Chatbot FOMO: Is the current chatbot growth rate sustainable?

Since chatbots took off in 2016, they have fast become one of the hottest technology trends in the communication landscape. In fact, the surge in chatbots has led to a Gartner prediction that over 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020.

More and more brands are staffing their websites with AI assistants. Elsewhere in the chatbot ecosystem, bot building platforms are increasing, NLP providers are getting smarter, and competing chatbot analytics services are popping up. Businesses, it would seem, just can’t get enough of bots.

And FOMO (fear of missing out) seems to be one of the main forces behind the sudden advance and brand adoption of chatbots. But is the growth of chatbots merely a FOMO-fuelled craze, or will the surge be sustained?

Chatbot novelty

The human brain is wired to draw our attention to new things. New things are interesting – and we can be easily distracted by them. It’s known as the shiny object syndrome, and currently, chatbots are the new shiny thing catching our attention online. So, is it just the novelty that has businesses jumping on the chatbot train?

Novelty and FOMO tend to go hand in hand. Shiny object syndrome sees people suffer from the fear of missing out on the new trend and the attention that goes with it. Customer attention is incredibly important, after all. If chatbots have captured consumer attention, then you should get one, right?

There are dangers to jumping on the shiny object bandwagon though. New doesn’t always mean ‘good’ or the ‘right’ decision for your business.  If chatbot growth is being driven by the fear of missing out on the attention generated by shiny object syndrome, the question is whether chatbots are a solid investment, or fool’s gold?

Chatbot FOMO

There are several FOMO factors pushing the popularity and growth of chatbots.

FOMO on popularity

Online messaging is outperforming traditional texting. It is one of the most popular methods of communication today, across all age generations. And after acquiring this taste for instant messaging, consumers increasingly expect to be able to communicate with businesses in real time.  (The live chat software shift from luxury to necessity is all the proof of this you could need.)

Chatbots feed off online messaging popularity. So, chatbot growth can partly be attributed to businesses wanting to cash in on the mass popularity of instant messaging apps. Brands have trend FOMO, and don’t want to be perceived as behind the times.

FOMO on 24/7 service

Live chat software and instant messaging are popular because they offer instant gratification. People like real-time because they have their query solved when they ask it. This level of attentive service is becoming increasingly expected. But, your customer support team are likely human. They need to sleep, eat, and contact customer service teams about their own product problems.

Enter chatbots. A well deployed chatbot can subsidise human support when it isn’t available – such as in the middle of the night, or when all your representatives are busy. A chatbot can answer easy questions and reduce the chat volume for your busy team members. 

The drive for 24/7 service has led to the fear of missing out on round the clock availability. To stay competitive, brands increasingly need to be able to support customers who contact even at the ‘wrong’ time. It’s a fair reason – you want to be there for your customers when they need you, no matter the time of day. A chatbot can do that; it doesn’t need sleep.

FOMO on AI advancements

Advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing are also another driving force cited in the growth of chatbots. As AI advances, chatbots become smarter, and their scope becomes wider.

These exciting new developments in AI are producing further FOMO fuel for chatbots. Chatbots are one of the most useful, versatile and well-known applications of AI on the scene. For brands keen to keep up with AI, a chatbot is a practical emblem of AI adoption.

FOMO sustainability

So, is the fear of missing out enough of a driving force to sustain chatbot growth, or will chatbots fizzle out as soon as the initial shiny-object syndrome wears off?

Firstly, we must factor in the continued popularity of live chat/messaging apps. There is still a strong need for real time support – and it has now been around long enough for the novelty to wear off. Companies not able to offer live support should be suffering from FOMO, because they are missing out. The popularity of messaging apps is showing no signs of slowing. And if real-time messaging is set to stay, so too are chatbots.

Secondly, for chatbot growth to continue at the same rate, the novelty must be kept alive. AI and its evolution will be instrumental in keeping chatbots fresh. Continued advancements will sustain the novelty of AI and chatbot technology as it improves. There will likely be a shift from text-based chat to voice based in the future, with voice recognition chatbots such as Siri and Alexa paving the way. But as long as there are new advancements in chatbot technology, the novelty will remain.

Beware of hasty, FOMO-fuelled deployment

FOMO-fuelled growth isn’t necessarily a good thing for the longevity of chatbots. Rapid introduction and hype around new technology can lead to overlooked dangers and failures. Chatbots are no exception – just take Microsoft’s Tay as an example – chatbots simply aren’t infallible.

There are also dangers of incorrect implementation of chatbots. Used right, they can provide a 24/7 service with smooth, effortless and simple customer interactions, all while reducing the strain on your customer support teams. But completely robotising your customer service – a danger those under chatbot FOMO are prone to – can ruin the customer experience.

For chatbot growth to be sustainable, their benefits must outweigh any negative press. They need to improve, and brands need to use them with caution. A hasty FOMO-fuelled deployment can easily lead to chatbot sins, an overabundance of which could stunt future chatbot growth.

Growth by novelty, or death by FOMO?

Chatbots aren’t demons. They’re a great emerging tool for digital marketing and customer service teams – when used correctly. The growth of chatbots might be FOMO fuelled, but it’ll be sustained by innovation and continued advancements.

Chatbots are still young, and the chatbot timeline is still unfolding as you read this. It’s unknown whether they will grow into a customer service titan, or simply settle into a comfortable necessity. One thing that is certain: chatbots have a lot more growing to do yet.

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