Consumers increasingly comfortable with human-mimicking robots in customer service

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As advanced technologies with machine learning capabilities become more and more commonplace and the general public become more accustomed to interacting with these types of technologies and virtual assistants – such as Amazon Alexa and Google home – more organisations are looking at how they can incorporate these innovations into the customer service function.

But how do the public feel about these technologies and are they comfortable communicating with a Google Duplex-style robotic customer service agent?

We recently conducted research which found that over half of consumers (52 per cent) would be comfortable communicating with a customer service robot that closely mimics human behaviour over the phone, demonstrating a growing acceptance of human-like technology in customer service.

However, there are still some reservations and concerns around this, particularly about the impact this will have on the role of human agents.

The survey, which polled 2,000 consumers from across the UK, found that 27 per cent would be completely comfortable dealing with a Google Duplex-style robotic customer service agent, rising to 38 per cent for those aged 16-24. However, more than four in ten (43 per cent) also said that they would not be comfortable with such technology, with 21 per cent saying they would prefer a different method of communication, and 22 per cent saying that they find human-mimicking technology like this unsettling.

This underlines the importance of being balanced when it comes to adopting new customer service channels, and being wise to the widely varying preferences of consumers.

There is clearly potential for technologies like Google Duplex to make their mark in the world of customer service, especially amongst the tech-native younger generation. However, a significant amount of scepticism about such technology remains, especially among the older generations, so it is crucial that organisations temper this desire to increase the use of robots and automation with the need to cater to the preferences of their entire customer base.

When asked about what they would consider an acceptable use of technology in an automated customer service experience, 30 per cent said that they would like to see a combination of technological and human input, with tech used to assist human agents in carrying out their jobs more effectively. In addition, 38 per cent said that they would like all customer service to be carried out by humans, with this figure rising to 44 per cent when considering those aged 55 and over alone.

These figures show that the human touch is far from dead as far as customer service is concerned, despite the presence of technology and its power to improve the experience for many people. Automation and self-service can go a long way towards making an organisation’s customer service more efficient and giving customers more choice when it comes to interacting with a business, but just as important is being able to reassure consumers that they will have the option to speak to a human agent if they need it.

Building a winning customer experience is about achieving balance: it’s short-sighted to pigeon-hole most of your customers into one particular category, so individual needs should always be taken into account.

Technologies like Google Duplex have a great deal of potential, but only if they aren’t implemented at the expense of choice of communication channel for the consumer. Differentiating from a customer service perspective is about understanding the context behind any customer interaction, and adopting an omni-channel approach to suit everyone.

To learn more about the self-service technologies that you can implement now, visit here.

 

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Stephen Ball

Steve Joined Aspect in December 2015 with responsibility for the Europe & Africa region.

Steve has held leadership roles in Computacenter, EMC, Orange, and most recently as RVP for Hitachi Data Systems, where he was responsible for leading HDS regional restructure and Transformation, succeeding in driving growth and market share.

Steve is passionate about delivering world class Customer Service, Technology and hiring and developing great people. He believes how you engage with your customer defines the success of any business, with the client demanding ease of interaction, when they want it and how they want it.

With a simple view that focusses on these three areas, Aspect is ideally positioned to accelerate its growth and Market share. Steve is working with the EA leadership team to create a plan and vision for Aspect EA that underpins the competitive advantage that the Aspect suite of software provides to its clients.
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