Chatbot frustration sees UK customer satisfaction slump

26 December 2022 4 min. read

The human touch is still central to top customer service, according to UK consumers – a third of whom believe customer service has worsened in the last two years. More than half say that chatbots and AI-powered customer services tools “never understand” requests or problems.

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly hyped as a “game-changing tool for businesses”; but the reality has often failed to live up to that grand billing. An estimated 85% of AI-related business projects fail; and while – as with cryptocurrency, blockchain, the metaverse and many other eternally nascent ‘breakthrough technologies’ – proponents of AI often argue these failures are simply because businesses are not ‘finding the right use cases’, the potential of relevant use cases seems to be dwindling by the day.

Most prominently, AI has long been championed as the future of customer services work. In particular, AI-powered chatbots were once broadly sought after by large companies, as a means to quickly deal with customer feedback and take care of simple tasks – while allowing companies to downsize headcounts, and undercut the pay of remaining call-centre staff. The fact is, however, that many businesses are increasingly shying away from chatbots – for the simple reason that customers broadly detest them. And if the results of a new poll from Capterra UK are anything to go by, it is hard not to see why.

Which option is the first choice for support for UK consumers

Of 1,000 consumers polled, 62% said chatbots couldn’t solve complex or specific issues. Meanwhile, 51% of customers added chatbots “never understand their requests or needs” – not “occasionally misunderstood” or “often misunderstood”; “never”. On top of this, 50% noted chatbots generated frustration by being repetitive and running in circles – potentially making customer retention less likely.

That is because three-in-ten customers told Capterra UK that they would stick to a brand that gave good customer support, even when cheaper competition existed. So, to ensure that bracket of customer remains with a business, leaders would do well to remember that just 3% of all customers said they would choose chatbots as their top channel for help.

Eduardo Garcia Rodriguez, Content Analyst for Capterra UK, commented, “AI technologies have the potential to enhance the customer experience, but businesses need to ensure that different consumer demands are met. Asking for feedback from their customers will help them to improve their services and find ways to leverage these technologies to their full potential and develop a stronger, more personalised customer experience.”

In contrast, UK respondents still showed preference for old-fashioned phone-based customer service, with human agents. Receiving customer support via the phone was voted as the top choice by 42% of those surveyed customers, while 89% of all respondents expressed their preference for a human voice over a synthetic one. The main advantage of phone calls identified by 74% of customers was that they allow them to explain themselves and ask more questions. 

How has customer service evolved over the past 2 years

At the same time, firms downsizing their call-centres in favour of chatbots may also have had a negative impact, even on the most popular mode of contact. A 79% portion stated that the downside of calling was being stuck in a queue – which a larger headcount could help reduce. However, some have also said this means they are more inclined to favour a second popular method.

A 39% chunk said they now communicated with a human agent via live chat on apps such as WhatsApp – with 52% of those stating they liked live chat because of its flexibility in terms of availability and hours. Still, they found this less reliable than the phone, with 54% concerned that the live chat gave unclear explanations or miscommunication, that can get in the way of their conversations.

At a time when customer journey is said to be paramount, spending on these digital options does not seem to be improving matters for UK companies. Only 35% of UK respondents said customer service had improved over the past two years, the smallest percentage recorded among the countries. In addition, while 76% of Mexicans, 74% of Japanese, and 63% of Brazilians felt like valued customers when talking to support services, just 55% of UK consumers felt the same, with the other 45% saying they felt that they were bothering customer support instead.