Artificial Intelligence is becoming the norm for brands to quickly and efficiently engage with customers. For example, 80 percent of businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020. But in the race to implement these new technologies, marketers must not lose sight of what matters most to customers—a personalized experience with attentive service.
A new report from marketing analytics platform Invoca, Emotions Win: What Customers Expect in the Age of AI, finds that while brands are rapidly implementing new technologies to improve customer experiences, over half of consumers believe the future should entail a combination of human and automated support.
The EQ report shows that more than two-thirds of consumers (69 percent) anticipate AI will handle the majority of brand-based communications in the next five years. And while 61 percent of respondents envision AI making shopping faster, most think it will be more frustrating (51 percent) and less personal (61 percent).
“While AI plays an important role in the customer journey, consumers don’t want AI to replace human interactions—they want human connection,” said Julia Stead, VP of marketing at Invoca, in a news release. “The future should involve a combination of automation, AI, and humans working together to deliver emotionally intelligent customer experiences. Our goal with this research is to equip brands with the insights they need to deliver on these expectations.”
The report shows that consumers want all the help they can get when making tough purchase decisions. When asked specifically about stressful or complicated purchases, one in four (25 percent) of consumers said EQ is the attribute they most value in a salesperson.
“It’s important for brands to have the EQ to create a positive experience when frustrated customers call,” said Adam Justis, director of product marketing, Adobe Experience Cloud, in the release. “Part of creating that positive experience involves tapping into AI to improve the situation quickly. AI can help service reps better understand previous customer actions, observed interests, and preferences and align this information with available offers to quickly resolve issues.”
Additional key findings from the report include:
Millennials and Gen Z believe tech is emotionally in touch
While most consumers anticipate brands will use AI to handle the majority of communications in the next five years, young adults have stronger faith in the technology gaining EQ by then: over half of respondents under 35 (54 percent) believe AI will gain EQ in the next five years compared to 45 percent of those over age 35. Younger consumers also believe it’s probable that voice assistants, like Siri and Alexa, can deliver EQ 29 percent of respondents under 35 years old—compared to their older counterparts—just 15 percent of those over 55.
Brands aren’t measuring up
The stakes are even higher for companies in considered purchases categories — products or services for which consumers carefully weigh options and do extensive research when making a decision. These often involve industries like financial services, insurance, telecoms, travel, and healthcare. In fact, Invoca’s survey found that 69 percent of consumers consider financial purchases, like taking out a personal loan, stressful. Yet key EQ traits of financial brands were rated low, with only 18 percent of respondents saying representatives displayed empathy and 21 percent saying representatives demonstrated adaptability.
With dozens of booking websites for hotels to rental cars and hours-long hold times, many also find travel to be a stressful purchase—53 percent of consumers said travel purchases are somewhat or extremely stressful. The data shows travel representatives ranked highest for efficiency but lowest for adaptability, even-temper and empathy.
The data comes from a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults to examine the importance of a brand’s emotional quotient (EQ) on a consumers’ experience, and how they anticipate artificial intelligence will impact those interactions. Invoca developed the report with Adobe, who earlier this year published the Adobe Experience Index to analyze consumers’ experiences with brands in the categories of retail, travel, media and financial services.