Customers Prefer Human Interaction Instead of Chatbots

Posted: March 13, 2024
Category: Spotlight on Business

Retailers who make customer service a priority get high marks from shoppers. Most of these businesses operate both physical locations and e-commerce stores. Conducting business in the digital space often requires using AI to automate tasks and chatbots to answer repetitive questions. While chatbots save time and make the e-commerce experience more robust, some consumers say using the technology is disruptive and frustrating. Although people understand why retailers use chatbots, it doesn’t mean they like interacting with them. Surveys indicate customers prefer to engage online with other humans rather than artificial intelligence (AI).

An Ipsos Poll was conducted among U.S. consumers to get their views on artificial intelligence and other key topics. Most respondents (68%) have used chatbots, yet 77% of them would prefer not to utilize them. The poll also gave a “big picture” overview of how familiar participants understand AI and its applications.

  • Seventy-three percent of consumers are somewhat familiar with AI
  • Eighteen percent are very familiar
  • Sixty-eight percent have used chatbots
  • Seventy-seven percent think customer service chatbots are frustrating
  • Eighty-eight percent would rather speak to a person
  • Only thirty-five percent feel chatbots can solve their problems most of the time

Chatbots and Sales
A survey conducted by Intellis gives insight into the impact chatbots have on e-commerce sales. One in five shoppers say they decided not to purchase after interacting with a chatbot. However, consumers pointed out that chatbots can be helpful.

  • Twenty-five percent use AI-powered automated pricing and real-time promotions.
  • Twenty-five percent like real-time personalized offers and promotions
  • Twenty-five percent want AI to help them discover new products

Dave Howard, Global Marketing Director at Intellis, says, “When we’re talking around seamless AI applications, it’s not about hiding its use, but rather ensuring its application is so integrated that it effortlessly ads value and doesn’t create friction or is a clunky user experience for the shopper.

The Human Connection
Both the Intellis Survey and Ipsos Poll make it clear that AI can’t duplicate the human touch. While two-thirds of respondents in the Intellis survey think it’s all right for AI to handle repetitive tasks, they don’t want it to be a substitute for human interactions. Over 71 percent feel the best retail experiences will combine AI and human interactions.

The 2023 State of E-commerce Customer Service, by contact center technology provider Simplr, indicates that 40 percent of respondents rated chatbot interactions with human intervention as “very good” or “exceptional.” Live chat resulted in the highest level of satisfaction, effort, and repurchase rates

  • Seventy-two percent are likely or very likely to repurchase from brands using chatbots with human intervention.
  • Forty-two percent rate chatbot-only interactions as easy or very easy

Whether people see AI as beneficial, or a threat is another matter altogether. Almost 64% of respondents in the Ipsos Poll are concerned about the long-term impact of AI. The group believes that AI causes people to lose their jobs. The respondents want the government to take action to stop this from happening. People of all demographics and political affiliations agreed on this point.

The Takeaway for Independent Retailers
Every business must decide if chatbots will play a role in their e-commerce journey. Technology that seemed out of the reach of small-to-medium-sized companies has become affordable. AI works behind the scenes in many e-commerce organizations to suggest products to consumers and personalize searches without interfering with the shopping experience. Transparency is essential when consumers are being exposed to AI. It will be easier to explain if a glitch needs to be corrected. The point is to provide a seamless operation that delivers value.