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April 20, 2017updated 19 Apr 2017 3:23pm

UK consumers want Meerkats and George Clooney for chatbots

Would you prefer to chat with George or Aleksandr?

By Ellie Burns

The chatbot is one technology which continues to pick up speed, with companies like Facebook betting big on automated software.

The chatbot push by big business is impacting consumers, slowly but surely changing their perceptions and views of communicating and interacting with AI and automation – 57% of Brits are now aware of what a chatbot is and over a third (35%) wants to see more companies using the tech as part of their customer service strategies. This was in spite of the fact that 75% had yet to speak to a chatbot.

In what will be well received by those businesses who have bet big on chatbots, one in five UK consumers would consider purchasing products from a chatbot and would be willing to spend an average of £314.74. In even more positive news, a third of consumers would actually using a company’s chatbot before engaging with a human, with 21% of UK consumers seeing chatbots as the easiest way to contact companies.

The findings, from research carried out by ubisend, also revealed some surprising customer preferences when it came to chatbots. Asked about the brand characters which they would most want to engage with, Andrex puppies and Nespresso’s George Clooney came second and third to Meerkats – Compare the Market Meerkats to be precise. When hopefully speaking to Mr George Clooney, consumers were found to prioritise ‘reaching the desired outcome’ (58%), ‘ease of experience’ (48%) and speed (44%) as the most important factors when talking to companies.

The main reason why respondents choose to engage with a chatbot before a human customer service representative is because they want instant answers to their questions (69%) – particularly for information about a brand’s service, such as opening hours. Just over a fifth of consumers (21%) would also purchase goods and services from a chatbot while 22% would look to use a chatbot to receive recommendations on goods and services they might like from a brand.

“The conditions are ripe for chatbots now. The things consumers demand most when communicating with a company are at the heart of what a chatbot delivers. A perfect storm has been created where technology can now match or exceed consumers’ expectations of how brands should be interacting with them,” said Dean Withey, CEO at ubisend.

“In this age where convenience always wins out, brands need to solve problems quickly and efficiently to differentiate themselves from a customer service standpoint. Chatbots have the ability to answer questions 24/7, they will never lose their temper with a customer, and they provide the quick and efficient communication that people now demand.”

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READ MORE: Chatbots: Should your business talk to a robot?

Although 23% of UK consumers found chatbots gimmicky, the survey revealed that consumers are more likely to look positively on a company using chatbots – which, of course, will have a positive impact on brand and reputation. 43% of UK consumers saying they perceive companies that use chatbots as ‘innovative’. A further 30% regard such companies as ‘helpful’ and 22% see them as ‘more efficient’ in their customer service. Nearly one in five (17%) of respondents say they perceive a brand using chatbots as ‘fun’ – maybe the same demographic who are hoping to speak to George Clooney.

“While chatbots must make customer experience efficient and reliable, the best chatbots also delight users. They will not only deliver the excellent customer service needed, but they will offer a novelty experience that cannot be delivered by any other means of digital contact,” said Mr Withey.

“Chatbots bring brand personas to life. This imagination makes people happy and helps increase brand recall. For the first time, brands can have an engaging conversation online.”

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