Are AI bots in customer service the way forward?
The pandemic caused major disruption to industries, making businesses adapt to a new situation. People moved employees to remote working, which presented a whole new world of challenges for organisations.
A provider of AI-enabled automated customer contact centers, Replicant, has carried out a survey that found 91% of consumers reported they had experienced poor customer service in the last six months. The research also suggests it's not getting better, with one in three consumers saying customer service is worse than before the pandemic.
The most common form of poor customer service, according to 56% of those surveyed, was long wait times, and 70% of respondents said it's harder to reach a real person now than it was during the beginning of the pandemic. Of consumers who report customer service is worse than before the pandemic, 82% blame staffing issues.
Interacting with AI
The survey found that consumers are open to speaking to conversational machines (an AI-powered machine that can hold a human-like conversation and respond to questions quickly). Nearly 80% of consumers indicated they would speak to a machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57% of consumers would speak with a conversational machine even if the hold time was only five minutes.
A majority of consumers are willing to talk with a conversational machine instead of a real person when making typical customer service requests like scheduling an appointment, starting or stopping a service, or making a reservation.
"This data shows that customers are looking for better service, notice when it's poor, and voluntarily switch brands as a result," said Gadi Shamia, CEO and co-founder of Replicant. "Spikes in call volume and challenges in staffing call centers worsened during the pandemic and are now the new normal, so companies must think of a new path forward. For companies, AI Thinking Machines are providing a first line of support for overburdened contact centers to give customers quicker and more efficient customer service."
What else did the report find?
- Time is money — 74% of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to lose $15.72 on average to avoid waiting on hold or dealing with poor customer service.
- Longer hold times than before the pandemic — 32% report the average time they spend waiting on hold has doubled compared to before the pandemic; half of people waited on hold more than 15 minutes during their most recent customer service experience.
- Hold times are a liability for brands — 70% of consumers are irritated or angry with a hold time of more than 30 minutes. One in five consumers reported waiting on hold at least 30 minutes during their most recent customer service experience.
- Reevaluating travel due to poor customer service — 25% of summer travelers said they've rethought future travel plans because of poor service.
Overall, brands that don't address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76% of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty.