A recent survey from Replicant, a provider of AI-enabled automated customer contact centres, found that 91 per cent of consumers report they have experienced poor customer service in the last six months.
To complicate things, the research suggests it’s not getting better, with one in three consumers saying customer service is worse than before the pandemic.
The problem in contact centres is especially dire. The most common form of poor customer service, according to 56 per cent of those surveyed, was long wait times, and 70 per cent 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 per cent blame staffing issues.
But the survey found that consumers are open to speaking to conversational machines (an AI-powered machine that can hold human-like conversation and respond to questions quickly and accurately in a natural sounding voice). Nearly 80 per cent of consumers indicated they would speak to a machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57 per cent 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.
Overall, brands that don’t address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76 per cent of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty.
“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 centres 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 centres to give customers quicker and more efficient customer service.”