Chatbots vs Humans: Who wins the battle for consumer preference?
Creating emotion: a happy customer will buy again
Empathy. Identification. Complicity. Emotional intelligence to understand complex issues. These are some of the reasons why most consumers still prefer human interaction when it comes to client support. Quoting Lemuel Cintra, BoaCompra's Customer Relationship Manager, When the clients notice that someone on the other side feels their pain, interacts with emotion, celebrates a problem reaching its resolution, the initial scenario of “conflict” turns into a relationship of collaboration.
When you’re in the business of selling a product or providing a service, the ultimate goal is to keep the client returning. That is achieved not only by satisfaction with the product or service but also by turning the customer assistant into a “friend”. That kind of relationship is built by creating an emotional connection, and artificial intelligence still can’t do that in an effective way. It’s true we hear robots are taking over online cus-tomer service but according to a 2018 survey by Usabilla, those rumors are highly exaggerated.
Are digital natives tired of technology?
Using a sample of 1,000 US internet users of different generations, the study showed that 55% of the people surveyed still prefer talking to another human being over the phone and 46% said they would continue to choose human interaction even if a chatbot saved them 10 minutes. This choice is common to consumers across generations. Despite the numbers being slightly higher when older people are answering, they are still remarkably high among younger and “native to digital technologies” consumers like Generation Z and Millennials.
Even so, Pegasystems says that, by 2020, 25% of customer service operations will use chatbots or virtual assistant technologies, a significant increase from just 2% in 2017. That said, what still makes consumers prefer human interaction? The problem seems to be chatbots aren’t smart enough to meet high expecta-tions and solve complex problems. Consumers tend to favor them when they need simple tasks done quickly, such as:
- Tracking an order
- Finding basic information
- Asking basic questions
Technology has to be useful, not just cutting edge
According to a PwC survey done among 15,000 people from 12 different countries - including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia - the future for efficient customer service is human interaction supported by “seamless and unobtrusive technology”. Technology must fulfill the need for speed, efficiency, and convenience, but also nurture the contact with more helpful employees and a friendlier service, two aspects of client support highly valued by consumers. It’s the best of both worlds working together to build a more satisfying experience.
Considering the same survey, a good client support can be a more effective marketing tool than an ad campaign. 73% of all people surveyed said customer service experience helps them choose when they are in doubt between buying options, and 49% of LATAM consumers said they wouldn’t return to a brand or company they love after having just one bad experience.
Independence: a key factor for a better client support
Another interesting conclusion about consumer preferences when it comes to client support is that they want to be self-sufficient. Companies must invest in user friendly systems - easy and intuitive - that allow consumers to solve some tasks without resorting to chatbots or service agents. Numbers show that most businesses must be on the right way in what concerns this because 87% of the people surveyed by Usabilla said they are satisfied with the ability to solve issues on their own by using a brand’s website.
All things considered, what makes a good customer support service?
- Make sure online chats and e-mails are available around the clock: instant availability at all hours is es-sential for clients that don’t have much time and that is the case for most consumers in the 21st century;
- Despite the previous point, providing access to human assistants, as much as possible, is essential. Remember, it’s the best of both worlds that provides the ultimate consumer experience;
- Invest in having a multilingual client support: identification starts with language;
- Make sure the service is seamless and equally effective between all platforms: most clients are just as likely to access your website via computer, tablet or smartphone and will probably switch between devices depending on convenience;
- Your website needs to be user-friendly for simple tasks such as tracking an order or changing payment or personal information.
In conclusion, despite all the advances in technology we are still not at a point where the consumer is ready to let go of human connection. Maybe a couple of generations from now chatbots will be ready to take over client support, not because the desire for human interaction will drop but because technology will advance in a way that allows chatbots to simulate human qualities in a more satisfying way.