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Firm Management

AI Website Chatbots: A Double-Edged Sword for Firms

But what happens if your firm’s website chatbot shares incorrect information, sensitive data, or simply doesn’t work?

The rise of artificial intelligence has touched virtually every facet of business operations, and accounting firms are no exception. These intelligent systems promise increased efficiency and a transformative approach to client services. However, this cutting-edge technology also brings unique challenges, acting as a double-edged sword for those who wield it.

This article from Outgrow claims, “Chatbots are a great way to engage your potential and existing clients, reduce bounce rates, and resolve your audience’s most pressing questions.”

But what happens if your firm’s website chatbot shares incorrect information, sensitive data, or simply doesn’t work?

What is an AI chatbot?

IBM says, “A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation with an end user. Modern chatbots increasingly use conversational AI techniques like natural language processing (NLP) to understand the user’s questions and automate responses to them.”

They go on to say there are five types of chatbots, including:

  1. Menu or button-driven where users can interact clicking on the button options from a scripted menu.
  2. Rules-based chatbots use conditional if/then logic and basic keyword detection to develop conversational automation flows.
  3. AI-powered chatbots understand user’s questions, no matter how they’re phrased.
  4. Voice chatbots allow users to interact with the bot by speaking to it, rather than typing.
  5. Generative AI chatbots offer enhanced functionality because of their understanding of common language, ability to adapt to a user’s conversational style, and use of empathy when answering users’ questions.

The Bright Side: Advantages

Enhanced Customer Service

When users interact with a website chatbot, the program analyzes their input and applies various algorithms, including pattern recognition, sentiment analysis, and machine learning models, to determine the most appropriate response. When programmed correctly, it can handle multiple inquiries simultaneously.

24/7 Availability

Unlike their human counterparts, chatbots offer round-the-clock assistance. They offer immediate responses to clients’ questions, while showcasing the business’s commitment to providing excellent customer service.


AI chatbots can handle an increasing volume of queries and tasks without the need additional staff, thus providing a cost-effective scalability solution.

Data-Driven Insights

Data points collected from users can be analyzed to identify market trends and even operational risks. For example, if chatbot users frequently ask about e-commerce tax tips, it could be an opportunity for a new industry segment for the firm.

The Flip Side: Challenges

Could Be Difficult to Create

If you do not want AI to answer your chats, ahem…technical tax questions, you will need to leverage a chatbot that links to your resources. If you do not have resources, then they must be created. On the flip side, you can create and implement a chatbot within minutes using apps, plugins, or other third-party tools, but they will use AI resources to answer queries.

Lack of Personal Touch

Accounting is a relationship-driven profession. Some clients may find the impersonal nature of chatbots off-putting. The challenge lies in striking the right balance between automated efficiency and human interaction.

Complexity and Nuance Handling

AI systems have their limitations and may not handle complex, nuanced queries as effectively as a seasoned accountant. Misunderstandings or incorrect information provided by a chatbot can lead to client frustration and potential financial inaccuracies.

Initial Cost and Integration

Implementing AI technology requires a significant upfront investment. Firms must not only purchase the software but also spend time on integration, training, and ongoing maintenance, which can be a steep hill to climb for smaller practices.

This Finance Magnates article states, “Implementing chatbots can be expensive at first. Creating and training chatbots, as well as integrating them with existing systems and ensuring they correspond with company goals, necessitates an investment in both technology and talent.”

They also require ongoing maintenance and updates to function properly, it states. “Changes in user behavior, technology, or business processes may necessitate changes to the scripts and capabilities of the chatbot. Failure to update can result in outdated and ineffective chatbots.”

Data Security and Privacy Concerns

Entrusting sensitive financial data to AI chatbots raises legitimate concerns about data security and privacy. Firms must ensure that their systems are impervious to cyber threats and compliant with regulations like GDPR.

Best Practices

Congratulations! You have decided to implement a website chatbot.

Here are six suggestions to make the most out of your effort, including these tips from ProProfs “10 Best AI Chatbots for Improved Business Efficiency in 2023”.

  1. Define its scope and objectives. Basically, what do you want it to do? Consider these questions to help you get started.
    • What are my clients’ pain points?
    • Which tasks will they need assistance with, e.g., portal access and file uploads?
    • Who is my target audience?
  2. Create its brand voice, including:
    • Tone: If your brand were a person, what would that person sound like? It’s helpful to think of an actor portraying your brand.
    • Demographics: Age, gender, and other parameters used to identify your target market.
    • The social profile of your target market, including its hobbies, job(s), businesses, industry, sensitive topics, etc. are also relevant.
  3. Develop a user interface (UI) with a clean and simple design.
  4. Offer human-like interactions and be transparent about what the user is interacting with, e.g., chatbot or live chat with a human.
  5. Customize it with a grammatically-correct scripting, emojis in responses, and rich-media elements.
  6. Utilize quick replies at the beginning of the chat. Keep in mind, they are predefined responses users can choose from but may not match their actual query, e.g., What can we help you with (a) tax (b) bookkeeping (c) M&A, etc.?

While AI website chatbots present exciting opportunities for accounting firms, those that will thrive are the ones that manage to harness its strengths while navigating its limitations. 

As the technology matures and integrates more seamlessly into the fabric of accounting client services, it will undoubtedly reshape the industry — but it’s a tool to be handled with care.


Becky Livingston is the owner and CEO of Penheel Marketing, a New Jersey-based firm specializing in social media and digital marketing for CPAs. With over 25 years of marketing and tech experience, she is the author of “SEO for CPAs – The Accountant’s SEO Handbook” and the “The Accountant’s Social Media Handbook.” In addition to being a practitioner, she is a dog lover, an active Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) committee member, an adjunct professor, and HubSpot partner. Learn more about Becky and her firm at