44% of Americans Would Rather Scrub a Toilet Than Call Customer Support

New data released from Helpshift looked at what Americans most dread about the customer support experience, how it could be improved, and which industries have the most room for improvement (spoiler alert: it’s telecoms). The survey also asked Americans which AI technologies they like and which they find creepy or annoying.

A full two-thirds (66%) of Americans feel that voice-based digital assistants are more unsettling than text-based ones, so it follows that Americans find chatbots and digital assistants likable, while more advanced AI technologies—including Google Duplex—cross the line into “uncanny valley.”

AI technology Americans most like:

  • Home assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home — 66%
  • Digital phone assistants like Apple’s Siri or Android’s Cortana — 65%
  • Email and messenger chatbots — 62%

AI technology Americans find creepiest:

  • Human-like androids, as in Westworld — 70%
  • Future AI assistants, like Samantha from Spike Jonze’s movie Her — 68%
  • Google Duplex — 59%

Americans Would Rather Scrub a Toilet than Call Customer Support

As for customer support in the U.S., a majority of Americans (57%) feel that it has not improved in the past few years, and 74% agree that contacting customer support is a frustrating experience.

It’s so frustrating, in fact, that many (44%) would rather spend 30 minutes cleaning a bathroom than waiting on hold for customer service; 26% would rather spend 30 minutes at the dentist; 25% would rather sit in traffic or visit their in-laws; and 24% would rather do their taxes.

When contacting customer support, Americans most dread:

  • Long wait and hold times — 60%
  • Being transferred and having to repeat the problem over and over — 59%
  • Never-ending automated “self-service” menus — 50%
  • Difficulties communicating with agents in offshore contact centers — 49%
  • Poor levels of service — 41%

Telecommunications (51%) was again voted to have the worst customer service of any industry, by a wide margin. This was followed by airlines (20%) and insurance companies (20%).

Robots to the Rescue

The survey also revealed the perceived pros and cons of chatbots. Americans’ top pet peeve about them is that they feel chatbots prevent them from reaching an actual human (51%), and a majority (77%) get annoyed if they have to type more than four responses to a chatbot.

On the other hand: 

  • If forced to leave a brand’s website or app to reach customer support, almost half of Americans (47%) would take their business elsewhere.
  • Three-quarters (76%) say chat-based messaging would be their preferred method of contacting customer support if they knew they would get an immediate response.
  • 92% feel it is important to be able to return to a conversation with a customer service agent at a later point and pick up where they left off.


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