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APAC consumers expect human-like service from chatbots

Consumer expectations of chatbots in Asia-Pacific have risen in tandem with improved performance of AI applications over the past year, a study has found

The growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve customer experience (CX) has raised the performance bar of AI applications, with customers getting more comfortable with the technology, a survey has found.

According to Zendesk’s latest CX trends report, 64% of businesses polled in Asia-Pacific (APAC) indicated that the performance of AI and chatbots has increased significantly over the past year, and that they are becoming more natural and human-like.

At the same time, customer expectations have also increased, with 73% of consumers in APAC wanting chatbots to provide the same level of service as humans. The ideal evolution of AI, the report noted, should enable businesses to handle multiple complex questions in customer interactions, and eventually integrate voice-based AI and synthetic agents into their CX offerings.

In spite of the improvements in AI, as demonstrated in OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot which has been causing a stir in the industry, only 16% of Singapore businesses have indicated AI and chatbot integration as one of their top operational priorities.

“It’s evident customers have a grasp of what the future of AI-driven customer service will look like, with their issues being resolved in ways that are nearly identical to human support,” said Adrian McDermott, chief technology officer at Zendesk.

“We know businesses are working to make it better, but there is a growing realisation that meeting customers’ expectations will require a more concerted effort. They are not willing to wait for companies to make gradual changes, a signal to businesses that change needs to happen fast,” he said.

While the focus has been on AI and chatbots, those are not the only technologies that are being applied in CX. With the right tools to help agents better understand the context around each customer conversation, organisations can deliver the conversational experiences that customers want.

According to Zendesk’s report, consumers are now driving the rise of conversational experiences, with the desire for more fluid, friendly and natural interactions that put them in control and do not interrupt current tasks.

For example, if a customer stops an interaction, they expect a new support representative to be able to easily pick up where the conversation last ended.

In APAC, 72% of consumers spend more with companies that provide a seamless, omnichannel experience across all touchpoints, the study found. Similarly, 70% of APAC consumers said they are more likely to spend more on companies that allow them to start conversations on one channel and pick it up on another without the need to repeat themselves.

Most organisations, however, are still playing catch-up. In APAC, 63% of organisations have yet to implement conversational customer service, although they intend to. Additionally, 65% of them are rethinking the entire customer journey to build a more fluid customer experience. 

The success of CX initiatives also hinges on having the right customer data that is of good quality. According to a Gartner study, 84% of customer service and service support leaders globally cited customer data and analytics as “very or extremely important” for achieving customer service and support goals in 2023.

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