Majority of consumers still prefer humans as chat agents: Study

While most agree chatbots can be fast and convenient in certain situations, consumers cite a lack of intelligence as their top complaint against automated bots, and 65% still prefer a human agent on the other end of the chat

Majority of consumers still prefer humans as chat agents: Study - CIO&Leader

Most chatbots still aren’t smart enough to meet consumers’ great expectations, according to a Pegasystems study. While most agree chatbots can be fast and convenient in certain situations, consumers cite a lack of intelligence as their top complaint against automated bots, and 65% still prefer a human agent on the other end of the chat.

72% of consumers generally find chatbots to be helpful to some degree, but the interaction quality can be quite mixed. The majority (58%) rank their chatbot experiences as merely ‘adequate’ – doing some tasks well and others poorly. Another 18% grumble how chatbots are ineffective or even annoying. Only 16% gave their chatbot experience a high quality rating.

Analysts expect chatbot usage to rise significantly in the next two years – a shift that could prove costly for brands that don’t evolve their bots. According to Gartner, “25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017.”

Best bots keep it simple

Consumers tend to favor chatbots for only the simplest queries that can be done quickly. The most popular chatbot use cases are:

  • Tracking an order (60% selected)
  • Finding basic information (53%)
  • Asking basic questions (49%)

The respondents also noted that fast service (56%), ability to engage on their own schedule (37%), and convenience (36%) are chatbots’ top benefits. When done well, 43% say chatbots can be almost as good as interacting with a human, while 34% disagree, and 23% don’t know.

Artificial intelligence or artificial stupidity?

However, speed and simplicity can only take today’s digital consumers so far. While most brands claim artificial intelligence power their bots, consumers’ top chatbot complaints include:

  • Not enough smarts to effectively answer questions (27%)
  • Lack of context in the conversation (24%)
  • Robot-like engagement with few human qualities (14%)

Similarly, the top reasons consumers would drop a chatbot session are when bots can’t answer their questions (47% selected), make them do more work than expected (47%) or are too vague in how they can assist them (43%). Separately, only 17% said they would use a bot to purchase goods and services, further muddying the path from bots to direct revenue.

In no mood for chit chat

The survey found a separate group that have yet to try chatbots at all and have no plans to start anytime soon. These bot holdouts, which skew towards a slightly older demographic, say they haven’t used chatbots yet due to:

  • Lack of any real exposure to chatbots (53%)
  • A personal preference to only engage with a human (30%)
  • Lack of knowledge on how to use chatbots (23%)

A full 45% of these consumers without chatbot experience said they won’t try one in the next year while another 30% aren’t sure, which presents a roadblock to companies trying to expand reliance on digital service channels. Only 25% of these non-users said they would be willing to experiment with a chatbot, albeit with some reluctance. Their biggest concerns stem from their lack of experience: they simply don’t know how to use chatbots (top concern at 46%), lack confidence in chatbot effectiveness (31%), or worry about security and privacy (27%).


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