Get in the bin: Automated “Support” Chatbots

If my problem could have been resolved by reading a fucking help article, I would have read said article and not had to resort to awkwardly “chatting” with a patronising script regurgitation machine.

Has anyone else noticed the explosion in support chatbots over the past few years? Sometimes they like to call them something else to try and trick you into thinking they’ll actually be of any use whatsoever, like Amazon’s “Messaging Assistant”.

Well they just need to piss off, actually.

Look, I don’t often have problems with consumer-facing businesses the type of which would require me to go looking for help. I know how to cancel an order or redirect a delivery or find out what the return process is. I consider myself to be reasonably competent at clicking buttons on a screen.

But sometimes, the interface provided to me just doesn’t do what I need it to do. Take, for example, my skincare subscription. I’ve been using Lumin Skin for almost a year now, and I like their products. They offer a range of subscription plans containing various products. I quickly realised however that not only was the anti-fatigue eye cream basically not doing anything for me, it was also the single most expensive item in my subscription plan. Cutting it out would save me money and, IMO, my skin wouldn’t be any worse off for it.

When you login to the customer portal, you get buttons and links and options to cancel the plan, delay a delivery, update your shipping address… but there’s no button to actually change the plan that you’re on. Which is especially weird, because there is a button for you to add an additional, new plan, and there you can select any one of their plans, including the one I wanted to switch to.

So, I’m reading around the written support articles, looking for a way to do what it is I need to do. But the help I need is just not there. The particular problem I am having isn’t covered by any kind of pre-defined process that the company has set up for its customers.

At this point, some bright spark at the company must have thought: “hey, why don’t we take the article the customer has just read and make them read it again, only this time it’s in a tiny little window in the bottom-right corner of the page, and it can only be read line by line by answering a series of questions?”

Wait… what?

Yeah, what a stupid idea. Bin it.


My advice:
If you also can’t be fucked dealing with this bullshit, just write the word “human” as the first message. It usually starts a conversation with an actual human who, you know, can actually do the thing you came there to do. Or, if you’re unlucky, they admit that the entire concept of a “live support” was a sham and the only option you have is to send a good old fashioned email where you can expect a response within 2 – 4 working years. Good luck.