Two fifths say AI is making customer service worse & more than one in three say there are no benefits

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Only 15% of Britons believe AI has enhanced their customer service experience and 41% say it has made it worse, amidst the rise in organizations using chatbots and similar tools to manage helpdesks and customer queries, new research by BSI has found.

The findings indicate the opportunity for brands to get ahead of the curve by investing in the right tools and training the people using them, in order to deliver high-quality support that meets customers’ needs. In the survey of +2,000 UK adults, carried out by YouGov on behalf of business improvement and standards company BSI, 80% said it was important for businesses to have a defined and independently certified inclusive service provision specifically designed to meet the needs of vulnerable consumers

Past BSI research[i] identified that 57% of Britons had knowingly communicated with a service provider online via an automated chatbot, although only 32% knew for sure this used AI. Yet despite this, more than a third of people (36%) now say customer service standards have fallen in the last two years.

Those surveyed recognized the potential of AI tools to improve customer service, with two fifths picking out speed of response or 24/7 availability as a benefit, and a fifth citing the reduced need to search elsewhere for answers. Yet the implication is these tools are not sufficient alone to improve the customer experience, and more than one in three (35%) say they do not think there are any benefits. While 42% agree AI is ideal for simple complaints, 68% say it is unsuitable for complex queries

The research was conducted to mark the launch of the new BSI Kitemark for Service Excellence, developed to reflect the shifts since Covid-19, when consumer activity shifted to the internet[ii], including customer service[iii], requiring customers and businesses to adapt. Studies suggest recent cost of living pressures have contributed to rising expectations around customer service, with people willing to pay more for a reliable service[iv].

The importance of customer service has also been highlighted by key regulators including Ofgem[v], who last year advised that “a critical part of an energy supplier’s role” included making it easy for customers to contact them, manage their bills and seek assistance if they are struggling to pay. Ofwat[vi] and the FCA[vii] have also raised this issue.

The updated Kitemark, which builds on a previous iteration to put greater focus on customer excellence, is relevant to organizations in a range of sectors able to show they are embedding service excellence, including retail, utilities, banking and insurance, car dealerships, hospitality, telecommunications and healthcare. The scheme has been shaped by customer experience experts and draws on three standards: Code of practice for customer service (BS 8477); Quality management – Customer satisfaction (BS ISO 10002) and Service Excellence – Principles and model (BS ISO 23592).

Organizations certified to the Kitemark will need to demonstrate delivering consistently good customer service, complaint management and outstanding customer experience. They will need to show the steps they are taking to improve satisfaction and loyalty, to adapt to digitalization, and their work around risk mitigation and continuous improvement. The Kitemark also considers their management of AI, reflecting how integral the technology is becoming.

Natasha Bambridge, Global Consumer Promise Practice Director, BSI, said: “A positive customer service culture is one in which people’s needs are prioritized and they can be confident in the information and guidance they are being given. With digital transformation and technological advances including AI shifting much consumer activity online, organizations have the opportunity to support their customers on that journey and leverage tools like AI as a force for good. With the launch of the new Kitemark for Service Excellence, BSI is proud to be a trusted partner as organizations adapt and respond to this changing global consumer landscape.”

Craig Civil, Director of Data Science and AI, BSI said: “As AI tools become part of daily life and central to how organizations interact with their customers, human involvement will continue to be critical if we are to make the best use of this technology and build trust and consumer confidence. Organizations have the opportunity to collaborate with their customers, to listen to their needs, in order to ensure a great customer experience with AI in every area of life and society.”

According to the YouGov survey, Britons trust independent certification to give the highest confidence in a company’s customer service and experience.  This outranks online reviews and the product’s price. 70% said they were more likely to buy from an organization that has certified to the BSI Kitemark for service excellence, in comparison to one that hasn’t.

Details of the Kitemark can be found here: https://www.bsigroup.com/en-IN/kitemark/services/customer-service-kitemark/

[i] BSI partnered with Censuswide to survey 10,144 adults across nine markets (Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Netherlands, UK, and US) between 23rd and 29th August 2023

[ii] How COVID-19 is changing consumer behavior –now and forever, McKinsey, July 2020

[iii] Delivering customer service during COVID-19, Deloitte

[iv] Third of UK customers will pay more for excellent service, despite cost-of-living crisis, The Institute of Customer Service, January 2024

[v] Consumer standards decision, Ofgem, October 2023

[vi] Moving a step closer to higher standards of customer service in water, October 2023

[vii] Consumer Duty: Not once and done, FCA, November 2023