Use of chatbots by customers service providers in PH seen to increase in five years

Artificial Intelligence or AI is already making a dent in customer service in the Philippines through use of chatbots, which are computer programs that serve as virtual assistants.

There are now “good-sized” teams (more than 20 people) working on chatbots among customer service providers in the country, particularly in telcos, according to Dan Horan, Amdocs chief digital officer and chief marketing officer Asia Pacific. He is quoting from the results of Amdocs commissioned study that sought to find out customer expectations of chatbots and how are service providers investing on the technology.

Consumers understand chatbots and they acknowledge the technology is here to stay. But their expectations of chatbots ran opposite of what the companies are doing.

While consumers expect bots to be more humanlike and do complex requests or understand human emotions, customer service providers are prioritizing on investing in increasing information security, privacy, and speed of response of chatbot technology, rather than improving the experience to customers.

But the use of chatbots will be on the increase in the next five years. Eighty-seven percent of the service providers surveyed see a huge increase (85%) of customer interactions with sofware robots.

“Chatbots are a fantastic way for customer service providers to help consumers. Chatbots can become the big opportunity for them to invest in making customer experiences more engaging, automated, and personalized. I think now is the perfect point for this to happen. Up until now, it (chatbot) certainly is not of the right quality. It hasn’t reached this level of sophistication. Chatbots should really a big focus for communications service providers,” says Horan.

The research surveyed 7,200 consumers across the world, including 521 consumers from the Philippines. It also covered 31 communications services providers, which include ten service provider executives from some of the largest communications and media service providers in Asia, including the Philippines.

Here are some of the findings from the commissioned study that covered the Americas, Europe and Asia:

  • 90% of Filipino consumers interact with virtual agents monthly, more than a quarter (26%) weekly, because it’s more convenient (43%) and quicker (46%), but 48% say this is only because they had no other option.
  • If offered a choice, 87% would prefer to speak to a human since human agents better understand their needs (83%) and can address multiple questions at once (63%).
  • Bots says consumers cannot deal with complex requests (their biggest problem), understand human emotions (second biggest problem) or deliver personalized offers as well as humans (third biggest problem).
  • Consumers also have strong views on how they want bots to look like and behave. More than half (51%) prefer their bots to look like  a human, as opposed to 17% who want to see an avatar.
  • Although 46% don’t care either way, 44% prefer them to be female, rather than male (10%).
  • Sounding polite (1), intelligent (2) and caring (3) are by far the highest in terms of preferred bot personality traits, followed by being fully customizable (4) and funny (5). But, sounding serious, foreign or authoritative rank much lower with only 18, 17 and 9% of consumers, respectively, saying they would appreciate this.
  • Service providers in Asia are not investing in the right areas in terms of their AI investments.
  • 38% are prioritizing AI investment in increasing information security and privacy and 33% in speed of response.
  • What customers rank as top areas for improvement such as bots delivering better personalization or more comprehensive information are lower on service providers’ priority lists with eight and four percent, respectively, prioritizing these.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of service providers are also creating avatar images for their bots while consumers prefer human-like images. They are also investing in features that Filipino consumers don’t find as desirable, with more than half (56%) of service providers building their bots to sound serious, a quarter to sound foreign and nearly a quarter (24%) to sound authoritative.
  • The fact that 42% of Filipino consumers experiencing problems with today’s bot service don’t complain about it means the industry is working in the dark.
  • 87% of service provider AI decision makers in Asia say that 85 percent of customer interactions will be with software robots in five year’s time. And almost half of these decision makers (46%) fear they are lagging behind their competitors in the use of AI to improve the customer experience. To catch up, over half (58%) plan to increase their AI budgets by at least 6% in the next 12 months and 87% intend to expand their AI workforce within the year.
  • But this expansion might still not be enough. Contrary to the common perception that tomorrow’s service provider will be run more by robots than humans, only four percent of service providers see AI as the opportunity to replace a large number of staff.
  • Most decision makers (67%) actually see the lack of human skills to set up and run AI as one of the top two risks to delivering on their AI strategies, just behind technology not being mature enough (79%).
  • A third are seeking external support, predominantly from their existing vendors as opposed to native AI solution providers (25 vs 8%).