Shoppers prefer human interaction over bots, says study

New research reveals 75 per cent of shoppers prefer live-agent support for customer service verses 25 per cent support for self service and chatbots.

The research, from cloud contact-centre operator NewVoiceMedia, identified consumer concerns about sharing sensitive information, a lack of understanding of bots and their inability to resolve issues.  

“Chatbots can provide customers with quick answers to frequently asked questions or issues, and the survey notes the benefit of chatbots for certain interactions, such as 24-seven service,” the survey’s authors concluded.

But when it comes to handling sensitive financial and personal information, most customers are more comfortable with a live agent, and just 13 per cent say they would be happy if all service interactions are replaced by bots in the future.    

Foremost among consumer concerns about using chatbots include:

  • A lack of understanding of the issue (65 per cent).
  • The inability to solve complex issues (63 per cent).
  • The inability of chatbots to provide answers to simple questions (49 per cent).
  • The lack of a personal service experience (45 per cent).

While less than half of the people surveyed (48 per cent) said they would be willing to use chat bots for service – versus the 38 per cent who wouldn’t – 46 per cent also felt that bots kept them from reaching a live person.

Banks (82 per cent) and medical services (75 per cent) were the businesses that people were least likely to want to deal with bots.  

Customers prefer live agents for technical support (91 per cent); getting a quick response in an emergency (89 per cent); making a complaint (86 per cent); buying an expensive item (82 per cent); purchase inquiries (79 per cent); returns and cancellations (73 per cent); booking appointments and reservations (59 per cent); and paying a bill (54 per cent). However, when asked about buying”a basic item”, 56 per cent would choose a chatbot over a live interaction.

The top benefit cited for dealing with chat bots was 24-hour service.

“When a situation becomes emotional or complex, people want to engage with people”, says Dennis Fois, president of NewVoiceMedia. “As businesses add more customer service channels, conversations are becoming more complex and higher value, and personal, emotive customer interactions play a critical role in bridging the gap for what digital innovation alone cannot solve,” he said.

“For this reason, companies must find the right balance between automation and human support to deliver the service that customers demand. Frontline contact centre teams will continue to be the difference makers on the battlefield to win the hearts and minds of customers, and organisations deploying self-service solutions should ensure that there is always an option to reach a live agent”.

There is a sense consumers may warm to chatbots in the future, however, given that younger respondents (aged 18-44) were more open to using chatbots overall and across the individual scenarios compared to older consumers (45-60+). 

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