Customers Reject AI for Customer Service, But Still Crave a Human Touch

Customers Reject AI for Customer Service, But Still Crave a Human Touch

A recent study found that the majority of customers do not want companies to use AI in their customer service offerings.

The findings, conducted by Gartner, are based on a survey of nearly 6,000 customers across four continents. The results highlight a clear disconnect between businesses and customers when it comes to the use of AI.

Recent advances in generative AI (GenAI) have led to internal expectations for customer service and customer experience leaders to deploy this technology, with Gartner reporting that 60% of executives are “under pressure from other leaders in their organization to adopt GenAI.”

Yet despite companies’ considerable efforts to leverage AI to improve customer experiences, customers are actually rejecting this ubiquitous technology.

Of those surveyed, 88% admitted to having “major concerns” about AI, while 64% said they would prefer companies not to use AI for customer service.

Additionally, the survey results suggest that this aversion to AI may be starting to impact companies’ bottom lines, with more than half of respondents saying they would consider switching to a competitor if they found out a company was using AI for customer service.

The danger of customer-driven AI potentially alienating an organization’s consumer base was raised by Keith McIntosh, Senior Research Director, Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice.

“Sixty percent of customer service and support leaders are under pressure to adopt AI in their role,” McIntosh explained.

But they cannot ignore concerns about the use of AI, especially when it could mean losing customers.

But why are customers so wary of AI? And what can businesses do to ease their concerns?

AI Redesign

When it comes to bridging the gap between how businesses and customers perceive AI in the CX space, it’s important to understand where customer concerns are coming from.

As the chart below shows, the number one issue cited by 60% of respondents was the fear that using AI would make it harder to reach a human agent.

Additionally, significant concerns were expressed about AI taking people’s jobs (46%) and providing incorrect information to customers (42%), while data security (34%) and AI bias/inequality (25%) were also cited.

4 customer insights to improve the service experience
Source: Gartner: 4 customer insights to improve the service experience

Given the changes that have taken place in the customer service industry in recent years, with a shift towards chatbots, live agents and online forms, it’s natural for customers to assume that improvements in AI will exacerbate this trend and make it even more difficult to speak to a human agent.

To reassure customers, Gartner encourages customer service teams to use customer-facing AI as a “facilitator to best-fit solutions, not an agent replacement.”

The organization also highlighted the need for businesses to communicate the benefits of GenAI more effectively, detailing how the technology can be used to improve the customer experience, while making it easier to get in touch with a human agent when needed.

How and why can businesses address customers’ top AI concerns? McIntosh:

“Many customers worry that GenAI will become another barrier between them and an agent. It’s up to service and support leaders to show customers that AI can simplify the service experience.”

Service organizations must build customer trust in AI by ensuring their GenAI capabilities follow service journey design best practices.

“For example, AI-powered chatbots need to communicate to the customer that they will connect them with an agent if the AI ​​can’t provide a solution. They then need to seamlessly transform into an agent-based chat that picks up where the chatbot left off.

“This way, the customer can be sure that they will be able to efficiently find their solution using the AI-infused channel.”

More updates on AI from Gartner

Interestingly, the report’s advice on deploying GenAI as an enabler rather than a replacement echoes comments made by Emilie Potosky during a Q&A session with Gartner last April.

Senior Research Director at Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice Relying solely on self-service and automation technologies is discouraged, emphasizing that most self-service solutions cannot fully solve customer problems and that some level of human assistance will always be necessary.

Indeed, a separate Gartner survey of 822 business executives supports Potosky’s claim, with 61% of customer service and support leaders expecting minimal headcount reductions (five percent or less) as a result of GenAI.

Potosky recommends that instead of using GenAI to replace human agents, companies focus on leveraging employee enablement technology.

During the Q&A session, it was argued that technology has the ability to enhance and support current employees, while increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of their performance, such as Potosski explain :

Providing employees with context and guidance through their technology will reduce reliance on skills and expertise, thereby lowering costs and expanding the pool of available talent that can engage in customer-facing work.