29% of consumers pick chat as preferred customer service channel

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Chatbots and messaging apps have now surpassed phone and email as the most popular channel for consumers to interact with retailers. According to a new study from customer engagement software and service provider [24]7, millennial shoppers' commitment to new technology plays a large role in the rise of chat's popularity.

In a recent report titled "A Retailer's Guide to Chat," 28.9 percent of consumers prefer to interact with retailers through online chat (25.8 percent) or messaging apps (3.1 percent) during the purchasing process. Combined, chat is more popular than phone (28.7 percent) and email (27 percent) as a method of interaction.

RELATED: Customers frustrated with phone support; prefer chat, other digital channels

Specifically looking at millennials ages 18 to 34, 37 percent of respondents chose chat as their favorite way to converse with companies, and less than 25 percent ranked phone or email as their first choice.

"Messaging apps are incredibly valuable for retailers looking to enhance relationships with consumers, particularly millennials," said Scott Horn, chief marketing officer for [24]7. "With chat technology rapidly evolving, it's becoming a much more efficient and engaging customer-service channel."

In addition, 26 percent of all consumers said they were open to interacting with a company through a messaging app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, and the number was as high as 39 percent for millennials. Half of all consumers see the benefits of messaging retailers through an app, with the biggest reasons being convenience, ease of use and conversation history.

RELATED: Facebook's new Messenger bots let retailers sell in chat

Consumers even see chat as a good space for order updates. In fact, one in five consumers said receiving proactive updates through messaging apps would be most useful.

Beyond chat as a customer service channel, about 39 percent of those surveyed said that they are willing to have automated conversations with chatbots, and 9 percent of millennials said they always prefer to interact with a robot when online with a retailer.

However, humans still have a role in customer experience as 62 percent of consumers prefer to interact with a human over a robot at all times, and 13 percent of shoppers have no problem talking to a chatbot as long as they have the option to speak with a human if needed. In addition, consumers prefer phone interactions when attempting to resolve a post-purchase issue (40 percent), while chat drops to 21 percent.

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