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NTT DATA Study Finds Enterprises Need to Take Control of Their Automation Plans to Build Consumer Trust in Virtual Agents

Companies across industries are rapidly adopting virtual agents to automate customer service. However, according to research findings released today by NTT DATA Services, a recognized leader in global technology services, enterprises have not properly planned for automation or its impact on customer experience. In fact, 54 percent of firms do not have a defined structure for selecting automation technologies. The study also found that an overwhelming number of businesses have not yet executed a customer service automation plan (80 percent).

“From my interactions with enterprises, I have observed that AI is a shiny new thing that organizations want but they do not necessarily know how to use it,” said Sarah Burnett, VP at Everest Group. “One of the biggest challenges to deploying AI is access to good data. This is something that CIOs need to address.”

Results also showed consumers don’t trust automated systems for customer service support. At the time of the study, nine percent of consumers said they do not have a lot of trust in virtual agents to solve their issues. One of the primary reasons reported for lack of trust in automated systems is the speed and accuracy of being able to solve customer service issues.

However, it’s not too late. An emerging consumer segment of survey respondents do trust automated customer service and have had good experiences with virtual agents. These ‘Virtual Yay-Sayers’ prefer virtual agents over live agents for handling simple customer service inquiries such as updating billing information, checking account balances, and tracking product shipments.

“Surprisingly, many of these Virtual Yay-Sayers, 62 percent, are not millennials, which leads us to believe that it is a mainstream trend and virtual agents will continue to grow as the future method for consumers to interact with customer service,” said Kris Fitzgerald, vice president and chief technology officer, NTT DATA Services.

Key study findings include:

  • There’s a perception gap between businesses and consumers when it comes to using virtual agents. Businesses overestimate consumers’ willingness to use virtual agents. More consumers (86 percent) than businesses (78 percent) said that it is important for customer service to answer the question correctly the first time. In contrast, more businesses than consumers said that:
    • Consumers are willing to use a virtual agent if there is a good chance of solving their problem faster (77 percent vs. 63 percent)
    • Consumers don't care if they connect with a live or virtual agent, as long as their question gets answered (61 percent vs. 54 percent)
  • Consumers want quality customer service over warp speed. Respondents report that it’s more important for their customer service questions to be answered correctly than quickly.
    • Only 24 percent of consumers would prefer a virtual agent, even if there’s a chance it could solve their problem in just two minutes
    • 76 percent of consumers would prefer a live agent with a higher chance of solving the problem, even if it takes 15 minutes
  • Most companies are at low levels of customer service automation maturity. The majority of businesses surveyed are not as mature as they think they are, and report inconsistencies about what it means to be automated.
    • 80 percent of businesses have not executed a customer service automation plan
    • 59 percent of firms have no formal security, basic governance or only minimal verification for automation tools
    • 54 percent of firms do not have a defined structure for selecting automation technologies (including 48 percent of firms over $10 billion in revenue)
    • 44 percent of companies report that automation is not a competency in customer service or elsewhere in the organization

“Success of automated systems involves focusing on the quality of the customer experience. Solutions that are quick and resolve the customer’s issues accurately will rebuild consumer trust,” said Fitzgerald. “It is imperative that automation be part of the end to end internal process and not just another implementation of a shiny object.”

The study was conducted in October 2017 - NTT DATA surveyed 1,249 consumers and 103 business executives involved in decision-making, budgeting, strategy or execution of customer service, to answer questions about impact, expectations, readiness, and challenges to overcome with automation.

To request a copy of NTT DATA’s research report when it becomes available in March 2018, click here.

About NTT DATA Services

NTT DATA Services partners with clients to navigate and simplify the modern complexities of business and technology, delivering the insights, solutions and outcomes that matter most. We deliver tangible business results by combining deep industry expertise with applied innovations in digital, cloud and automation across a comprehensive portfolio of consulting, application, infrastructure and business process outsourcing services.

NTT DATA Services, headquartered in Plano, Texas, is a division of NTT DATA Corporation, a top 10 global business and IT services provider with 110,000+ professionals in more than 50 countries, and NTT Group, a partner to 88 percent of the Fortune 100. Visit nttdataservices.com to learn more.

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