UK a Nation of Anti-Social Shoppers with Only 38% of Consumers Wanting Human Interaction When Shopping

Research by YouGov and Pegasystems has found that Brits have become antisocial shoppers with only 38% of consumers always favouring interaction with a human customer service representative rather than an automated service (such as artificial intelligence, chatbot etc.) when shopping.

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Worse, in total one in ten said they would rarely or never choose to interact with a human, with those aged between 25-34 being most likely (15%) to select this option compared to only 5% of those aged 55+.

Nonetheless, for those looking for a personalised customer service, interaction with a human being remains a strong preference. A third (32%) of all respondents said choosing a guaranteed interaction with a customer sales representative was the most important element of personalisation. This was highest in the 55+ age bracket at 40%, but still a priority for 20% of the more tech savvy generation aged between 18-24. This was selected above a fast response to any query (29%), 24/7 live support (11%), and even knowing my name (1%).

More customer-facing businesses today are automating how customers buy services, but the study suggests that in many cases customers still want support for human interaction to be prioritised above the provision of such services. When asked whether they would prefer the assistance of a human being (e.g. speaking to a customer service representative on the phone/ in store etc.) instead of an automated service, making a complaint was by far the most popular option (65%), followed by getting a mortgage (52%) and booking a doctor’s appointment (43%). As these activities are either of high value, or time critical, these findings imply that consumers would still prefer to deal with a human when making an important arrangement or transaction, implying some cynicism about the reliability of technology.

The study also explored how far customers would be willing to go in giving up more personal details in exchange for better service at a time when organisations are seeking to compete by offering more personalised customer services. Asked if there was a way to guarantee an improved customer service by giving up more personal information in return, over a quarter (28%) said no, they would not be willing to submit any personal information whatsoever if it meant a better customer service. Yet others were more willing: surprisingly, in this new age of GDPR, 56% of people were prepared to tell a company their email address, 48% would submit their full name, and just 37% would hand over their date of birth. Amazingly, despite improvements in the tech and its growing prevalence (particularly in banking), practically no one (3%) was willing to give up their biometric information.

The research also demonstrates that email marketing isn’t dead just yet. When asked which methods they would be happy for a company to contact them for marketing purposes, email was by far the most popular at 68%, and a quarter were still happy to be sent marketing material through the post. Only 4% would be in favour of pop-up advertisements on the internet. But, almost a quarter (22%) would not want to be contacted at all, showing that marketers are struggling to offer value when getting in touch with their customers.

Commenting on the findings, Robin Collyer, Senior Director, Marketing and Decisioning, Pegasystems said:

“Clearly there is an appetite for automation in customer service, yet its benefits are not being felt across the board. Where consumers value human interaction most appears to be in transactions that are of considerable value, or where an immediate response to something important is required. There is a real lack of confidence in technology associated with these tasks which companies need to address if they are to successfully implement new technology.”

“The research shows people generally prefer less intrusive forms of marketing. The resolution is two-fold: customer-facing businesses must embrace AI and an ‘Always-On’ Brain to enable contextual, relevant, and timely 1:1 customer engagement in and across any channel – empathising with individual customers whilst empowering customer-facing employees. Secondly, companies must educate customers about how the responsible use of their information could be used to improve their customer experience. Only then will customers be more open to being contacted by organisations.”

YouGov surveyed over 2000 GB adults with insurance, 16th- 17th October 2018.