Study finds shortcomings of AI in customer service

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CUSTOMER SERVICE providers (CSPs) are not able to meet expectations when they resort to artificial intelligence (AI), including chatbots, a software and services company said.

Based on a study conducted by consultancy firm Forrester for software and services company Amdocs, CSPs and consumers do not meet eye-to-eye in terms of AI services or chatbots.

“Consumers complain that current chatbots struggle with complex demands, fail to deliver personalized offers, and lack human attributes,” Dan Horan, chief digital officer and chief marketing officer for Amdocs Asia Pacific told reporters in a media roundtable.

The study, conducted in the Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East, North America, and Central and South America surveyed more than 7,000 consumers, with an equal number of female and male respondents, and 30 CSPs composed of decision makers in tier 1 companies.

Consumers want to use chatbots to explore the company and its services first before beginning a transaction. But most CSPs do not give sufficient attention to marketing in their AI strategy process, the study found.

It said consumer interactions with virtual agents before they make a purchase and interactions after the purchase are almost equal, but marketing and sales departments of businesses are behind in defining strategy, with technology management and customer service departments leading the strategy.

Consumers are also frustrated since chatbots fail to understand them, but CSPs focus more on designing their chatbot user interface design (UI) and user experience design (UX).

There is also a disparity between consumers and CSPs in terms of human attributes. Some 46% of consumers prefer their chatbot to look like a human, but majority of CSPs create avatar images for their chatbots; and 42% of CSPs build their chatbots to sound youthful, but only 18% of consumers want to interact with a chatbot who sounds younger than them.

Mr. Horan says that CSPs can meet consumer demands via chatbot by involving the right people in AI strategy and definition (particularly marketing), focusing on intelligence and not just on UI and UX, and aligning the chatbots’ human attributes with the consumer preferences.

“CSPs must close the customer experience and expectation gap with a clear plan,” Mr. Horan said.

Mr. Horan said that there is a market shift in intelligence, from identifying and predicting consumer concerns to engaging and deciding — meaning the chatbots aim to understand the sentiments and motivations of the consumer.

“Up until now, [AI] has certainly not been at the right quality… It hasn’t been at the level of sophistication that we have today,” Mr. Horan said.

CSPs however recognize the potential of AI and investing in its capabilities, said Mr. Horan. “People are very bullish on expanding the teams on AI.”

Some 32% of all CSP respondents (67% in the Philippines) said they are currently expanding their AI teams.

Mr. Horan said that both government and non-government organizations will have to consider improving their AI services. Government offices, in particular, should consider improving AI to enhance public services given a considerable lack of resources: “In an environment where you have not enough resources to serve the need of the customer, these sorts of solutions can do it better, faster, cheaper, and the government gets a better result.”

With 86% of consumers saying that they interact with chatbots between once a day to once a month, it is even more important that CSPs improve how they operate AI services.

“Consumers understand virtual agents are here to stay,” said Mr. Horan. — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo