New Delhi: Indian consumers slammed clunky chat bots and revealed how they want software robots or chat bots to serve them better, according to a new study.

As part of the study, a survey of senior decision-makers on AI spending at India’s largest communications and media companies, also revealed how plans for a rise of robots for front line customer interactions could be hampered by wrong investment choices and a lack of human talent.

These are part of the findings from a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of software and services provider firm Amdocs in the Americas, Europe and Asia that was released on Tuesday.

Consumers said that they loved chat bot’s speed and convenience but asked companies not to force robots on them until they’re more human and smarter.

Forty-five percent of consumers interact with virtual agents at least once a week because its more convenient (47%) and quicker (46%), but 47% say this is only because they had no other option. If offered a choice, 79% would prefer to speak to a human since human agents better understand their needs (82%) and can address multiple questions at once (62%). Bots, say consumers, cannot deal with complex requests (their biggest problem), understand human emotions (second biggest problem) or deliver personalized offers as well as humans (third biggest problem).

Consumers also have strong views on how they want bots to look like and behave. More than half (53%) prefer their bot to look like a human, as opposed to 19% who want to see an avatar and 16% who want to see an icon. Although 36% don’t care either way, 43% prefer them to be female, rather than male (21%). Sounding polite (1st), caring and intelligent (tied 2nd) are by far the highest in terms of preferred bot personality traits, followed by “sounding younger than me" (3rd) and funny (4th).

Service providers are not investing in the right areas in terms of their AI investments.

Most investments are focused on increasing the speed of response (83%) and information security and privacy (50%), rather than on consumer desire for better personalization (33%) and more comprehensive information (17%).

Forty-four percent of service providers are also creating icon images for their bots and 25% are creating avatar images, while consumers prefer bots to look human-like. They are also investing in features that consumers don’t find desirable, with more than a quarter of service providers (27%) building their bots to sound serious and a fifth (20%) to sound posh.

All service provider AI decision-makers said that 85% of customer interactions will be with software robots in five years’ time. And most of these decision-makers (84%) fear they are lagging behind their competitors in the use of AI to improve customer experience. To catch up, 83% plan to expand their AI workforce and increase their AI budgets by at least 6% in the next 12 months.

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