MasterMinds: The Buzz on Service Bots

Customers prefer chatting with customer service bots for simple tasks, new research finds.

August 16, 2017

3 Min Read

**Editor’s Note: MasterMinds is a biweekly feature in which we invite leading master agents to share information, insights and expert opinions about what’s going on in their agencies, the IT/telecom channel or the business community in general.**

A report released in March by Forrester shows that educated buyers are doing their initial research online and even making simple purchases directly through websites without the participation of a salesperson. And in May, LivePerson Inc., a leading provider of cloud mobile and online business messaging solutions, released the results of new global consumer research that shows a similar trend in customer service — namely, tech is fine to a point, but then connect me to a human, please.

The research, which examined how consumers perceive bots in customer care, reveals that the usage of bots in customer care has gained momentum as consumers continue to demand faster and better service.

According to the research, the ideal wait time for consumers is less than two minutes; any longer than that and 52 percent of global consumers would not rate the customer service as “excellent.” Americans were among the most impatient, with 28 percent willing to wait only a maximum of one minute before no longer considering customer service to be excellent; 25 percent said they would wait two minutes.

Given that fast service is a priority for consumers, an increasing number of large brands are implementing bots into their digital and customer care strategies, and the survey suggests that consumers are now more accepting of this. Only 11 percent of consumers globally reported a negative perception of using a bot to communicate with a brand. Thirty-eight percent rate their overall perceptions of bots as positive, while 51 percent are neutral.

A higher number of consumers now perceive bots as there to help them get better and faster service. This is particularly true for millennials: More than half believe bots are there to provide improved service, as opposed to simply being a cost-savings tool for the company.

While consumer perceptions regarding bots are improving, many remain skeptical. Just over half (56 percent) of the people surveyed globally would still rather speak with a human — even if they have to wait for a short period of time — than chat with a bot immediately. The reason for this, according to 60 percent of respondents, is because a human will understand what they need better than a bot. The risk of being misunderstood is a primary concern, yes, but some consumers, particularly those in Europe, report occasionally lying or exaggerating to a customer care agent to get what they want — impossible to do with a bot.

However, in a scenario where a bot is just as accurate as…

…a human customer care agent, a majority of global consumers (55 percent) would prefer to chat with a bot over a human. According to the survey, consumers trust bots for simple tasks such as updating an address or confirming an account balance. For complex inquiries such as correcting a mistake on a bill, consumers would prefer a human to handle the issue.

And even though Americans are used to interacting with digital assistants with names and personalities, such as Siri and Alexa, the research shows that they apparently don’t care whether or not customer care bots have those features. But consumers in other countries do. Close to half of respondents in Germany (45 percent), France (44 percent) and Japan (42 percent) prefer customer service bots with names and personalities. And a friendly personality, as opposed to formal or humorous, is best.

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