Customers concerned about AI customer service

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Customers would prefer companies to ignore AI when it comes to aftersales service, according to a report published today. In a December 2023 survey by industry watcher Gartner, 64 percent of 5,728 respondents indicated their preference for human customer service over AI. Concerns about AI-generated service include difficulty reaching a human (60 percent) and receiving incorrect answers (42 percent).

The findings come on the heels of a smaller survey by Katana, a business inventory platform, which found that half of 250 respondents preferred human interaction over AI-powered chatbots. The skepticism towards AI in customer service is not surprising, given many people’s frustrating experiences with automated systems that often fail to resolve issues satisfactorily.

Keith McIntosh, Senior Principal, Research, in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice, highlighted the pressure on customer service leaders to adopt AI. He noted that 60 percent of customer service leaders are being pushed towards AI implementation, but they must carefully consider customer concerns to avoid losing clientele. “Service and support leaders must show customers that AI can streamline the service experience,” McIntosh said.

Telecom giant BT, which announced last year the axing of 55,000 positions by 2030 due to digitization and automation, exemplifies the business trend towards AI. However, Gartner’s survey suggests that 53 percent of customers would consider switching to competitors if AI was used for customer service, underscoring the importance of addressing customer apprehensions.

Many companies are already directing customers to self-service options, such as web portals, but customers often seek human interaction when issues remain unresolved. McIntosh emphasized that AI-infused chatbots must be designed to hand off to human agents seamlessly when necessary. “AI-infused chatbots must communicate to the customer that they will connect them to an agent if the AI cannot provide a solution,” he said. “This way, the customer can trust the AI channel while knowing they can reach a human if needed.”

 

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