Technology

75% Aussies prefer to interact with bots over humans

Vanessa Bussoletti

New research shows that 75 per cent of Australians prefer to interact with customer service bots for simple tasks. But fear not, travel agents and anyone else working in a customer-facing role, it’s not all bad news.

You see, while a recent survey of over 5000 global consumers by LivePerson Inc. showed that customers are happy for bots to perform simple tasks for them, they still want human help for more complex ones.

The research also looked at how people feel about bots taking over face-to-face interactions, with respondents claiming that to be considered ‘excellent’, the ideal wait time for customer service is less than two minutes.

Consumers globally are actually warming to bots – and even Qantas and Air New Zealand are working with Messenger bots – although 56 per cent would prefer to interact with a human. That’s good news for agents!

But the biggest fear of bots was ‘being misunderstood’ in what would otherwise be a very simple conversation.

With fast resolutions being a priority for consumers, an increasing number of large brands are implementing bots into their digital and customer care strategies, and the research suggests consumers are now more accepting of this.

A majority of Australians have a positive or neutral perception of using a bot to communicate with a brand’s customer service. Forty-two per cent of Australian respondents rate their overall perception of bots as positive while 47 per cent rate it as neutral. This is compared to global averages of 38 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively.

These warming perceptions also align with the perceived purpose of bots. When asked why they thought bots were being used by companies, 50 per cent of Australian respondents believed it was to offer faster or better customer service as opposed to simply being a cost-saving tool for the company.

LivePerson’s regional vice president for APAC, Steven Fitzjohn, said that while consumer perceptions on bots are warming, many remain sceptical with just over half of Australian respondents (57 per cent) stating they would rather speak with a human — even if they have to wait a short period of time — than chat with a bot immediately.

“Consumers remain hesitant and concerned that bots will not be able to handle the complexity of some situations,’ said Fitzjohn. 

 According to the research, 60 per cent of Australian respondents would prefer to speak with a human because they believe a human will understand what they need better than a bot. The risk of being misunderstood may be one concern, but 40 per cent report occasionally lying or exaggerating to a customer care agent to get the solution they want.

However, in a scenario where a bot is just as accurate as a human customer care agent, a majority of Australian consumers (61 per cent) would prefer to chat with a bot over a human. This was even higher among millennials (68 per cent). 

According to the research, Australian consumers trust bots for simple tasks, such as account balance enquiries (75 per cent), updating personal details (59 per cent), and finding specific products (53 per cent). However, more complex tasks, such as applying for a credit card or loan, were deemed to be better handled by humans.

“We’ve found that it’s these simple tasks — updating addresses, checking an account balance — that bots perform best,” said Fitzjohn.

“Bots excel most when they are treated as specialised agents, focused on specific and simple tasks,.

“With these specialised bots working alongside human customer care agents and taking care of the routine tasks, humans are freed up to handle the more complex enquiries, allowing businesses to provide the high-quality service customers expect.”

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