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Only 8% of customers used a chatbot during their most recent customer service interaction. Despite service managers’ growing investment in chatbots, customer adoption remains low. Of the customers who used chatbots, only a quarter would consider doing so again in the future.

Enthusiasm about chatbots is thin

The survey, conducted among 497 B2B and B2C customers from December 2022 to February 2023, found that only 8% of customers used a chatbot during their last interaction with customer service. Of this group, only a quarter say they would use a chatbot again in the future.

The results show that chatbots do not consistently help customers achieve their goals. Michael Rendelman, Senior Specialist Research at the Gartner Customer Service and Support practice, noted: “While many customer service and support leaders are looking at chatbots as the future of the function, customers clearly need some convincing.”

Resolution rate key driver

A key finding from the study is that a chatbot’s ability to advance a customer’s problem is the most important driver of acceptance. This explains 18% of the variation in the likelihood that customers would use their chatbot again.

While service organizations have a deep understanding of the capabilities and limitations of their chatbots, customers do not. Customers are only 2% more likely to use a chatbot for a return/cancellation than for a billing dispute, despite a significant difference in resolution rates between the two.

The effectiveness of chatbots varies greatly depending on the type of problem. For customers requesting a return or cancellation, the resolution rate is 58%, while for billing disputes it is only 17%.

Rendelman cautions, “chatbots are not effective for all types of problems.” As generative AI makes them more sophisticated, it is likely that customer confusion about what chatbots can and cannot do will increase.

Human contact remains irreplaceable

Regardless of technological advances and the growing popularity of AI, human contact remains irreplaceable. The warmth, empathy and personal understanding that real people in customer service roles can provide simply cannot be replicated by a machine. The Gartner study underscores this point, revealing that the human factor still plays an important role in customer satisfaction.

While chatbots certainly have their place in the field, they should be seen as a complement to, not a replacement for, human interaction. Customers still appreciate the authentic, personal connection they can make with a real person – an element that contributes to their overall satisfaction and loyalty.