7 in 10 Consumers Prefer “Helpful, Friendly” Salespeople Over Automated Processes

However efficient the automated sales process might be, 7 in 10 global adults (with Americans right on that average) would rather interact with helpful, friendly customer service (meaning live people) than have an efficient, automated sales experience, according to new data released by Ipsos in November. An automated process could be, for example, online, via a smartphone or through an in-store kiosk. On a global basis, women are more likely than men to prefer the live sales experience (73% vs. 67%).

Part of the preference for live sales help is that consumers feel they are more successful in accomplishing their tasks this way. In a NICE Systems survey of US, UK, and Australian consumers regarding their interactions with several service providers, respondents reported being successful in accomplishing their tasks 71% of the time when contacting a representative via phone, compared to 65% of the time when using a service provider’s website. Close to 3 in 5 respondents said they try to bypass the automated phone system to reach a live representative, while more than one-quarter (31% among Millennials) said they are likely to get frustrated and hang up.

Preference for in-person sales communications by consumers is reflected by marketers’ own opinions on what types of marketing activities work. For example, B2B marketers rate in-person events most effective for content marketing, while both B2B and B2C small businesses rate in-person interactions as their most effective marketing activity.

Younger, Wealthier Americans More Open to Automated Processes

Meanwhile, according to the Ipsos study, US respondents fall right into the global average of 70% preferring live customer service. But the gender gap is a bit wider, with 74% of women preferring the live sales experience versus 65% of men.

Predictably, younger Americans are more positive about the automated online experience. 41% of US respondents aged 18-35 prefer that method, versus 30% of those aged 35-49, and 20% of those aged 50-64.

Also true, the preference for automated sales rises with income. 19% of US respondents from low-income households prefer automated to live sales versus 29% from medium-income households and 34% from high-income households.

That preference also correlates with education level. A quarter of Americans educated up to the high-school level prefer automated sales, compared to 31% and 40% of those with a bachelor’s degree and advanced education.

Curiously, US business owners strongly prefer the automated experience compared to non-business owners (54% vs. 27%). The same is true comparing senior executives and decision makers with those in lower ranks or non-decision makers (50% vs. 27%).

North America, EU Most Strongly Favor Live Sales

Regionally, North Americans and Europeans most strongly favor the live experience (74% and 76%), while Latin Americans and citizens of BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) show the lowest such preference (61% and 62% respectively).

On a country-by-country basis, Hungarians show the strongest preference for the in-person sales experience (87%), followed by Belgians (81%). Those showing the lowest such preference are Argentinians (56%) and Saudi Arabians (59%).

About The Data: The Ipsos data is based on 12,000 online interviews conducted in September 2012 across 24 countries, with adults aged 18-64. The US data is based on a sample size of 500.