Digital transformation has long been changing classic customer service as well. Specifically, it often involves the development of chatbots and virtual personal assistants that are designed to stay loose when the situation calls for it, while sifting through data in a fraction of a second.
With so much new technology at play, it’s natural to ask how customers themselves feel about dealing with such IT buddies. To find out, the consulting firm Bearingpoint conducted a survey of 1,006 people between the ages of 18 and 65 in Germany on their attitudes and experiences with chatbots and virtual personal assistants in customer service.
“High level of expertise” decisive quality feature
One key finding: in addition to a high level of expertise (96 percent) and user-friendliness (90 percent), customers apparently also value transparency about whether they are being advised by a human or a machine (83 percent). Less important, on the other hand, is a particularly large number of contact channels (59 percent).
However, the study also shows that although the use of automated customer service offerings is becoming increasingly relevant, German consumers are “still skeptical about chatbots and virtual contact persons in customer service.”
Little experience with chatbots
It is said that only 17 percent of respondents can currently imagine being advised exclusively by an intelligent customer service robot instead of talking to a human.
It is true that almost all respondents (94 percent) have already had contact with the customer service of companies. However, just under a quarter of respondents said they had already communicated with a company’s chatbot.
Among the reasons why this was selected as a service provider was primarily the need for a quick response, Bearingpoint claims to have found out: 48 percent had used a chatbot because they wanted a direct response outside service hours.
Request “not understood”
Still, 36 percent would have preferred this technology because they expected shorter or even no waiting times compared to alternative contact channels. Satisfied with the chatbot were 39 percent of respondents. Of those who were dissatisfied, 58 percent indicated that the chatbot “could not conclusively resolve their concern” or “did not understand the concern” (52 percent).
Of the group of respondents who have never interacted with a company-owned chatbot about a customer service concern, a large majority indicated they “simply prefer to communicate with a human” (73 percent).
Expectations for customer service have risen
When comparing the current study results with those of the previous year, it was noticeable that general expectations of customer service had increased in almost all aspects, Bearingpoint reports. For example, 90 percent confirmed that user-friendliness was important to them.
This value has increased by eight percentage points compared to the previous year. Despite many automated contact options, 77 percent would also like to have direct, personal contact with a customer service employee, and expectations of their professional and social skills have also increased, write the study authors.
Only the need for round-the-clock service had not increased. Here, Bearinpoint allows itself to conclude that “for Germans, the constant personal availability of a company seems to be of secondary importance at 54 percent.”
“Fundamental privacy concerns”
And then there’s Alexa, Siri and Co., which can no longer be missing from any serious study. According to Bearingpoint, 21 percent of users have already taken advantage of the fact that virtual assistants can help with customer concerns, for example, to check their account balance.
“However, the majority of respondents do not yet have such a virtual personal assistant in their own homes. The concerns of non-users were 61 percent “fundamental data protection concerns,” the study claims. In addition, one in three said that “too few service issues can be resolved” (33 percent) using the virtual personal assistants that exist today.