Implementing AI like chatbots has allowed brands to meet the impulsive needs of today’s young consumers. A new report by Invoca found that while these consumers find chatbots less frustrating than human interaction, a strong emotional quotient (EQ) is still needed, especially during stressful purchase decisions.
“Emotions Win: What Customers Expect in the Age of AI” compiles responses from 1,000 US adults to examine the importance of EQ on customer experience.
Nearly all respondents (90 percent) named problem-solving as an important or very important characteristic of brand interactions. Having an even temper and empathy were also valued at 84 and 77 percent, respectively.
That being said, 80 percent of all respondents said that in-person human representatives provide the best EQ, compared to chatbots at 22 percent. Consumers under the age of 35 have stronger faith in the future of AI emotions, with a little more than half believing AI will gain EQ within the next five years.
Expectations that a brand should provide personal service increase with age, the study found, with 64 percent of Gen Z respondents believing this, compared to 86 percent of those aged 65+. Personal service doesn’t necessarily mean interacting with a human being, however. Around half of every age group preferred to interact with a machine over a person. In addition, only 43 percent of consumers under the age of 35 said they would find AI experiences less frustrating.
Women are more hesitant to hand their emotional decisions over to a machine, with 65 percent believing AI would make experiences less personal compared to 56 percent of men.
“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 the report. “The future should involve a combination of automation, AI, and humans working together to deliver emotionally intelligent customer experiences.”
When asked about the EQ of specific industries, respondents named “travel” as the best in terms of efficient interaction and personalization, but lowest in terms of empathy and having an even temper. This may have a correlation between emotions and travel decisions. A little over half—53 percent—said that travel purchases are somewhat or extremely stressful.
Healthcare companies meet consumers’ emotional needs most of the time, respondents claim, especially during in-person interactions. In fact, all industries named in the study—healthcare, home services, finance, insurance, telecoms and travel—scored better with in-person than chat.
The study confirms what many brands already know—that Gen Z and millennials often prefer automated services to human interaction. Invoca points out that young consumers aren’t necessarily opposed to speaking on the phone, but may be unsatisfied with the experience when they do.
“There’s a huge opportunity for all brands to deliver not only the right information over the phone but also the appropriate level of empathy,” wrote Julia Seed, vice president of marketing at Invoca.