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Why Consumers Prefer People For Customer Service Queries

Chatbots offer customer-facing companies a lot of advantages. Helping deal with an infinite number of queries simultaneously, minimizing error, and reducing costly long-term staff fees, their recent introduction seemingly changed the landscape of customer service forever.

But do customers consider chatbots a better solution to common issues they may face online? A survey from GetApp suggests that human-facing customer service is still the best way to satisfy your customers.

Customers Value Human Conversation

When asked what they valued the most when it comes to customer service, over a third (36%) of the 500 US-based respondents said talking to a real person. The question came with several other typical customer service preferences but engaging with a real human was considered the top priority. Other significant factors contributing to good customer service include knowledgeable support staff (selected by 21% of respondents) and staff who are polite (17%).

Crucially, they all refer to human aspects of customer service. Factors that could be better solved by automation or chatbot-related solutions came further down the list. For instance, 12% said they valued an immediate response the most, and only 2% said having multiple contact options is what’s most important.

Respondents were also asked what their preferred method of customer service delivery was. Again, contact with a human ranked highly—37% said they prefer to talk to someone on the phone. Behind it, 30% said that they don’t mind how customer service is presented, as long as they can talk to someone directly.

Elsewhere, some expressed a preference for a half-way point between online and human customer service. For example, 12% said they prefer talking to a person in the form of a web chat or email service. On top of that, 9% said they prefer self-service or automated responses to their customer service queries. Significantly, only 12% said they actively try to avoid human contact when looking for help.

What It Means For Customer Service

There is a suite of options available to us when implementing a customer service program, but this information may influence your decision when deciding which approach to take. Video tutorials, online help centers, and Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbots are all options that don’t incur the ongoing costs of call centers. But somewhere along the line, your customers want to engage with a real person. In fact, 88% said they prefer some form of human contact throughout their customer service offering.

Chatbots can be frustrating to deal with, and they will remain so as the AI that drives them continues to develop. With limited queries that can be dealt with and an inability to comprehend complex problems, they can feel like automated phone systems. For frustrated customers, a fellow human will be the only kind of customer service that will suffice. Able to rationalize their concerns, provide an element of trust not possible with the chatbot, deal with more complicated situations, and adjust their response according to the tone and severity of the issue–there is little doubt a human-facing customer service option will leave a higher proportion of customers happy.

However, businesses are placing chatbots at the forefront of their minds. In a 2016 survey of key decision makers, 80% said they had already introduced them into their business or planned to by 2020.

Businesses buy into them, but consumers are yet to be convinced that chatbots are the customer service solution of the future. But given the cost of maintaining a human-facing customer service option, their use is only going to increase.

Until consumer attitudes change (which will be driven by improvements in how AI is able to recognize and deal with customer queries), a middle ground is likely to be your best bet. Take the pressure off the human element of your customer service with video tutorials, a help center, or prioritizing email support.

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