Research firm Gartner forecasts that about 25% of customer service and support operations will employ virtual assistants or chatbot technology for customer engagement across multiple channels by 2020, according to an Information Age report.
Gartner estimated adoption of these technologies stood at just 2% in 2017. Adoption, however, is growing as companies see the potential benefits of self-service features and realize that many virtual assistants and chatbots can kick issues to human customer service representatives as needed, according to Information Age.
Regarding the benefits, the report noted that Gartner found the companies it studied experienced increases in customer satisfaction, along with an average 33% cost savings per voice engagement following their adoption of virtual assistant technology. The firm found that 84% of companies it surveyed expect to ratchet up customer experience technology investment, Information Age reported.
The increased deployment of chat bots and voice technologies, across industries, is part of a larger trend toward investment in technologies that help manage the customer experience.
Consumer product brands in the last couple of years have been among the earliest adopters of virtual assistants and chatbots. Amazon, meanwhile, has pioneered the use of virtual assistant technology in e-commerce and retail with its Alexa assistant. Others, including Walmart and Target, have flocked to Google's voice technology.
Other recent surveys have suggested retail sector investment in these technologies will continue to grow as users become more comfortable with them, perhaps at the expense of other platforms, like mobile apps and websites.
Creators of other voice-driven virtual assistants looking to compete with Amazon and appeal to consumers should help broaden that market segment. Also, artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping new generations of assistants and chatbots be more effective in their ability to communicate with and support customers.
However, retail sector companies are still trying to figure out when, where and how to use these technologies. For example, a recent report from Globant unit PointSource found that 80% of retail customers still aren’t comfortable dealing with chatbots as they try to get post-purchase problems resolved. About 71% of those surveyed also said they prefer human assistance over automated options while shopping in-store.
These technologies enabling greater automation may not completely take over all interactions with customers, but it's increasingly clear they will play a key role.