Consumers Have Mixed Feeling About AI’s Potential for Customer Service

April 13, 2017

Consumers aren’t convinced that AI can provide the same, or better level of customer service that a human can provide today, according to a Pegasystems survey. In fact, more adults surveyed across the globe disagree (38%) than agree (27%) that AI can match human customer service. However, there’s a bit more optimism about the future, as more agree (38%) than disagree (26%) that AI has the potential to improve service in the future. Even so, more than one-third are unsure, suggesting that there’s some apathy towards the subject.

The results of the survey show that more people prefer to talk to a live representative on the phone (45%) than any other method of contact for customer service. Even when they turn to online chat, consumers still overwhelmingly prefer human contact.

These preferences are supported by another study in which consumers felt that companies made it easier to contact them about customer service issues by phone and email, while far fewer businesses embraced text messaging or social media as a way to handle service requests or complaints.

Despite the skepticism among consumers, professionals across many industries feel that that AI can have a big impact on the consumer experience.

While only 27% of the Pegasystems survey respondents believe that AI can provide as good as, if not superior experience to human service today, certain situations are more likely than others to make people feel more comfortable about a company using AI to provide better service. Consumers were the most responsive to the use of AI in a retail setting to provide personalized recommendations on items to purchase (34%), in a healthcare setting for a doctor using AI to make better diagnosis or recommendations about health treatments (27%) and in telecommunications where they might use AI to suggest a better offer on a new or renewed contract (25%). However, there was also a human component in many of the situations where consumers felt comfortable with the use of AI.

Some of consumers’ reluctance to incorporate AI technology into their daily lives may stem from a lack of understanding about what AI actually is and how it is most commonly used. In fact, respondents were almost equally likely to report that they have interacted with AI technology as they were to report that they have not, or were not sure. However, based on the devices and services they reported using, the majority (84%) of consumers have actually used the technology before.

An educated consumer and exposure to AI may help change attitudes about the use of the technology. AI users were more than twice as likely to be comfortable with businesses using AI to interact with them (55%) than were non-AI users (25%).

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 6,000 adults in North America, EMEA and APAC.

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