Future of Work News

Chatbots Can Close the Sale - But Only with Unknowing Customers


Chatbots have the potential to outperform human salespeople, according to a recent study, but only when customers aren’t aware of it. Academic journal marketing science looked at data from outbound sales calls between both bots and human sales reps and 6,200 customers to reach their conclusions.

Researchers found that the bots could match more experienced human salespeople and even outperform some of the less experienced ones when customers weren’t aware they were interacting with AI. The study was conducted at a financial services company based in Asia. When customers were made aware of the bot’s presence, they often became curt, which ultimately led to a whopping 80 percent drop in sales. The study’s researchers posited that the bots were perceived as less knowledgeable by customers, despite their objective competence.

The study raises some interesting issues as more organizations embrace AI and chatbots to handle routine customer interactions. For instance, California passed a chatbot disclosure law last year making it unlawful to mislead users and customers when it comes to using AI bots. But often, the lengthy disclosures required for compliance can disrupt the flow of customer interactions and ultimately turn off potential customers.

For the Asian study, all calls followed a highly structured script, regardless of whether humans or bots were initiating the interaction. Chatbot callers were divided into four groups based on whether or not callers were made aware they were dealing with AI and if so, at which point during the call. Human callers were divided into two groups based on their level of experience. Surprisingly, the bots that disclosed their presence at the end of the call performed better than those that did so upfront. Researchers observed that in those cases, the bots had already made a good impression on customers, who were more likely to go through with the sale.

The researchers concluded that customers’ perceptions of AI will most likely improve as they encounter more chatbots and have more positive interactions. “As millions tell Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant to play music, reorder products and make appointments, the impact of AI new frontiers on our daily life will be ubiquitous in the long run,” they wrote in the study.

The ethics, success rates and pervasiveness of AI and chatbots in customer service and the workforce at large will be part of the discussion at TMC ‘s Future of Work Expo in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The event, which will take place from February 12-14, 2020, will explore how AI and machine learning may be used to improve business communications, collaboration, sales and marketing and contact centers and customer service.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Future of Work Contributor

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