Study Reveals: Consumers Want Increased Automation

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 by Nuance Communications UK

Nuance Communications has announced the findings of a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Nuance titled Driving Consumer Engagement with Automated Telephone Customer Service. The study revealed that consumers rate automated telephone customer service higher than live agents for certain straightforward interactions. In five out of ten posed scenarios, consumers preferred automated telephone customer service systems over live agent interactions for tasks like prescription refills (66% rated automation highly, compared with 52% for live agent), checking the status of a flight from a cell phone (61% versus 49%), checking account balances (59% versus 36%), store information requests (55% versus 37%), and tracking shipments (53% versus 47%).

The survey also revealed that automated telephone systems are an expected and accepted customer service channel with 82% of US online adults having used an automated touchtone or speech recognition system to contact customer service in the past 12 months. That figure trails behind only live agent interactions, with which 93% of consumers have engaged.

In the survey, consumers provided their level of interest in a variety of specific proactive notification options within five different industries. The aggregated results of the industry-specific questions show that a strong majority of consumers are interested in at least one proactive notification alert via their choice of email, voice message, or text message. Consumers were most open to notifications related to the travel industry (93%), which include such things as flight status updates and confirmation of reservations for flights, hotels, and car rentals.

About 88% of consumers were interested in notification from a financial services institution, with strong interest in transaction confirmations. With regard to health care, consumers strongly favored appointment reminders — something that could be adopted in a variety of other industries as well, such as utilities or professional services.

Other key findings:

Consumers who frequently contact customer service from a wireless phone are relatively more amenable to automated telephone customer service channels. About one third (32%) of consumers regularly use a cell phone to contact customer service. The data indicates that in nearly all scenarios, mobile customer service users rate using automated telephone customer service systems higher than those consumers who do not regularly contact customer service using a cell phone. This is significant due to Forrester's expectation that the number of wireless-only households will continue to grow, reaching 19% of all US households by 2013.

The 24/7 availability of automated telephone customer service is a key attribute in consumers' minds. About 77% of consumers pointed to 24-hour, seven days a week availability as a reason they value automated telephone customer service systems. Another 40% valued that they didn't have to wait on hold for a live agent, while 31% cited the ability to obtain information quickly.

According to Forrester's study, when it comes to evaluating a great experience with automated speech recognition customer service systems, two-thirds of consumers value having the ability to speak to a live agent at any time. About 42% of consumers value the ability of the speech recognition system to understand them the first time a response is spoken, and 39% of consumers prefer not to have to repeat themselves. Similarly, when asked to identify what would improve speech recognition customer service experiences, the top choice (75%) of consumers was to offer the option of speaking with a live agent throughout the interaction. Being understood the first time (63%) and improving menus to direct callers to the appropriate destination (45%) round out the top three answer choices.