The deployment and popularity of chatbots working in customer service will continue to increase steadily. The main reason for this is because chatbots can (mostly) deliver what customers want: self-service, control, speedy resolution, and personal context.
Consumer Demand for Self-Service
Consumer demand for self-service interactions with companies is increasing rapidly, due to several reasons. First, consumers’ past experiences in contacting companies have left a lot to be desired, particularly in regard to the interactive voice response (IVR) system, one of the most dreaded company gatekeepers.
In 2015, customer service solutions provider Interactions, in conjunction with the Center for Research and Information Society, affiliated with Boston University published a study on public experiences and perceptions of customer service interfaces. The study showed that the largest portion of respondents (50%) started their most recent customer service interaction with an IVR. The next largest contact type was email (20%). Respondents were also asked to rate their attitudes toward and experiences with IVR. Only 8% found IVRs to be useful for them.
Attitudes toward and Experiences with IVR
Given the amount of baggage resulting from poor experiences, consumers are actively looking for alternative means to engage companies.
Second, the growth and current ubiquity of digital channels and communications mean that consumers increasingly prefer to make phone calls less and use digital communications more. A 2016 Nielsen study commissioned by Facebook found that the majority of people age 18 and older prefer messaging communications over calling or emailing.
Messaging versus Other Communications
A study by customer service solutions provider Aspect Software in 2015 found that nearly three out of four millennial-aged consumers prefer to solve their customer service issues on their own. In a 2014 survey of adults in the United States, the Harris Poll and customer service solutions provider OneReach found that 64% of consumers with texting capabilities would prefer to use texting over voice as a customer service channel.
Consumer Expectations for Control, Speedy Resolution, and Personal Context
Hand in hand with self-service is a desire by consumers for more control, faster resolution, and better outcomes tied to personal context in their interactions with companies. They want control, meaning they want answers 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, and not just during specific times and days when companies are available. According to Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, 90% of the 5,000 respondents expect every organization to offer a 24/7 online self-service solution.
While voice calls continue to be the number one way consumers interact with companies, the experience can be a challenge. According to Velaro, long hold times for callers is a significant issue and 60% of customers will abandon a call after just 1 minute of waiting on hold. Consumers want faster resolutions when they interact with companies.
Customer Service Channel Performance Survey
Consumers want companies to know their shared history to speed up resolutions. According to a survey by inContact/NICE in 2017, 72% of respondents expect companies to know their purchase history regardless of the communication channel (phone, chat, web, etc.) Consumers are frustrated when they perceive that companies they deal with on an ongoing basis do not seem to know much about them and that personal details need to be constantly repeated.
Companies Should Leverage Chatbots to Address Consumers’ Desires
All of these issues point to the customer’s increased desire and demand to be in control, and in our hyper-competitive world, the consumer will win. While there are issues regarding chatbots in customer service, which Tractica will cover in future posts, the companies that intelligently leverage them to address these consumer demands will win.