Are AI-powered customer service agents already human enough?
A new university study finds that what matters in the customer service experience is the perceived humanness of the interaction and that often an agent powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is as good or better than a real person.
The study from University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications asked participants to chat with bots or human agents from companies like Express, Amazon.com and Best Buy and rate them on “humanness.”
Of the 172 participants, 63 (or 37 percent), were unable to identify whether they were interacting with a human or a machine.
Regardless, whether AI-driven or not, higher scores of perceived humanness led to greater consumer trust in the companies.
“If people felt like, if it was human — either with really good AI or with a real person — then they felt like the organization was investing in the relationship,” said Tom Kelleher, a University of Florida advertising professor, in a statement.
The bigger issue is the language used. The authors noted that past research has found that consumer trust and satisfaction grew as human customer service agents have increasingly used less “stuffy, stilted language,” and the same holds true for chatbots.
Indeed, AI-powered agents aren’t as prone to become tired or jaded by routine interactions as human ones. Prof. Kelleher explains, “An agent can be so scripted that people feel like they’re talking to a machine.”
Past surveys have found people overwhelmingly prefer human assistance but value chatbots for their 24/7 availability and quick response. A Usabilla survey from 2018 found over half (54 percent) of respondents would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service rep if it saved them 10 minutes. Chatbots are also preferred for simpler tasks, such as changing or canceling orders.
AI use for customer service is expected to expand as people get accustomed to chatbots and AI functionality improves.
Ross Daniels, chief marketing officer at Calabrio, a workforce management software firm, told CMS Wire last year, “From providing near real-time feedback on customer and employee insights and stress predictors to voice-of-the-customer innovations, AI-driven analytics can quickly analyze the sentiment of customer interactions equipping contact centers with the visibility they need to help optimize the customer experience.”
- Chatbots or real people? Study finds customers only care about ‘perceived humanness’ – University of Florida
- STUDY: Over Half of Customers Prefer Speaking with Human Customer Service Agents via Phone – Usabilla/PRWeb
- What do your customers actually think about chatbots? – Userlike
- Is 2021 the Year AI Dominates the Call Center? – CSM Wire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a point in the near future when AI-powered customer service agents will consistently bring more value to the customer resolution experience than humans? Will they be preferred for the majority of tasks in the near future?