and genuinely committeed to great customer service, you already know you can’t deliver the results you’re looking for with a token effort. The long and short of it is that you have to train your bot.

If you are interested in channel shift or want to talk more about automated customer flows, talk to us at hello@numagoo.com.

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