Do customers still prefer speaking to a human, and not a chatbot?

Do customers still prefer speaking to a human, and not a chatbot?
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  • What do your customers really think of chatbots
  • Chatbots may have arrived as a blessing, but the lack of human touch could be plaguing their adoption
  • The worldwide adoption of robotics is expected to reach $107.3 billion in 2025, up from $7.6 billion in 2018, says the report, “Artificial Intelligence Market Forecasts,” based on research from Tractica.
While chatbots arrived on the customer connect scene as a boon, the going may not be too great right now. Various studies worldwide indicate that chatbots are not working for most customers, and many indicate the lack of human touch to be the issue.

As advertising and marketing costs rise, brands are relying on artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver a far cheaper and more efficient way to connect with customers and manage customer relations.

What do consumers think of chatbots?

With the cost of advertising continuing to rise, organic reach is dwindling on even the hottest channels. Brands know what works for them, but as reach becomes more costly, brands also know they need to find new ways to better engage and convert “default digital” consumers. For continuous, cost-effective connection with the customer, chatbots have been a good solution.
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With adequate training usng NLP and NLU programming, a chatbot is almost as good as a human and a service team member. While traditionally chatbots have been mechanical and inconsistent, modern conversational AI has changed all of that and now in many cases, it is difficult to tell them apart from a human at the other end of the line. They can offer human-like conversations, offer dynamic conversations and hold a chat as a human would.

Over the last few years, chatbots have been used by almost all industries and sectors, by their customer service teams, for various roles. Their understanding of human needs, communications, and language has now evolved into a smooth flow of conversation.

Adoption of chatbots has been rapid

The adoption of chatbots has been rapid and highly profitable. A survey by MasterCard and Mercator Advisory Group says that 66% of US consumers use chatbots and voice assistants, and 87% are aware these AI solutions are available to them.

A Salesforce-commissioned study re-iterates this, saying “58% of customers say emerging technologies like chatbots and voice assistants are changing their expectations of companies.” This adoption and acceptance grew rapidly over the last few years and according to Juniper Research, total retail sales via chatbots will rise to $112 billion by 2023, which is more than 15 times the 2021 figure of $7.3 billion.

But, despite these statistics, how do customers regard chatbots, when they want to connect with a brand?

Ideally, customers would look for a chatbot to be quick, easy, fun, friendly, helpful, engaging, and informative, in terms of customer communications. Their demeanour should be as good as, if not better than human sales connect, and their focus should be to provide excellent customer service, perhaps even drive more sales. With intelligent ML, chatbots can even recommend products and intuitively guide their needs, considering all value criteria. They can all but influence the choice mix for customers.

But at the end of the day, the utility of a chatbot is primarily dependent on the acceptance by the customer. Various studies have been conducted on this question, and some very interesting answers have come up.

Chatbots are fine, but customers still prefer speaking to a human

Userlike, a company that offers chatbot solutions did an insightful research on the opinions customers have of chatbots. In their survey of 415 respondents, 333 acknowledged that they had interacted with chatbots. That’s about 80%. But the preference for speaking to a human came across clearly when 60% of respondents said they would like to speak to a human immediately, even if it meant waiting in a queue. But 68% of them were happy about the speed of response of a chatbot. The three top advantages that a chatbot offered, respondents said, were the speed of response, the speed of transferring to a human, and the fact that they could answer outside of working hours as well- with 24*7 service.

But there are drawbacks too, and the biggest challenge was that chatbots did not immediately understand their communication. In fact, not only were they unable to understand requests, but they were also slow in resolving them. This could be the end of a conversation, even if the customer is not able to connect clearly with the chatbot. There are multiple nuances of language, tonality, cultural complexities and many other kinds of different communication failures between a customer and a chatbot.

In the survey, only 23% of the respondents said they would trust a chatbot to settle disputes, over half were comfortable using it to ask about a product, but only about a third would trust it to pay a bill. There are still trust issues. Interestingly, almost all the respondents trusted a chatbot most – to find a human customer service agent.

The trust levels with a chatbot are not there yet. And even more interestingly, more than half (54%) were uncomfortable if the chatbot tried to impersonate a human. Trying to talk like a human, crack human jokes- was, they felt- downright creepy. This could also cause companies to lose customers’ trust.

Whatever the case may be, the worldwide adoption of robotics is expected to reach $107.3 billion in 2025, up from $7.6 billion in 2018, says the report, “Artificial Intelligence Market Forecasts,” based on research from Tractica.

Putting all this data aside, it is pretty clear that while chatbots certainly have their uses, it will take a few more steps and some more time for them to become completely acceptable to customers, and get into a comfort zone that they have with human service teams.