Consumers more engaged by machines than agents

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 20, 2010

Consumers more engaged by machines than agents

Consumers rate automated telephone customer service more highly than  live agents for certain straightforward interactions, according to a study by Nuance Communications.

The report, entitled 'Driving Consumer Engagement with Automated Telephone Customer Service', found that in five out of ten posed scenarios, consumers preferred automated telephone customer service systems to live agent interactions. These scenarios included tasks such as:

  1. Prescription refills (66% preferred automation compared to 52% for live agents);  
  2. Checking the status of a flight from a cell phone (61% versus 49%);  
  3. Checking account balances (59% versus 36%);  
  4. Store information requests (55% versus 37%);  
  5. Tracking shipments (53% versus 47%).

In fact, automated telephone systems are an expected and accepted customer service channel, with 82% of online adults having used an automated touchtone or speech recognition system to contact a customer service department within the previous 12 months. However, 93% had spoken to a live agent during the same period.

In the survey, consumers were asked about their level of interest in a variety of specific, proactive notification options within five different industries. The aggregated results of the industry-specific questions show that a strong majority of consumers are interested in at least one proactive notification alert via their choice of email, voice message, or text message.

Consumers were most open to notifications related to the travel industry (93%), which include things such as flight status updates and confirmations of reservations for flights, hotels, and car rentals. And 88% were interested in notifications from a financial services institution, with strong interest being specifically shown in transaction confirmations. With regard to health care, consumers strongly favoured appointment reminders (something that could also easily be adopted in a variety of other industries such as utilities and professional services).

"The contact centre plays a crucial role in retaining consumers, yet less than half of US consumers report being satisfied with their customer service experiences," said Micky Tsui, Nuance's senior vice president and general manager. "Businesses have an opportunity to differentiate themselves by considering their customers' needs and providing applications that improve customer loyalty at every touch point."

Other key findings included:

  • Consumers who frequently contact customer services from a mobile phone (32%) are more amenable to automated telephone customer service channels. This is significant, given the recent prediction by Forrester Research that the proportion of mobile-only households in the US will reach 19% by 2013.  
  • The 24-hour, 7 days a week availability of automated telephone customer service is a key attribute in consumers' minds, as 77% this as the main reason that they value automated telephone customer service systems. Another 40% valued the fact that they don't have to wait on hold for a live agent, while 31% cited the ability to obtain information quickly.

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