Customers Don’t Prefer Chatbots Over Humans Yet—But They Will, Says Survey

Consumers aren’t quite at the point where they prefer chatbots to humans—but according to a new study conducted by enterprise software company Aspect, that could very soon change.

According to the company’s 2016 Consumer Experience Index, it’s nearly a fifty-fifty split: 44% of the survey respondents indicated that they would prefer to use a chatbot, or another kind of AI assistant, to solve customer service issues. Chatbot acceptance is up from Aspect’s 2015 survey, as are the number of chatbots available for consumers to interact with.

“There is a noticeable increase in the frustrations customers are experiencing, and an increase in the interest in automated technology. I think the two go hand in hand,” says Tim Dreyer , senior director, public relations and analyst relations at Aspect Software.

76% of the survey’s respondents agreed with this statement:

When purchasing a product, ordering a service or contacting customer service I expect an automated self-service experience or a live agent to have the context and history of all my previous interactions to be immediately available so it’s a more personal experience.

While this kind of machine learning data set is critical to consumer acceptance during interaction with a chatbot, the survey also warns against going too automated—that data needs to transfer seamlessly over to an interaction with a live customer service representative, at least according to 88% of the survey’s respondents.

“I think there’s a perception that [automated interaction] isn’t going to be effective,” says Dreyer, regarding when the 44% of people asking for chatbots will tip over into the majority. “I think once [the technology] improves, more people will want to use them.”

For the moment, text-based interactions—like through Facebook’s Messenger platform, which has about 34,000 chatbots across a smattering of industries for users to try out —appear to be narrowly preferred by customers, over voice-based “assistants” like Alexa or Siri, for both purchases and customer service; however, the accuracy of the voice-based model appears to be the driving force behind customer’s expectations for the text platforms.

While consumers are still not entirely sold on chatbots vs. humans, a majority of the survey respondents—61%–agreed that chatbots are good way to handle simpler requests, which could be viewed as good indicator that their acceptance will grow as artificial intelligence technology grows.

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