US survey says shoppers want less automation, more human interaction with customer service

Consumers want more human interaction and less automation (Image credit/Pixabay/Geralt}Usabilla has published a report that indicates consumers across generations crave human interaction when engaging with brands via customer service. Gartner has previously predicted that chatbots will power 85 percent of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. But is that what consumers really want?

In August 2018, Usabilla surveyed 1,000 US consumers who have used any customer service options that allowed them to completely avoid human interaction. This included FAQ section, chatbot, automated options. Usabilla surveyed customers evenly divided across five age groups: 18-21, 22-37, 38-52, 53-72, and 72+.

Wanting the human touch

The report revealed that, despite misconceptions of robots taking over, consumers still want human interaction while navigating digital assets. What’s more, they don’t expect, nor want technology to replace real people. It’s true consumers are open-minded about using technology like chatbots that save time and make life easier. But they still trust humans to help solve more complex problems and make experiences such as online shopping, filling a prescription or making a bank deposit — more enjoyable.

The survey revealed that consumers are largely content with current technology. When asked if brands were creating enough opportunities to eliminate human interaction, 66 percent said “yes.” Almost one in five (18 percent) of customers, say they ALWAYS prefer to interact with humans when engaging with brands, regardless of the circumstance.

Its good to talk for all generations

So how do customers prefer to interact with brands? Surprisingly, 55 percent reported they prefer speaking with human customer service agents over the phone. A preference to talk on the phone was fairly consistent across the generations. Baby boomers and the silent generation skewing slightly higher (62 and 67 percent, respectively).

Supporting these findings, the data also shows that, when faced with the dreaded phone-tree, 73 percent of shoppers skip the robo-call, often pressing “O” to reach a human first.

In some cases, consumers would prefer to talk to humans even if technology would be more efficient. Forty-six percent of all respondents would still choose human interaction over a chatbot even if the latter saved them 10 minutes. This is skewed even higher for younger generations (60 percent for Generation Z and 50 percent for millennials). The report suggests that the digital natives might have a case of tech fatigue.

Customer service: Human vs chatbot

When asked why they’d choose a human over a chatbot, “I want to connect with a real human who can understand my problem,” emerged as the top reason. (43 percent reporting this) — Over concerns like efficiency, data security and more.

70 percent of the survey’s respondents have used chatbots already, and of those who haven’t, 60 percent would feel comfortable doing so.

Additionally, 52 percent of shoppers have positive feelings toward tech development as it relates to AI. Some brands may have perceptions that chatbots might scare off customers because of “creepiness,” this is unwarranted. Less than 1 percent of respondents reported they’d choose a human representative over a chatbot because they are “creeped out” by chatbots.

In other words, customers aren’t turned off by tech — brands just need to know when and how to implement it. In general, customers prefer to use online tech (like chatbots) when it increases efficiency.

For example, customers mainly want to use chatbots when solving simple problems. When asked why they’d prefer using a chatbot over speaking with a person, 36 percent of consumers report they’d do so when they have a simple request, question or issue that doesn’t need a human touch.

Additionally, 35 percent of customers report the number one reason they’d use a chatbot would be to save time. And 54 percent of respondents said they would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service rep if it saved them 10 minutes.

The takeaway? Online tech should primarily make routine experiences (like transactions) more efficient. The human element is still largely what not only leads to memorable experiences. And, consumers view humans as better equipped to handle more complex issues. With that in mind, rely on tech to simplify and streamline interactions.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean for businesses?

Businesses are in a race to incorporate the most engaging and exciting technology into the customer experience. Increasingly, brands are using tech like AI, AR/VR and chatbots to improve efficiency and create more personalised experiences for customers. This is largely a good thing. But looking forward, brands can’t ignore a critical component: The human element.

With that in mind, businesses need to balance innovation and human interaction. This may entail more opportunities for customers to engage with real human being during the customer journey. This may require more customer service personnel, better training or more options for customers to interact with real people during the customer journey.

There are real consequences for brands that get self-service wrong. Loss of customers, negative social reviews, and diminishing brand reputation. Usabilla’s research has reinforced this. 74 percent of customers said they would stop doing business entirely because of the bad experience. Additionally, the data shows that customers are likely to abandon brands that don’t put effort into their needs or resolving recurring issues.


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