ITWeb, in partnership with Freshworks, conducted a customer experience (CX) survey, to examine how customer service expectations have changed over the past year, and how chatbots and apps are being deployed to improve CX. 

A total of 263 valid responses were captured, with 31% of respondents being at executive management (C-suite) level and 40% being in middle management or line management positions. While 34% came from the IT sector, the remaining 66% work in a wide range of industries, with telecoms, financial services and public sector having the highest representation. 

Here are some of the key findings: 

  1. Asked to identify the key driver of customer satisfaction in their market segment, respondents gave priority to speed of resolution as opposed to speed of response. In fact, 36% chose speed of resolution, followed by quality of interactions with support agents (25%). Seamless omnichannel experience is the key driver for 23% of the respondents, while speed of response trails with 16%. 
  2. Only 10% rated their organisation’s current ability to provide seamless customer service as excellent; 35% said it was good; 22% gave it a neutral rating; while 11% said it was basic. Only 4% admitted to it being poor. 
  3. 17% have fully implemented virtual customer assistants and/or chatbots as part of their channel mix, and a further 22% are in the process of implementing. 29% don’t use chatbots yet but plan to do so within the next 12 months. However, 28% have no plans to implement chatbots any time soon. 
  4. Over half (52%) of the respondents said their company is using service analytics to monitor customer interactions. 
  5. Asked to list three most important priorities for their customer service operations, most respondents chose maintaining service quality without adding headcount (24.8%) and enhancing self-service capabilities (24.7%). Boosting employee morale and engagement was listed by 17% of the participants. 
  6. The vast majority (92%) believe that bots will help human agents perform their tasks better – by doing repeatable/automatable tasks and enabling agents to focus on tasks that require more human intervention. 
  7. When it comes to CX benefits envisioned by integrating chatbots in the channel mix, providing clear, concise and consistent answers to commonly asked repetitive questions so as to reduce agent workload came out tops ( 22%). This is followed by the ability to seamlessly hand over the conversation to agents for higher order resolution (17%). 
  8. In most cases (32%) the person in charge of CX strategy and implementation in the organisation is the CEO. In 19% of the participating organisations it’s the CIO or CDO, and only in 17% it’s the customer experience officer. 
  9. How have respondents’ customer service expectations changed in the past 12 months? 28% said customers expect an immediate response to their queries; 25% said customers expect to be able to reach out on their preferred channel; 23 % reported that customers expect to be informed well in advance on estimated resolution time. 
  10. The main challenge organisations face in achieving a single view of the customer is the existence of multiple customer channels that are not integrated and customer data across different teams that is siloed (reported by 47% of the respondents). The second biggest challenge (25%) is that customer service is viewed as a stand-alone function. 
  11. Respondents indicated that, in their view, the best way for their organisation to improve customer service levels is to step up the use of AI, virtual agents and chatbots (45%); and invest in a cloud-based support platform to reduce upgrade costs and get an easy, single view (35%). 
  12. When it comes to how respondents expect AI-powered chatbots to improve their customers' experience, 24% expect them to reduce time to response; 22% expect to automate resolution for frequently asked issues to reduce agent workload; and 17% expect to reduce cost to serve, especially on channels like contact centres and text messaging