Customer service is suffering, and chatbots aren't really helping

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The coronavirus pandemic has coincided with a significant deterioration of customer experience, new research has found.

In a survey of more than 2,000 individuals conducted by the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) and cloud communications firm 8x8, a significant number of consumers said they have struggled to receive good customer service since the pandemic began.

More than half of the survey respondents said that they had experienced increased difficulty in receiving customer service, while 67% had experienced increased wait times since the coronavirus pandemic erupted. Notably, the survey also found that chatbots, which have seen increased use during the pandemic, continue to have a mixed reputation among customers.

Trust issues

The CCMA survey found a significant discrepancy between the levels of trust for chatbots across age groups. More than a third of individuals (35%) aged between 16 and 24 said that they preferred to use chatbots rather than human advisors to handle inquiries but even among this age group, there was a preference for using human customer service agents for more complex topics, like complaints or reporting fraud.

Similarly, while 34% of individuals claimed that their trust in chatbots was increasing, this figure fell to 32% among individuals aged between 45 and 54, and 22% for the over 55s. In addition, 64% of customers stated that they had abandoned an inquiry completely because a chatbot could not understand them.

Although chatbots are a great way for call centers to manage increased demand, particularly in the age of social distancing, they cannot replace all aspects of customer interaction. Relationship building will continue to remain an important part of the customer journey, and one that simply cannot yet be mimicked by a computer program.

“Organizations should not rely on chatbots to build trust,” Chris Marron, director of market intelligence at 8x8, commented. “The human connection remains critically important. The most effective implementations recognize that artificial intelligence augments human advisors, it does not replace them. To be ready for the future, organizations should aim to meet customers on their terms and use the channels of their choice. This research demonstrates personalization of interactions and channels will be crucial moving forward.”

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.