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Communication is vital to business, that’s a given. In retail, businesses must be responsive, provide a great customer experience and stand by their products or services. But what happens when businesses fail at that? They get complaints.
A customer ordered some copper from a business that promised it to be of the highest quality. When the customer’s representatives received the merchandise, they discovered that the copper was not the quality that was ordered. What did the business say? “Take it or leave it!” Of course, the customer that ordered it was furious and sent a message to the businessman promising to not do business with them on their word of the quality of the merchandise and, further, asked for a refund.
Sound familiar? Every retail business in existence has encountered this situation at one point in time. An unhappy customer complains via a message. And, for certain, tells their network.
Why is this story different?
Because it happened 3,800 years ago. On a stone tablet that was almost 5 inches wide and 3cm thick. Then delivered, in person, after a voyage from Mesopotamia across the Persian Gulf. It is thought to be the world’s first complaint (albeit in writing). Some customer was so upset that he not only sent his messengers to collect the merchandise, which they returned empty-handed, but then carved into stone a complaint and sent the messengers back to deliver that message. A voyage that was about 1,220 miles. Sounds like a pretty unhappy customer. And while Yelp didn’t exist at that time, the complaint has endured quite a while. Don’t forget, however, that the customer had to deliver a message that distance to buy the copper in the first place.
Fast forward to today.
Customers can now communicate with businesses immediately. Regardless of whether that communication is to complain, buy something or get questions answered. Technology has rapidly given consumers faster ways in which to communicate and consumers have gotten more used to this speed and convenience. First, telegrams, then phones, then email and now chat and text messages.
The tech community, however, is trying to take it to the “next level.” One that is automated and doesn’t have human involvement. Efficiency and speed are that technology’s selling points. But are consumers biting? No.
While efficiency in communication is a key factor in customer experience, transactional success and increased revenue, humans still want to deal with humans. No consumer wants to converse with a phone tree or an AI system. Have you ever gotten frustrated trying to get an answer from Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home or Apple’s Siri which either don’t understand, misunderstand or give you irrelevant answers?
Now, we have chatbots. AI-driven customer service. But how do customers feel about them?
According to this article in Forbes, people aren’t thrilled, and chatbots are killing customer service. At the end of August 2018, the Global Consumer Customer Service Report specifically asked consumers how they felt about chatbots. What did they discover? Humans still prefer to deal with humans. In fact, while chatbots may be sufficient for a quick automated answer, complex and detailed customer inquiries were preferred (and recommended) to be handled by humans.
Human beings orchestrating customer service needs can react and respond to complex situations better than any chatbot. And believe me when I say that consumers know when they are talking to a “bot” just as quickly as they know that the email your dealership just sent was automated and not actually sent by a person.
For consumers, a live support agent is preferable to chatbots every time. Chatbots aren’t capable of adapting outside of their programming. Just think about the conversations that car shoppers have with your salespeople. I bet you beat your head against the wall just listening to the recorded conversations between salespeople and phone calls with customers on your call tracking service.
It’s much more difficult to communicate via the written word (e-mails, chat, text, etc.) than it is when speaking in person. Structure and vocal tone dominate those conversations and can change the meaning when communicating whereas that option isn’t available in written form.
When a human chat agent is involved, however, “…half of the respondents ranked chat as their top channel for quick customer service. Yet, they still prefer a human because bots are less helpful, and their answers are less detailed.” The article goes on to say that the survey does believe that chatbots are killing customer service and that while companies are adopting chatbots in order to save money and human resources “in the short term… [they] will eventually send customers running for the hills.” And lose revenue rather than saving money.
Whether you are considering using chatbots in your dealership through a technology company, managing chat in-house, using a fully managed service or some hybrid of all of the above, just keep in mind that consumers prefer interacting with humans. It’s not the speed at which the customer can get answers that matter… but the quality of those answers that will provide them with the customer experience that will keep have them (or keep) them coming to your dealership.