Why we'd rather talk to robots, any day..


A great story in the Harvard Business Review states what I have long suspected: that people would much rather talk to an intelligent robot than another person.

Not in all situations of course – just most of them. In the article – Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You – the writer states that most people prefer to deal with machines rather than other people in most business scenarios.

“Most customers these days demonstrate a huge — and increasing — appetite for self-service, yet most companies run their operations as if customers prefer to interact with them live.”

It’s definitely something I find – I actively prefer the self-service stations in Sainsbury’s compared to the checkout people, and it’s not just because I’m autistic and like robots, though I do. I guess I feel the same when buying train tickets or checking into the airport, the self-service machine just looks easier and quicker.

Research suggests that people prefer self-service machines for just that reason: they appear to be more efficient. The writer also hypothesized that “on a psychological level, it might have more to do with the unique element of control that self service affords. Or, maybe this self-service love affair is a product of our infatuation with gadgetry and electronic communication.”

Similarly, I prefer dealing with help staff over Instant Messaging on websites rather than over the phone, partly because it’s less expensive but also because it’s easier to follow and less disruptive.

Okay, so it’s not like I’d go to the pub with some robots after work or hang out with them in the evening but as far as anything to do with insurance, website hosting or buying pizza goes – I’m happy just to talk to the robot.

Do you agree?

[via Harvard Business Review]

Anna Leach