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A new survey conducted by Replicant found that nearly 80% of consumers indicated they would prefer to speak with a virtual agent or machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57% of consumers would speak with conversational AI even if the hold time was only five minutes.

Beyond consumers’ willingness to speak with AI, the survey found pervasive customer service problems, with 91% of consumers reporting they have experienced poor customer service in the past six months.

Consumers say auto and home insurance companies have had the best customer service since the pandemic began, while cell phone and internet providers ranked the worst. Airlines, in the news for long hold times, came in second place for worst customer service overall since the pandemic began.

However, airlines didn’t present the most issues for summer travelers. For the 77% of summer travelers who reported they encountered customer service issues, rental car companies topped the list, as nearly a third of travelers using rental cars had issues.

Overall, brands that don’t address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76% of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty. The pandemic and its continued impacts have exacerbated extant staffing issues, but companies haven’t made changes to have more resilient staffing in the face of uncertainty. For many of these companies, AI could provide needed support. With the pandemic still in play, staffing and uncertainty will continue to impact recovery if not addressed.

Replicant commissioned the survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who have interacted with customer service in the past six months late this summer, amid reports of issues with airline customer service and product shortages, to examine public attitudes toward customer service.

Read the full report by Replicant.

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