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  • 8 December 2018 01:25

New research reveals 75 percent of customers still favour live agent support for customer service vs 25 percent self-service and chatbots

The research underscores the need to be purposeful when using chat bots; notes sharing sensitive information, lack of understanding and inability to solve issues among top concerns when using chat bots for service interactions

New research from NewVoiceMedia, a Vonage Company (NYSE:VG) and leading global provider of cloud contact centre and inside sales solutions, reveals that three-quarters of consumers prefer to have their customer service inquiries handled by a live agent over self-service options or a chat bot.

Chat bots can provide customers with quick answers to frequently asked questions or issues, and the survey notes the benefit of chat bots for certain interactions, such as 24/7 service. When it comes to handling sensitive financial and personal information, however, most customers are more comfortable with a live agent, and just 13 percent say they’d be happy if all service interactions are replaced by bots in the future.

According to the survey¹, top concerns for using chat bots for service include: lack of understanding of the issue (65 percent); inability to solve complex issues (63 percent) or get answers to simple questions (49 percent); and lack of a personal service experience (45 percent). Though 48 percent of respondents indicated they would be willing to use chat bots for service – versus the 38 percent who wouldn’t – 46 percent also felt that bots keep them from reaching a live person.

When asked about transactions for which they would not feel comfortable using a chat bot, a significant majority of respondents said large banking (82 percent), medical inquiries (75 percent) and small banking (60 percent). For frequently asked questions or common issues, however, chat bots can add efficiencies to the live agent’s day, freeing them to provide the extra care and time to more complex issues and to the customers who really need it.

“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. 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”.

A cloud contact centre solution presents businesses with the opportunity to take advantage of emerging technologies such as bots and AI technology, without losing that personal touch, creating a better customer experience. The key is providing customers with the right balance of personalised, white glove service by a live agent when they have the need for deeper, more complex customer care, while also giving them the ability to get quick answers to basic questions provided by chat bots through a variety of communications channels – chat, voice, SMS, or social messaging.

Customers prefer live agents for technical support (91 percent); getting a quick response in an emergency (89 percent); making a complaint (86 percent); buying an expensive item (82 percent); purchase inquiries (79 percent); returns and cancellations (73 percent); booking appointments and reservations (59 percent); and paying a bill (54 percent). However, when asked about buying a basic item, 56 percent would choose a chat bot over a live interaction. The top benefit cited for dealing with chat bots was 24-hour service.

Younger respondents (aged 18-44) were more open to using chat bots overall and across the individual scenarios compared to older consumers (aged 45-60+). In fact, 52 percent of those aged 60 and older would be unwilling to use chat bots for service at all.

This research follows NewVoiceMedia’s Serial Switchers Swayed by Sentiment study, in which nearly half of respondents (48 percent) considered calls to be the quickest way of resolving an issue. The survey also found that the top reasons customers leave a business due to poor service are feeling unappreciated (36 percent) and not being able to speak to a person (26 percent), but that 63 percent would be more likely to return to a business if they felt they’d made a positive emotional connection with a customer service agent.

For further information, download the research whitepaper at www.newvoicemedia.com.

¹Survey conducted via the SurveyMonkey Audience market research tool, with a sample of 1,040 US adults, age 18-60+.

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