Customer Experience News & Trends

Do customers want a chat or a chatbot?

Customers like to chat with you and your chatbots, but what do they like more? 

Hands down, they want to talk to a person more than they want to deal with any form of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a new study from STARTEK.

Why? Because service pros:

  • advocate for customers by anticipating and acting on needs
  • reassure customers about their choices
  • recognize and resolve confusing or complex situations, and
  • create relationships.

But customers don’t need a steady diet of personal contact, researchers found. While 85% of customers prefer talking to a customer service pro most of the time — especially when the issue is personal or complicated — they’re OK with digital channels for more routine issues. In fact, about a quarter of customers said they initiated their most recent contacts with service via email or chat.

Care is what matters most

“The survey results validate that humans continue to be the essential component of customer service,” said Dr. James Keaten, chief science officer at STARTEK. “To meet consumer expectations, it takes a trained human. In fact, the more digital channels there are, the more humans are needed to manage the process.”

But perhaps customer service professionals’ most important role is more personal than process. About 60% of customers say they want to talk with a person who “cares about me personally and both answers my questions as well as offers insights.”

When it comes to care, chatbots just aren’t as effective as people.

4 ways to show care

You need to invest in the technology customers want — chat, social media, online portals — for their baseline questions and needs. But you’ll create better customer experiences and make a bigger impact on satisfaction with a stronger focus on the personal interactions.

Try these ideas to improve the four things customers expect most:

  • Advocate. Two-thirds of customers would rather talk to a person who cares about their issue, even if the resolution takes longer than if they handled it using technology. Yes, it usually takes a little longer to advocate for customers, but it’s worth it. One thing customers appreciate: Respond to their emotions, then their issues. People connect when they share interests — and emotions are one of the things they’d like you to share with them.
  • Reassure. You can reduce customers’ anxieties by educating them. Explain why a product or service they’ve chosen is the smartest choice for them. When they’re interested, offer to walk through a process that’ll help them or share a story about another customer who’s been in a similar situation they’ve described.
  • Recognize and resolve confusing or complex situations. What seems simple to you isn’t always that way to customers. Tell them the situation they face can be confusing or is complex and you’ll be their partner in getting through it.
  • Create a relationship through engagement and an effortless experience. Build rapport through conversations that build on one another. Make notes about personal or professional points of interest they share during each contact so you (or another service pro) can refer to it in a future interaction. Offer to follow through on things that you see customers consistently do or want.

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