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Chatbots May Ease Consumers' Customer Service Concerns

According to a May 2018 survey of US internet users by Helpshift, retail didn't rank among the top three industries for worst customer service. Instead, that "honor" went to the telecom, airline and insurance sectors. Still, retail came in fourth, cited by 17.7% of respondents.

Overall, close to three-fourths of respondents think contacting customer service is a frustrating experience. The leading reason why was long waits and hold times (60.2%). Nearly as many (58.6%) dreaded being transferred and having to re-explain a problem over and over, while 49.9% feared having to navigate a seemingly endless automated menu.

When asked about current and future tech, 62.0% said they liked email and messenger chatbots that collect information and get the right support agent, and 75.9% said chat-based messaging would be a preferred means to contact customer service if they knew they would get an immediate response. Granted, Helpshift is a messaging-based platform invested in texting for customer service.

Still, not everyone was enamored by chatbots. According to the study, 50.7% of respondents said dealing with chatbots prevents them from connecting with a human, while 47.5% said they lead to too many unhelpful responses. Nearly 40% said they redirect to self-serve FAQs.

In a Q4 2017 survey of US chatbot users by eGain and, 74% of respondents deemed them "effective" or "somewhat effective" for customer service. (Only 12% said they were “very effective.") The biggest challenge, cited by 59% of respondents, was being transferred to a human agent and having to repeat everything they just told the chatbot.

This has been a theme in many studies. According to 38% of US internet users surveyed by Conversocial, the most important aspect of a good digital customer service experience is getting an issue resolved in a single interaction. And 17% cited having an issue resolved in a single channel rather than being shuttled to a traditional channel.

Customer service channel preferences vary with age, though. According to "The eMarketer Ecommerce Insights Report," conducted by Bizrate Insights in May 2018, live chat (not necessarily through a chatbot) had a similar preference rate as a phone call (30.1% vs. 29.5%) among US internet users. Respondents ages 30 to 39 had a very strong preference for live chat (45.9%), and everyone under 50 liked chat more than phones. So it's a fair assumption that future usage of chatting for customer service will only increase.

Now the bad news: When NewVoiceMedia asked US internet users to name the most effective channel for getting a customer service problem resolved, the most popular response (31.7%) was "there is no most effective channel."