Businesses are increasingly using chatbots and other types of artificial intelligence to handle customer service calls.

On the plus side, chatbots can save companies time and money and free up employees to focus on other tasks. On the negative side, chatbots can frustrate and annoy customers if the interaction goes awry or doesn’t achieve the desired outcome.

A recent poll commissioned by Genesys, a retailer of customer experience and call center technology, found that people generally had positive experiences with chatbots, but only up to a point.

SEE: Chatbot trends: How organizations are leveraging AI chatbots (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Among the 800 consumers interviewed for the survey, 73% said that they’re open to dealing with a chatbot and 68% said that they’ve had positive interactions with customer service bots in the past when they required some type of support.

While only 21% said they can “almost always” resolve their support issue with a bot without escalating the call to a customer service rep, 47% said they can achieve this goal “more than half of the time.”

But the positive attitudes about chatbots have a habit of turning negative when the issue isn’t one that can be resolved easily. Among the respondents, 51% said they’re open to using a chatbot only when the issue is a simple one, such as checking account balances, resetting passwords, or confirming order status.

For more complex problems such as billing errors or missed flights, only 21% said they’d feel comfortable dealing with a bot. Further, 57% said they’d prefer to wait 10 minutes to get help from a human being rather than spend five minutes dealing with a bot.

Humans hold one other advantage over bots, according to the poll. Asked who is more polite, 68% pointed to human beings, while 38% favored bots.

The survey also looked at attitudes toward customer service in general. One question focused on the thorny topic of what irritates people the most.

Topping the list among 43% was too many automated options before reaching a rep. Being put on hold for more than five minutes, having to repeat an issue due to language, having to repeat information to multiple reps, and being given incorrect information were all big irritations. Speaking with a chatbot was lower on the list, cited by 27% of those polled.

“This survey makes it abundantly clear that while consumers are growing more comfortable with service bots, they still want the option to consult with a human agent for more challenging requests,” Genesys’ chief marketing officer, Merijn te Booij, said in a press release. “That’s why we recommend that businesses take a blended approach to service—where bots and employees work together seamlessly to solve customer needs faster.”

To conduct the survey, Genesys commissioned research consultancy Vitreous World in July 2019 to contact consumers across 13 countries: Australia, China/Hong Kong, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the UK and the US. In the US, 800 adults responded with a 50/50 gender split.

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