More than 9 in 10 consumers (91 percent) report they have experienced poor customer service in the last six months—and it’s not getting better, with one in three consumers saying service is worse than before the pandemic, according to new research from AI-enabled customer contact center provider Replicant.
The problem in contact centers is especially dire. The most common form of poor customer service, according to 56 percent of those surveyed, was long wait times, and 70 percent of respondents said it’s harder to reach a real person now than it was during the beginning of the pandemic. Of consumers who report customer service is worse than before the pandemic, 82 percent blame staffing issues.
Conversational AI can be the solution
The new survey, conducted with research partners Method Research and Dynata, found that consumers are open to speaking to conversational machines (an AI-powered machine that can hold human-like conversation and respond to questions quickly and accurately in a natural sounding voice). Nearly 80 percent of consumers indicated they would speak to a machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57 percent of consumers would speak with a conversational machine even if the hold time was only five minutes.
A majority of consumers are willing to talk with a conversational machine instead of a real person when making typical customer service requests like scheduling an appointment, starting or stopping a service, or making a reservation.
Consumers also report:
Time is money
Three in four (74 percent) consumers surveyed said they would be willing to lose $15.72 on average to avoid waiting on hold or dealing with poor customer service.
Longer hold times than before the pandemic
One-third (32 percent) report the average time they spend waiting on hold has doubled compared to before the pandemic; half of people waited on hold more than 15 minutes during their most recent customer service experience.
Hold times are a liability for brands
Seven in 10 (70 percent) consumers are irritated or angry with a hold time of more than 30 minutes. One in five consumers reported waiting on hold at least 30 minutes during their most recent customer service experience.
Reevaluating travel due to poor customer service
One-quarter (25 percent) of summer travelers said they’ve rethought future travel plans because of poor service.
Overall, brands that don’t address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76 percent of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty.
“This data shows that customers are looking for better service, notice when it’s poor, and voluntarily switch brands as a result,” said Gadi Shamia, CEO and co-founder of Replicant, in a news release. “Spikes in call volume and challenges in staffing call centers worsened during the pandemic and are now the new normal, so companies must think of a new path forward. For companies, AI Thinking Machines are providing a first line of support for overburdened contact centers to give customers quicker and more efficient customer service.”
Replicant conducted this research using an online survey prepared by Method Research and distributed by Dynata among 1,000 US adults ages 18+ in the United States who have interacted with customer service within the past 6 months. The sample was equally split between gender groups, with census reflective age groups and a nationally representative geographic spread of respondents. Data was collected from July 30 to August 3, 2021.