Human or Robot? New Fifth Quadrant Study Identifies Key “Moments of Truth” in the Retail Journey

I ain't lookin' for praise or pity
I ain't comin' 'round searchin' for a crutch
I just want someone to talk to
And a little of that human touch

-Bruce Springsteen

There are clear points in the customer journey or “moments of truthin which human interactions are strongly preferred to a chatbot, according to new research carried out by Fifth Quadrant in partnership with LogMeIn. The study concludes that a customer journey in which a human/robot blended approach is effectively employed will deliver superior customer experience (CX).

Study design and overview

Fifth Quadrant surveyed over 1,500 Australian consumers in order to learn more about their attitudes and experiences with chatbots. Half of the respondents had interacted with a retailer via webchat over the past six, while the other half had not. 

Respondents were categorised according to age, with four groups: Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, and Boomers*. The study revealed that the majority of webchat users were from Gen Y (33%), while, perhaps unsurprisingly, Boomers comprised the largest cohort of non-webchat users (52%).

Gen Z scored lower on both webchat use and non-use, which may be a result of that generation having less purchasing power than older digital natives. Gen X polled similarly across use and non-use, with a slight skew towards use.

“We found that webchat users have a much higher engagement with online retail than non-users, whose key concerns are around security and trust,” says study lead, Lizzie Dawson.

Digital natives seek out webchat, older generations stumble upon it

When it comes to channel selection, the study revealed that digital natives (Gen Z and Gen Y) are more likely to seek out webchat, while Gen X and Boomers use is more often based on responding to a pop-up.

“Younger generations are proactively choosing webchat for its convenience and flexibility,” says Dawson. “They also prefer to multi-task and like to be able to chat while doing other things.”

With the exception of Gen Z who tend to use webchat for direct support, the most common reason customers use webchat is for gathering info about product, prices or promotions, according to the study. Digital natives are also happier to use a range of other contact points to resolve a query, while Gen X and Boomers are more comfortable using the telephone.

“While the convenience of webchat is attractive, we found that if it isn’t well-executed, it can actually cause customers to abandon their online purchase altogether,” cautions Dawson. “Across generations almost half or respondents told us this - it is something retailers need to be wary of.”

Webchat study 1

Lack of awareness an issue

Boomers aside, the main reason respondents haven’t used webchat came down to a lack of awareness of webchat as being an option, the study found. Boomers stated a preference for speaking to a “real person” rather than a chatbot.

As generations that grew up with the Internet and instant messaging, it isn’t surprising that digital natives display a higher demand for chat-based channels such as bots and social media. At the other end of the scale, Boomers would rather stick with phone or email.

A little of that human touch

The study revealed that there are two key touch points in the customer journey in which customers strongly prefer human interaction, “looking for an item lost during delivery” and “resolving a problem with a purchased item”.

This finding is in line with other research into chatbot use, which has consistently found that customers prefer to be “upgraded” to a human agent when dealing with more complex tasks that may require creative thinking or empathy.

At the other end of the scale, chatbots are most preferred for “giving you general product and price information”, followed by “recommending products to you” and “taking a product order”

“While there is an appetite for chatbots at certain stages of the customer journey, it is essential that customers are able to switch over to a human if their queries are not being adequately addressed,” Dawson says.

Going forward, the study proposes a customer journey that begins with chatbots delivering instant replies and gathering preliminary information before handing over to a human who is able to deal with complexities, and build rapport. Finally, the chatbot can return to request and log feedback.

Webchat study 3

While chatbots are improving every day and becoming more widely accepted as a method of communicating with companies, at the end of the day it is still just like the Boss says: we still want a little of that human touch.



The full Fifth Quadrant Research study is now available for download.

This research was sponsored by Bold360 by LogMeIn Inc. (NASDAQ:LOGM), a company that simplifies how people connect with each other and the world around them to drive meaningful interactions, deepen relationships, and create better outcomes for individuals and businesses. 

LogMeIn is one the world’s top 10 public SaaS companies and a market leader in unified communications and and collaboration, identity and access, and customer engagement and support solutions. To learn more, please visit: Bold360 by LogMeIn.

To enquiry about upcoming customer experience thought leadership research projects and find out more about how to get involved and sponsor, contact Brad Arsenault at Fifth Quadrant today.

*Generations were defined as follows: Gen Z, age 16 – 23, Gen Y, age 24 – 36, Gen X, age 37 – 52, and Boomers, age 52 and over. Both Gen Z and Gen Y are considered “digital natives”, ie people brought up during the age of digital technology and the Internet.

Get the research!


Stefan Kostarelis

Written by Stefan Kostarelis

Stefan is the Content Manager at a Sydney-based investor relations firm, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Techly, Paste Magazine, Lost at E Minor and Tech Invest.

Topics: Customer experience Chatbot LogMeIn Artificial Intelligence BoldChat CX Articles & Insights market research

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