The average UK consumer now contacts organisations 9 times per month, equating to 463.5 million monthly contacts – which costs brands an estimated £1.227 billion per month to answer, according to new research.
Brands face an increasing volume of queries from consumers, across multiple channels. However, the research by Eptica suggests a willingness by consumers to use AI and automation (including 54% happy to use voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa) to find answers to many queries. And this is going to be key to improving the customer experience, while enabling companies to free up human staff for more complex conversations.
Some of the key findings from the new 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study are:
- 88% of people contact companies more, or the same amount as 5 years ago
- These contacts are split between different channels, including email (27%), phone, web, social media (each 17%), chat and chatbots (11% each)
- Based on industry figures the 463.5 million contacts cost brands £1.227 billion per month to answer
- Automation is central to bringing down these costs and improving the experience – 83% of consumers said they were happy to use web self-service systems and 64% want to use AI-powered chatbots
- Over half (54%) of consumers are happy to interact with brands through intelligent voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Siri from Apple
- Reducing routine queries by 10% would save £122m per month, while improving the experience for consumers
Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising. 88% of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16% getting in touch more than twice as often.
Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media. 83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.
Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel, answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone). In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.
“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”
Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27% of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17%) each, with 11% of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.
“Reducing the number of contacts by 10% would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Olivier Njamfa.
With customers looking to interact more with brands, with a wider range of queries, it is vital for brands to balance AI and the use of human agents. AI-based automation is key to delivering faster, more consistent and efficient responses, particularly for routine queries. This frees up agents to focus on more complex, detailed queries where human skills such as empathy are best deployed, boosting engagement and brand reputation.
For the research 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed online in Q3 2018.
The full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands to transform how they use knowledge within customer experience is available here.