Over 45% of Aussies have no issue talking to a chatbot. Here’s why robots are the future of customer support.

Image: iStock/Tero Vesalainen
This article has been sponsored by Zendesk.

As businesses strive to provide the best possible service to their customers, more will continue to turn to solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI). According to a report by customer service software company Zendesk, the number of clients using the AI-powered chatbot alone has almost doubled over the past two years. 60% of this change has been driven by business-to-consumer companies.

The report also clocked Australian consumers’ attitudes towards bots, with just over 45% of respondents agreeing that they’d interact with a bot over a human agent as long as it results in an accurate response. If respondents’ neutral responses are added to the total, that percentage jumps to just over 75%.

Image: Zendesk.

It’s no surprise that this trend is being led by millennials and Gen Z, both of whom are already comfortable with interacting with AI.

“For one thing, these generations tend to be more aware that they are already engaging with AI, and, having grown up with sophisticated technology, are often more comfortable with its use and savvy as to its benefits and potential,” the report explains. “Younger generations are also more enthusiastic about interacting with AI if it gets their issue resolved more quickly and accurately, implying that they are more open to using AI as long as it is straightforward and effective.”

Image: Zendesk

This increase in AI acceptance is sure to continue, not only as younger Australians get older, but also as the AI used to interact with customers improves. Most chatbots are currently used to serve simple roles. Zendesk’s Answer Bot, for example, is able to automatically respond to customer emails with appropriate self-service articles that aim to solve queries while they wait to speak to a human agent.

It may not sound like a huge help at first glance, but the company says, “The number of issues solved through Answer Bot deflections has increased threefold over the past two years.” This is particularly evident in the social media and entertainment industries. Even in a basic capacity, it can offer relief to busy customer service teams and allow them to focus on bigger-picture issues.

Image: Zendesk.

“Customer service managers are most likely to say AI is useful for providing always-on, 24/7 support, resolving simple issues, and personalising service,” the report explains.

Kia Motors is already using AI in novel ways here in Australia. By saying “OK Google, tell me about the Kia Seltos” or similar phrases involving the “Kia Seltos” keywords, the Google Assistant will take users to a separate area of the AI voice assistant which will address questions about the SUV, including things like fuel efficiency, cabin capacity and more. Users can even find a dealer and book in a test drive.

The Art Gallery of NSW used an AI-powered chatbot to enhance its recent Japan Supernatural exhibit via Facebook Messenger, encouraging visitors to engage with the artwork.

“Fiendish goblins and mischievous shapeshifters abound in our Japan Supernatural exhibition, and Japan’s folktales have manifested through the latest technology for centuries, whether that’s woodblock printing in the 1700s or anime in the 20th century. We wanted to bring some of the legendary stories and characters to life using a chatbot, allowing us to engage with new and existing audiences in a playful and creative way,” Art Gallery of NSW marketing partnerships officer Svetlana Chernin told CMO.

But those concerned about AI taking jobs away from humans in the customer service space needn’t worry, as the technology is most useful when combined with a human touch.

“It’s projected that AI will create nearly $3 trillion in business value by 2021 and AI usage in customer service will increase by 143% by late 2020,” Forbes writes. “At the same time, leading companies understand that AI solutions are most effective when they work hand in hand with humans, not instead of them.”

With that kind of business value on the table, it’s easy to see how more companies will begin implementing AI into their customer service operations, meaning more consumer exposure to chatbots in return. As long as they’re helpful and properly combined with human care, we’ll likely see consumer attitudes continue to shift in their favour.

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 also delivers key insights into customer data and its uses, the effectiveness of self-service channels, how high performing teams combine support channels and more.