Friday, 07 July 2017 13:28

Aussies still prefer people to chatbots


New research from Telsyte and Genesys reveals that despite significant advances in AI, chatbots and omnichannel contact centres, Aussies still have an overwhelming preference for a real human contact to “sort things out”.

The report, “Shift to Human Experience” was commissioned by Genesys, a global leader in omnichannel, customer experience and contact centre solutions.

Telsyte managing director and principal analyst Foad Fadaghi said the report was based on responses from 886 Australians and 171 New Zealanders to determine the future directions of customer interaction with companies.

“Given the choice, respondents prefer to deal with organisations in direct, human-to-human interactions. The same respondents, however, expect mobile agents, branch offices and direct phone calls to decrease as the choice of interaction channels proliferates in the short term,” Fadaghi said.

“These results show that many people still prefer to speak to a real person straight away. So, it’s important that businesses in Australia and New Zealand do not overlook the value of the human touch,” said James Walford, director of business development – digital and innovation at Genesys.

While the results may sound like common sense Fadaghi drilled down further. “It is a timely warning to businesses that despite the lure of automation and attendant cost reductions, relatively few consumers have had exceptional experiences with it. Consumers are becoming more open to AI and automated systems, but have had limited positive experiences so far, making the human touch even more critical in this time of transition” he said.

When asked how long voice would continue to be the preferred method of contact, Fadaghi ventured that voice would dominate all other channels for at least the next 20 years.

Gen human

Despite the technologies available to businesses, customers still reported high levels of dissatisfaction. Unhappy customers are voting with their feet, with 29% walking away from a brand because of poor customer service in the past 12 months.

About 57% also shared their dissatisfaction with friends and family and of that 52% would also stop using the company and 44% would reduce spending with it. Social media is an outlet for frustration with 13% resorting to it to flame the company.

“Businesses must ensure they are investing in the communication channels that align with customer preferences. As there is often a variety of providers competing in the same space, customers no longer will settle for poor service on any channel. Having a blended approach to customer experience is key to giving customers what they want, whilst simultaneously adapting to emerging trends,” Walford said.

The report highlights include

  • Customers have the newly found expectation to be able to contact a business from anywhere, anytime, on any device. Omnichannel is the response to this. Some companies do it better than others but there is a frustration that can lead to dissatisfaction and move to competitors that do it better.
  • The expectation of omnichannel may be there but it may not be justified for all types of business – if it is not it is imperative to have the contact centre working flawlessly.
  • Things like IVR (interactive voice response) and chatbots will increase dissatisfaction unless they are flawless and know when to transfer to a real person – before frustration sets in.
  • About 62% of consumers still want to speak to an agent on the phone because they feel this provides better service.
  • A total of 70% prefer to deal with humans rather than robots.
  • About 55% say they have also experienced better service via Web chats and like the convenience of accessing the online platform for fast response and resolution e.g. jumping the queue.
  • Mobile phones are driving omnichannel – SMS is used by 37% when another channel is not easily available.
  • In the future linking customer service options to digital voice assistants will be important – a more unified environment.

Walford said, “Businesses must not only understand who their customers are (a 360° view regardless of channel) to be able to provide a personalised service, they also need to be where their customers are. Delivering a communication experience on the consumer’s most valued channel can help improve customer service as well as drive revenue for the organisation.”

Tanya Eglington, head of Contact Centre Operations for NIB health funds, concurred. NIB runs three contact centres, with 250 staff, two in Australia and one in Manila.

“In a sensitive area such as health, it is extremely important to have a real person at the end of a phone. Companies are using AI and chatbots — self-service channels — but this needs a lot of work to progress beyond simple transaction based interactions. While this may be attractive financially the risk in customer loss is too great for us,” she said.

Eglington, Walford and Fadaghi all agreed on the key messages for iTWire readers:

  1. The key to a good customer experience, no matter how advanced the contact centre is with AI etc., is first to have the human touch right. Don’t skimp on labour in the hope that automation will replace it quickly. Don’t force it on customers.
  2. Consumers have a newfound power to dictate terms of engagement with companies and if they experience poor Customer Experience they will walk and talk about the experience.
  3. That newfound power means the end of customer loyalty as had been characterised by bricks and mortar shops – customers are savvier and will shop around and online.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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