Thousands of people have had the frustrating customer service experience of having to work through multiple robotic voices just to get to a human operator who can help them with their problem.

As more and more companies turn to chatbots and computerized customer service platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have become increasingly fed up with the growing disappearance of a company’s human touches, according to a new survey from business applications and outsourcing company CGS.

Researchers with CGS spoke with more than 2,000 consumers in the US and UK to hone in on what they truly felt about the current state of customer service interactions. In both countries, that majority of respondents said they turn to phone or voice services channels for immediate help in a time of crisis. Texting, chats, direct messages, emails, and even social media, have also become avenues customers to turn to in times of need.

Nearly 40% of British survey respondents said one of the top three keys to a happy customer service interaction was the opportunity to speak with a human representative.

United States residents were not far behind at about 38%, but both countries were practically equal at 44% when it came to the percentage of respondents who said they wanted companies to be more open about easy ways to get in touch with a human.

“While good customer service is desired in any circumstance, during a disruption it becomes paramount,” said CGS president and CEO Phil Friedman. “Good service isn’t just good for the consumer, it’s beneficial to the brand in the long term. The survey findings also confirm the need for personalization while balancing consumers’ data privacy. As we close in on the one-year anniversary of GDPR, it’s no surprise that the UK market is hypersensitive to the benefits of privacy regulations.”

SEE: 10 ways to communicate more effectively with customers and co-workers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“It makes sense why, of the respondents who were disappointed by a brand over the past year—28.1% of US and 23.6% of UK consumers; chalk this up to not being able to reach a human agent. And, just over 17% of US and UK consumers were disappointed in the inability of chatbots to resolve their issues,” the report said.

“Beyond just reaching a human agent, 37.5% of US consumers and 30.3% of UK consumers say ‘working with a friendly agent’ is another major factor in leaving a customer service interaction happy,” the study noted.

Image: CGS

According to the CGS report, 25% of all respondents said they purposefully fill out a survey when they’ve had a customer service experience that left them less than satisfied. Yet despite the effort it takes to fill one out, nearly 70% of UK respondents said they did not think their comments had any effect on how a company deals with their customer service platforms.

About 59% of US respondents had the same feeling. Less than a fourth of citizens of both countries told the survey that their feedback served no purpose because a company never responded or because they believe the company doesn’t spend any time looking at customer complaints.

More than half of all Americans reported feeling “disappointed” with an instance of customer service as opposed to about 44% of British respondents. Just under one fourth of survey participants from both countries wished their concerns had been dealt with quicker.

“1/5 of US and UK consumers don’t want to have to repeat information multiple times and more than 1/4 don’t want to speak with multiple agents,” the survey noted.

Even when people do finally get the opportunity to speak to a human about their concerns, many are unhappy. More than 15% of respondents from both countries said any company representatives using scripts or lacking in personality is not living up to their expectations.

When asked what they were generally contacting companies for about 28% of respondents said they wanted a problem fixed or some kind of timeline explaining when their issue might be resolved.

More UK survey participants were contacting a company for information on refunds and returns than their American counterparts but an equal amount of people on both continents were contacting customer support for information on what their data was being used for.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

The biggest difference between the two countries in the survey was with consumers “who think companies need more government oversight to protect data privacy.” A bit more than 60% of UK respondents said the government should step in to protect and oversee data privacy but just 30% of Americans felt the same way.

The survey said respondents in the US and UK are feeling unsure about the safety of their personal data and prefer to connect with human agents in customer service interactions, especially for those that occur during stressful times.

“Approximately 30% of respondents admitted they are unsure about the safety of their data. In looking back at their customer service interactions over the past year, only about 7% of US respondents felt very confident in the safety of their data,” the report said, adding that most respondents said they were either not confident, unsure or somewhat confident in their ability to feel confident about the safety of their data.

“Nearly 30% said they did not feel confident at all.”

Image: marchmeena29, Getty Images/iStockphoto