News & Insight

Don’t Chatbot Me: Consumers Want a Human on the Other End of the Conversation

With the focus on digital transformation and the adoption of digital channels—everything from chat to social media to mobile app—you’d think that, in the near future, we won’t need humans at all for customer service. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. Despite all things digital, consumers overwhelmingly want to interact with a human—no matter what the channel.

Digital channel usage continues to rise

Surveys and anecdotal reports have shown that consumers are increasingly turning to digital channels for customer service. When STARTEK surveyed more than 500 U.S. consumers about their recent experiences, preferences, and expectations for customer service and technical support, it was no surprise that significant portions of customer service communications take place in digital channels:

  • 24 percent use email
  • 22 percent use online chat
  • 11 percent use social media
“If a highly efficient machine could care or connect with a human, a machine might be preferred. However, until that day, humans fulfill human needs more effectively than a machine.”

–Ted Nardin, President, STARTEK Science Lab

But digital doesn’t mean fewer humans

The adoption of digital channels doesn’t mean that consumers don’t care whether or not there is a human on the other end of the interaction. They are simply choosing the channel that best suits their needs in the moment, for that particular issue.

Overwhelmingly, consumers want human interaction, whether it’s in a digital (online) channel or traditional voice. In the STARTEK survey, when asked about potential customer service contacts either online or by phone, 85 percent of survey respondents said they prefer a customer service representative versus a chatbot/AI or IVR (interactive voice recognition) experience.

What this should mean for your customer service strategy

While digital transformation is valuable for delivering seamless, convenient customer experiences, your overall strategy shouldn’t neglect the importance of human interaction or you risk alienating the vast majority of your customers.

It’s time to make humans the center of your customer service strategy once again. For instance, your engagement specialists (agents) must excel at delivering authentic human dialogue that frames the customer’s situation in ways that impact the customer’s perception of your brand. This requires the right training and coaching around proven communication skills so that engagement specialists can:

  • Respond to concerns optimistically and with emotional understanding
  • Educate consumers in ways that reduce their anxiety
  • Anticipate consumer needs and build rapport
  • Create an engaging and effortless experience

See more findings from the STARTEK Customer Engagement Survey