Study: Customers Increasingly Turn to Self-Support Amid Pandemic


Customers have increased their reliance on chatbots and self-support sessions since the coronavirus began.

The coronavirus may be changing how customers interact with companies and service providers, according to a study released Monday.

The study, conducted by Ohio-headquartered DeviceBits, found an 86% increase in customer self-support sessions—when a person leverages an artificial intelligence-driven, web-based frequently-asked-questions component—from January to May 31.

DeviceBits, which provides call center AI solutions, compared customer inquiry preferences from the pre-COVID-19 months of January and February to data collected from March 1 to May 31.

The company also reports a near doubling—or 98.5% increase—of interactive sessions with chatbots, wherein customers engage with AI systems.

The increased engagement led to a 66% increase in self-support FAQ page views, a 71% increase in self-support article views and a 64% increase in self-support hours, which is time spent by a customer searching for their own self-support materials.

JC Ramey, president of Tech Enabled Services at DeviceBits, told Nextgov he attributed the uptick in self-support to short-staffed call centers and customers looking to avoid in-person contact when possible. Ramey added that the increased use of self-service and chat-bots will transform them into "a primary channel for sales and support for brands."

"The introduction of AI into self-service has proven in many cases to provide positive outcomes for the customers, but now with the added volume these AI systems can evolve from handling just simple requests to answering more complex issues," Ramey said. 

The study follows a years-long push across federal agencies to improve contact centers and, more broadly, customer experience as a whole. The coronavirus pandemic shuttered most federal agencies, forcing them to employ sometimes-creative methods to continue providing adequate customer experience.