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Published
Sep 20, 2021
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​Consumer complaints? Human contact soundly beats chatbots says study

Published
Sep 20, 2021

Using automated chatbots to handle dissatisfied customers isn’t the way forward. Instead, good old-fashioned face-to-face contact remains the best way to reach a satisfactory conclusion to a problem or complaint, a study by Which? claims.


Olive Communications


A survey of 5,000 consumers found online chatbots and social media are among the worst ways to make complaints, while speaking to human customer service agents yields the best results.

Talking face to face to a customer services employee was the most effective way for shoppers to get redress, closely followed by speaking to someone on the phone.

Unfortunately, that comes as more and more omnichannel and pureplay online retailers are turning to chatbots and social media to fulfil their customer contact needs.

The Which? study spoke to shoppers who had tried to complain to big retailers across sectors including fashion and homewares during the pandemic from March 2020 to March 2021. 

Social media was found to be one of the worst ways to complain, with just 45% finding it an efficient way to do so. Some found they were simply ignored.

Chatbots were found to be an only marginally better, with 46% of people saying this was an effective way to complain. Text messaging also scored only 46%.

Writing a letter was found to be roughly comparable to using social media or a chatbot, with 37% rating it not as effective.

Which? found the best way to get a complaint resolved is to make it in person to a member of staff, with 65% saying this method had prompted a positive result. That didn’t have to be in person as speaking to someone online or in a video call was found to be equally as effective, with 65% giving it the thumbs up. Complaining by phone was 63%.

Adam French, the consumer rights editor at Which?, said: “With so many people having made the switch to shopping online during the pandemic, it’s important to know the most efficient way to get any issues resolved.

“Our survey shows just how important it is for retailers to allow customers to speak to someone directly. Retailers who are falling short must improve their customer service offerings and where possible, offer customers the chance to speak to a member of staff if their issue cannot be resolved through other methods.”

Research carried out by the dispute resolution service Resolver and published by the Telegraph newspaper found that last year, big names including Amazon, Argos and Specsavers had removed the option to complain via email or stopped receiving email complaints.

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