News & Insight

Machine or Human? Do Consumers Like Using Chatbots?

Chatbots seem to be all the rage right now. Need to order flowers for your mom? Chances are there’s a chatbot for that. Want to know the weather in the city you’re flying to? Ask a chatbot.

For enterprises, chatbots can help lower customer-service costs when deployed in the right way for the right type of self-service interactions. If straightforward answers to typical questions—such as your shipping policy—are what your customers need, then a chatbot can be created that responds with the correct answers.

Beyond simple self-service, however, consumers want to interact with humans. While artificial intelligence and machine learning have made significant progress in understanding human language and enabling chatbots to hold a human-like conversation, at the end of the day, humans are still preferred.

According to the STARTEK U.S. Customer Engagement Survey, 85 percent of consumers prefer to interact with a human customer service representative, while only a small percentage of consumers (5 percent) want to interact with chatbots or AI software.

Chart about consumer service contract preference comparing humans to chatbots

“Basic transactions are always more of a candidate for automated response systems. In fact, by replacing transactional conversations with automation, we are increasing the complexity of the remaining human-to-human conversations.”

—Ted Nardin, President, STARTEK Science Lab

For the very few interacting with chatbots, satisfaction is high

Of the consumers who have interacted with a chatbot for their most recent customer service experience (13 percent), 85 percent of them were either somewhat or very satisfied with the interaction.

Survey results about satisfaction with using chatbots/ai

Also, of those consumers who had interacted with a chatbot in their most recent customer service experience, 85 percent were somewhat or very likely to want to use them again in the future.

Survey results about one's likelihood to interact with chatbot/ai in the future

For a very small percentage of consumers, chatbots and AI software deliver the self-service experience that they are looking for, particularly when the issue is simple and straightforward. For low-value/low-complexity customer interactions, chatbots can be a cost-effective self-service tool that increases customer satisfaction while reducing your cost to serve.

The takeaway: Don’t bet it all on chatbots

Despite the advantages of using chatbots to automate simple, repetitive interactions, humans are more important than ever. Why? Because as self-service automates the easy interactions, the complex issues must be handled effectively by human customer service. An earlier study of customer satisfaction conducted by STARTEK shows that 78 percent of customers have diligently tried to solve issues on their own before contacting an engagement specialist (agent).

When self-service fails, it takes a human engagement specialist to step in and frame a customer’s situation in ways that positively impact the customer’s perception of the brand. Humans remain an essential component in customer service because only humans can do what chatbots can’t: show emotional understanding, reduce customer anxiety, and build rapport.

See more findings from the STARTEK Customer Engagement Survey

Get quick insight into more findings from our survey in this infographic.