Chris Connolly of Genesys: 75% of Consumers Say Humans Still Provide Most Effective Customer Service; 1 in 8 Hate Chatbots

Genesys, a leader  in omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions, recently published their Consumer Insights Survey including responses from one thousand US adults.  There are a bunch of interesting numbers coming out of the survey, including:

  • 41% of respondents willing to pay up to 10% more for a better customer experience
  • 94% of consumers viewed their last customer experience as positive
  • 75% of consumers say humans provide the most effective customer service, but 76% still want the option to interact with companies via digital channels (webchat, social media, etc.)
  • Only 12.5% of respondents hate interacting with bots

Chris Connolly, VP of Product Marketing for Genesys, joins me to share some additional insights from the survey.  Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. To hear the full interview check the video or the embedded SoundCloud player below.

Chris Connolly of Genesys: 75% of Consumers Prefer Human Customer ServiceSmall Business Trends: Tell us a little bit about what Genesys does.

Chris Connolly: Genesys has been around for about 27 years, focused on customer experience software; how do we engage with consumers with what is now called CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration, sitting on top of other peoples’ phone systems.

We’re a software business that operates on premise, in cloud, in a combination of the two. We operate our own clouds for contact center software, we also offer software for our mid marketed enterprise customers that allow them to run that in their own premises, as well. We like to touch on the entire customer journey, from the very first moment that a customer becomes aware of your brand, and is navigating through the website and that part of the customer journey. Increasingly, we’re applying artificial intelligence to that part of the experience, all the way through to then connecting with the brand, either with a human or a virtual assistant or a bot.

Small Business Trends: So tell us a little bit about the general purpose of the study, who was involved in terms of respondents and why Genesys decided to do this.

Chris Connolly: Sure, so this consumer insight study is something that we’ve done for the first time. We love data at Genesys, we love understanding what is happening and providing that back to our customers and to the industry as a whole of getting a pulse on what’s really happening. We hear a lot of myth and opinion and conjecture out there, but really when it comes down to it, consumers are often in the right, right? We went out to three thousand consumers in the last six months, about a thousand per country, we chose some specific countries: U.S. U.K. and Germany this time around. We asked, I think, about twenty five different questions to illicit some responses on what their experiences truly are with brands.

Small Business Trends: So, what were the top two or three takeaways that came out of this?

Chris Connolly: Well, the number one for me is that consumers hate chat bots less than you might think, and that is certainly the headline of one of the pieces that we’ve put out there. Which is surprising, especially today. Chat bots have exploded in the last couple years, you love them, you hate them. You might have interacted with them, you might not have interacted with them. I guess, from my experience, as a consumer, I’ve had some terrible experiences and if you asked me to guess, I’d probably say that 50% of consumers would hate it, and it’s not anywhere near that. It’s actually really, really low.

Small Business Trends: It’s like only one out of eight, twelve and a half percent? That’s amazing.

Chris Connolly: That’s exactly right. It is amazing, right? What we found was whilst there are some terrible experiences, and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to make that better. People like choice, and they like convenience and if you can provide a bot experience that is … that operates at a level that’s 24 hours a day, that is convenient and accessible to the consumer, they’ll probably use it, right? That’s a good thing for business, it’s lower cost to operate. It’s a great thing for the consumer, they don’t have to wait for someone to be available on the other end.

But what we also found was that people also like choice very much. So, when it comes to a difficult scenario, to something that is critical to them, they want to get to a human, they want to get their quickly, and they don’t want to repeat themselves. It’s just 101 customer experience. I guess, from my view, we talked about this earlier, I had to run away from hurricane Irma about two years ago, and I got a phone call in the middle of the night from the airline, saying my flight was canceled. I scrambled. I scrambled to get online, to book another flight, I tried every avenue I could, and every time I got to an automated system I got really frustrated ’cause I was like, I’m panicked, I just want to talk to a human and I ended up talking to a human at the end of the day, they got me to where I needed to go.

That dynamic of, give me choice but don’t make it always an automatic experience is something that we found in these sort of responses.

Small Business Trends: It seems like one of the overarching themes is, people still want to have the phone and they want to have a human, like you just said, and the importance of having … it’s important to have a good experience, but it’s critical not to have a bad experience it sounds like.

Chris Connolly: It is. Probably no secret that looking at the different demographic data, if there is a bad experience, if someone does have a bad experience, they’re likely to share it and depending on the age bracket, that happens in a couple of different ways. What we found is, I think it was over 35-year-old and up, were very likely to tell a friend, to tell a partner, tell someone, but it’s usually connected in their sphere of human-human contact. Versus the younger generations, younger demographics, are … they’re going to share that, they’re going to put that on social media, they’re going to put it on WhatsApp, maybe not put it on Facebook, ’cause they’re moving away from Facebook, but they’re going to put it somewhere and they’re going to let other people know.

So, having those bad experiences certainly outweigh the good. Surprisingly, we found that 94% of respondents, overwhelmingly, had a positive experience with their last brand and that’s a great sign for industry as well.

Small Business Trends: One of the more fascinating things is … and we’ve heard over the years how experience is becoming the number one factor over price or other features, even … but in this survey it definitely rings true. It sounds like people are definitely willing to pay a premium for better experiences.

Chris Connolly: Very much so. If I can look at the data in a different way … being championed by one of the telecommunications companies out there, that are un-bundling or un-carrying, un-something their experience and they are willing to pay more, they’re willing to go on a plan, potentially, that offers a direct customer service line, instead of a no human customer service line. Some really interesting models starting to emerge. Through that bit, brand reputation is the other interesting element when we look at these experiences, which is saying that about 72% of the respondents bought something based solely on that experience, or based solely on someone else in their network telling them about that brand, and the reputation being held up pretty high.

That is a change, it’s a marked shift from previous generations where you might have heard about it was a lot more advertising in home and out of home advertising, we’re moving that to a world where third party referencing is super important, influencer based marketing becoming increasingly important and that reputation for brands is more important than it ever has been.

Small Business Trends: Yeah, so much so that just looking at this, it’s kind of an unbelievable stat, 41% would be willing to pay an extra 6-10%, so if you’re a brand that has created the right experiences that build the brand name that creates trust, and that trust actually circles back around and allows you to have a longer relationship with customers. That’s kind of a nice circular way to look at it. You build your trust, you build your experiences, that builds the opportunity for longer engagement with customers, it sounds like.

Chris Connolly: Most definitely. If we look at the app economy, as an example that’s doing it really well, there’s a lot of free apps now, and people are not willing to pay for that next icon that’s going to sit on your home screen of your phone. But if they find utility out of it, if they have a great experience with that brand or that app they’re willing to throw a few dollars your way, and that, increasingly with the app eco system, has a level of support. So if you’re just using that free version and you’ve got some troubles, you’re going to have to talk to the community forums to have your issues resolved, but if you provide a great experience people are quite willing to give you a couple of dollars to have an engagement with you. That is flipping some old paradigms on its head.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.