Should retailers continue the chatbot deception?
Consumers connecting with customer service online often initially fail to recognize whether they’re communicating with a virtual agent vs a live one. A new university study finds both benefits and drawbacks to full disclosure.
Among the negative fallouts from full disclosure, researchers from the University of Göttingen found consumers tend to react negatively when they learn that the person they are talking to is, in fact, a bot. This is particularly true if service issues are perceived as particularly important or critical. Researchers concluded, “Chatbot disclosure has a negative indirect effect on customer retention through mitigated trust for services with high criticality.”
The findings align with previous studies showing that consumers have a negative reaction when they learn that they are communicating with bots. Disclosing that the contact was a bot, however, leads to positive customer reactions in cases when the bot cannot resolve the customer’s issue.
“If their issue isn’t resolved, disclosing that they were talking with a chatbot makes it easier for the consumer to understand the root cause of the error,” said Nika Mozafari, a co-author from the University of Göttingen said in a statement. “A chatbot is more likely to be forgiven for making a mistake than a human.”
Given their inherent aversion to chatbots, many customers may opt to choose to connect with a live agent most times if given the option.
Resolving customer queries in a fully automated way promises significant cost savings for customer service departments and better accommodates 24/7 coverage. For customers, bots can reduce the time waiting for an agent to resolve less-complex issues.
Customer service bots are growing in popularity, although they appear to still be preferred by many for simpler tasks.
A Genesys survey from late 2019 found nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents open to dealing with a voice/chatbot. Half (51 percent) say this is only when the issue is simple or transactional, such as checking account balances, resetting passwords or confirming order status. When issues are more complex, such as billing errors or missed flight connections, only 21 percent of the consumers surveyed felt comfortable dealing with a bot.
- Trust me, I’m a chatbot – Eurekalert
- Trust me, I’m a bot – repercussions of chatbot disclosure in different service frontline settings – Journal of Service Management
- Astute Publishes Original Research That Finds How Consumers Want to Speak with Brands is Changing – Astute/Business Wire
- Genesys Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Are Warming up to AI: Nearly 70 percent Describe Past Experiences With Customer Service Bots as Positive – Genesys/PRNewswire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How transparent should retailers be about letting customers know they’re communicating with a live or virtual customer service agent? How would you rate the pros and cons of increased disclosure?