Most People Seem Willing to Use Chatbots and Instant Messaging to Interact With Companies

June 27, 2018

The vast majority of adults across 6 countries believe that organizations are failing to provide a connected experience, defined as organizations knowing their preferences across all channels and being able to provide them with access to the information they need in a timely manner. That’s according to the Consumer Connectivity Insights Report 2018 [download page] from MuleSoft, which delved into, among other things, the potential for chatbots and instant messaging to provide such an experience.

Looking at the components of a connected experience, it seems that organizations are at least offering some form of personalization. In fact, at least half of respondents feel that banks (72%), insurance providers (65%) and retailers (50%) provide them with personalized service.

Notably, of the 6 countries measured, respondents in the US were the most likely to say they receive personalized service from each of those industries.

So if organizations are able – at least to some extent – to understand consumers’ preferences across channels, they may be falling short instead in their ability to provide them with timely access to information. And this may be where consumers’ appetite for chatbots and instant messaging comes into play.

2 in 3 Would Like to Use Messaging Services to Interact with Companies

The survey – which was fielded among more than 8,000 adults in the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Singapore – found that 65% would like to use popular messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage to securely interact with organizations. Not surprisingly, youth are leading the way, as fully 78% would like to use messaging services to interact with organizations.

Among the 4 industry sectors identified, appetite for this form of interaction is highest for Retail (51%), with Insurance Providers (45%) and Banks (44%) following in quick succession.

Chatbots’ Appeal is Even Stronger, but Questions Remain

Gartner recently forecast that one-quarter of customer service and support operations will use virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020. If the Mulesoft survey results are to be believed, customers will be embracing this form of interaction, too.

Indeed, 8 in 10 consumers surveyed for the report think they will benefit from intelligent chatbots, based on the notion that they will be able to offer a superior level of customer service in the future.

The biggest perceived benefits of chatbots relate to speedy on-demand communication, which is a key factor in consumers’ desire for timely access to information. Among the benefits identified, respondents were most likely to cite the ability to interact with chatbots 24/7 (48%) and not having to wait on hold on the phone (46%). Sizable proportions also believe chatbots will result in their queries being answered faster (37%) and offer them the ability to buy things or make payments more quickly (22%).

Those perceptions are supported by recent research into consumers’ attitudes to chatbots, which again found the perceived benefits to mostly revolve around speed and 24-hour service.

The MuleSoft study also finds a high degree of existing engagement with chatbots. Some 43% of respondents overall reported having engaged with a chatbot at some point in the past 12 months when contacting an organization. Respondents in the US were slightly above-average in this regard, with almost half (48%) claiming to have done so.

Yet as the results show, the results haven’t always been favorable. Relatively few – 38% – said that the end result of their engagement with the chatbot was their query being completely resolved/answered. Instead, many were asked to call a customer service representative directly (26%), directed to a web form (14%) or unable to have their query resolved as the chatbot did not have access to the necessary information/systems (19%).

That tallies with the aforementioned study into consumers’ attitudes to chatbots, which found
that while chatbots might find favor in providing round-the-clock assistance to simple questions, they’re less trusted for more complex issues. That may be why a separate study discovered that 71% of people across the world would prefer to interact with a human than with a chatbot or other automated process.

Other Survey Highlights

More notable findings from MuleSoft’s report follow.

  • If other retailers were able to offer an Amazon Go store experience (purchasing in-store without using a cashier or checkout), 6 in 10 respondents would prefer to shop that way. However, that average masks significant differences by age: while 77% of 18-34-year-olds would be in favor, fewer than half of those ages 55 and older concur.
  • 1 in 3 consumers said they would consider using Amazon, Google, Facebook or Apple for banking services instead of a traditional bank. Once again, this willingness is highest among 18-34-year-olds (52%), with US respondents also above-average in this regard. The most common reason given for choosing an alternative is for simplicity/convenience. Previous research has found that half of Millennials in the US would consider banking with Amazon or Google.
  • One-third of consumers claim to have spent more with a retailer that provided a personalized experience than with one that didn’t.
  • Almost 2 in 3 Millennials (18-34) say they’d be happy for their insurance provider to use third-party data from Facebook and the like, and collect data about their behavior, if it meant they were provided with lower premiums.

The full report is available for download here.

About the Data: MuleSoft describes the report’s methodology as follows:

“This survey was commissioned by MuleSoft and independently carried out by Opinium Research. Total sample size was 8,019 adults: UK (2,004 adults), US (2,002 adults), Australia (1,010 adults), the Netherlands (1,002 adults), Germany (1,001 adults), and Singapore (1,000 adults). Demographic split 18-34 year-olds (2,282 adults), 35-54 year-old (3,029 adults) and 55+ years- old (2,708 adults). Fieldwork was undertaken online between April 3 and April 9, 2018. The figures have been weighed and are representative of adult populations (aged 18+).”

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