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Consumers want generative AI and know it will change their service experiences

Zendesk data signals consumers expect this rapidly evolving technology will make their brand experiences better, but they aren’t ready to give up human agents

Published March 23, 2023

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm, sparking conversations about how it will change the way we learn, work, interact and more. Like other forms of AI, generative AI is used to create content, generate code, and also in conversational applications like SMS, email and chatbots.

Zendesk head of AI Cristina Fonseca shared her thoughts on the promises and pitfalls of generative AI based on many years working on large language models (LLMs) and foundational models.

We also recently surveyed consumers and discovered they have significant expectations with respect to generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and how it will impact their customer experience. Here are the four key takeaways:

1. Integration of generative AI into service for high-quality, personalized content is expected by consumers

Consumers want fast and helpful service, so it is no surprise that 67% of them predict generative AI will soon play a crucial role in customer service. That number is validated and skyrockets to 78% among those who have already used it. Generative AI gives consumers answers quickly, with the right amount of detail and context. They are increasingly impressed by what they are seeing as they explore it.

2. Consumers want generative AI to improve interactions, not replace human agents

Three in four consumers who have interacted with generative AI want and are comfortable with human agents using it to help answer their questions, but they also want the accuracy and empathy humans provide.

In fact, 81% of consumers say having access to a human agent is critical in maintaining their trust with a business when they have trouble with AI customer service. Consumers have been frustrated by bots or help centers that provide incorrect information. So while generative AI can put more relevant information at consumers’ fingertips, there will continue to be questions that require the problem-solving skills and empathy only a human agent can possess.

Zendesk has one of the largest CX datasets and we’re leveraging it to train our own AI capabilities to better understand consumers and help agents increase their knowledge. Many of our customers are already driving business value using features like intent detection and sentiment analysis. For example, when a customer submits an inquiry about a broken product, Zendesk can detect the customer’s specific intent to make a return which then gets instantly routed to the correct customer service representative.

Zendesk believes generative AI can eliminate much of the low value manual workload that is also incredibly time consuming, allowing agents to spend more time creating custom experiences for consumers and addressing complex issues that benefit from the empathy of a human interacting with the customer.

3. Generative AI will change self-service as we know it

When consumers have a problem, sometimes they want to be able to find the answers themselves. Eighty two percent of consumers who have interacted with generative AI believe it will be a central tool for discovering and exploring information. Using generative AI like ChatGPT can be used to provide a conversational reply with information a customer needs instead of surfacing a link to an article when the customer then has to search for the information that will help them.

One key area of the customer experience that will benefit from this new way of getting information is help centers. Generative AI can add more details so help centers are providing background context to what a person is asking instead of showing a list of results from a company’s FAQ page. Outside context from generative AI, layered with specific company details and presented in a conversational manner, will be more helpful in solving a customer issue than more limited information a traditional help center can provide.

4. Companies that leverage AI’s potential stand to eclipse businesses that do not

Nearly 70% of consumers expect most companies will use generative AI to improve their experiences as consumers and believe companies that do are ahead of their competitors.

To learn more, check out Zendesk head of AI’s thoughts on the promises and pitfalls of generative AI and stay-tuned for our event Zendesk Relate on May 10 to hear more announcements and details about our industry-leading approach to AI.

Data in this report comes from the Zendesk CX Trends Report 2023, a global survey of nearly 3,700 consumers from July and August 2022. Additionally, a supplemental U.S. survey of over 1,000 consumers and in-depth interviews were conducted in February 2023.

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