Understanding the needs of the digital consumer

UK consumers reveal their thoughts on AI, Chatbots and Customer Service Automation.

Written by Alex KloseOctober 4th 2017

When it comes to self-education to help shape customer service strategies and future investment, businesses often over-rely on the wrong type of sources: studies which limit their audience, and therefore their findings to contact centre and customer experience (CX) professionals.

Unfortunately, this only gives one side of the story and not the one that matters most to you as a business. Surprised by the lack of research into the reality of the experiences consumers are currently receiving with both traditional and new methods of customer service, we took this opportunity to get to the bottom of what consumers really value from a business’s customer service experience.

We surveyed 1,000 UK consumers on their current customer service experiences, their expectations and most importantly, what they would like to see in the future. We wanted to have a clearer understanding of their attitudes towards artificial intelligence, chatbots and the increasing level of automated customer service.

The outcome revealed some surprises. For example, we found a strong disconnect between the customer service experience supposedly being offered today vs. the CX reported by our respondents. It was clear from the results that consumers are longing for more efficient methods of being served and engaged by businesses.

Consumers value their time above anything else

Post results analysis revealed a shock: voice channels dominated customer service interactions with 71% of respondents using either their mobile or landline the last time they submitted a query with a business.

But the real takeaway is that the channel doesn’t always align with consumer expectations. Despite 67% of recent voice channel respondents believing their query should be answered within 5 minutes, the majority experienced a waiting time of 5 to 29 minutes before they got through to an agent.


We asked consumers if they would be willing to wait longer for a customer service reply when using a messaging channel such as Facebook Messenger, as long as their enquiry was acknowledged. Showing off the potential benefits of using messaging channels, 78% of customers would be happy to do so simply by knowing that their issue has been acknowledged and will be dealt with soon, all without the customer being committed to a phone call. This is further backed up by later questions which revealed that 64% of respondents saw this as the biggest advantage of using messaging channels to submit their queries.

It’s clear that time spent is what matters and seems to be what the majority consumers base their customer service expectations on. Investing in a solution that allows consumers to get on with their lives with the peace of mind that their query is being investigated and solved is a must for any business that wants their customer service experience to stand out from the competition

Younger digitally savvy consumers = increased openness to digital channels

The number of digitally savvy consumers increases every day, an audience that businesses need to meet the expectations of. Of those respondents who tried messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, SMS, WhatsApp and Webchat, 70% of 18-to-34-year-olds and 63% of 35-to-54-year-olds preferred the methods over email and phone interaction.

Over half of all respondents new to contacting businesses via messaging channels demonstrated curiosity. This was particularly high among 18-to-34-year-olds with 68% expressing a desire to use these channels for customer service purposes.

AI and automation for increased efficiency

Who says we aren’t ready for artificial intelligence and automation?

When asked how happy respondents would be interacting with a chatbot or virtual assistant if it resulted in a faster or more efficient service, nearly 60% were happy about the notion.

Specifically, respondents identified routine interactions such as account and balance enquiries, offer redemptions, bookings/reservations and delivery tracking, are the best type of queries chatbots should be used for.

We also asked about what characteristics they would most value in a chatbot. The results showed that they most value the chatbot’s availability - 24 hours a day, the ability to communicate with ease, and the chatbot’s ability to respond instantly and accurately.

Surprisingly the personality of a chatbot was among the least desired traits meaning there is no need for businesses to overthink this matter in the customer service space. In fact, having fewer personality-defining traits can translate into more efficient service, exactly what customers are looking for.

A golden opportunity for businesses

The results of our study clearly show that there is a huge opportunity for businesses to prove themselves to a growing number of consumers who are open to and excited about the use of artificial intelligence and digital channels to save time.

Businesses have a chance to embrace this openness, to get smart about customer service automation, and the integration of new digital channels. If they get it right, they will be able to differentiate their brand as a customer service game-changer, driving loyalty and growth in a competitive market where customer service experience matters most.

For an in-depth look at the questions, answers and the insights, download The Digital Consumer Interaction report here.


This blog post was written by Olga Kramer on behalf of IMImobile.

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