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Businesses and consumers are experiencing a gap in perception when it comes to the use of AI. While almost two-thirds (63%) of businesses believe that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for customers to get their issues resolved, only one-third (33%) of consumers agree, according to a customer experience benchmark report [download page] from NICE inContact.

There is an even bigger gap when it comes to businesses believing that customers would like to use their virtual assistants (such as Amazon Alexa/ECHO or Google Home) to interact with them. While 68% of businesses carry this perception – and despite ownership of such devices continuing to increase in the US – only 30% of customers actually want to interact with businesses using them.

Even so, businesses are continuing to look to the future when it comes to voice ordering. A report from Feedvisor found that retailers are seeing customers’ increased comfort with using devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa as an opportunity in the coming years.

What business and consumers do agree on is that customers want to be informed immediately if they are interacting with a chatbot or virtual assistant rather than a live agent. A large study of 10,000 consumers from last year backs up this sentiment, with two-thirds of respondents saying they wanted to know if they were interacting with AI as opposed to a human.

An unfortunate side effect of the increased use of AI may be that consumers feel that businesses have lost touch of the human aspect of customer experience. Findings from this new report indicate that businesses clearly know that customers actually prefer to interact with a live agent instead of AI.

Online Chat Fares Better

While AI hasn’t quite won the hearts of US consumers, they are more satisfied with online chat. Businesses that offer online chat have increased considerably. In 2018, two-thirds (67%) of the businesses surveyed offered online chat, compared to fewer than half (46%) in 2017. Perhaps due to the increase in availability of online chat – or potentially because comfort levels in using them have grown – consumer usage of these tools grew from 10% to 30% between 2017 and 2018.

More than half (53%) of the report’s consumer respondents also ranked online chat as one of their top 3 methods of communicating with businesses in 2018. That being said, the telephone is still the most preferred method of communication for customer service, with 7 in 10 respondents (71%) reporting that their issues are resolved at the first point of contact when they contact businesses by telephone.

To read more, download the report here.

About the Data: Findings for the report were based on two separate surveys of 2,407 consumers (March-April 2018) and 905 Contact Center decision makers (November-December 2018). Respondents from both surveys were from the US, UK and Australia.

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