Chatbots are set to be integrated across a quarter of all customer service and support operations by 2020, Gartner predicted today.
Despite less than 2% of businesses using virtual customer assistants (VCA) in 2017, the research firm believes the technology will become much more popular in the immediate future, citing organisations reporting a reduction of 70% in call, chat and email enquiries after implementing the software.
Its research found that these companies are also seeing increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per 'voice engagement' at the same time.
Gartner's managing vice president, Gene Alvarez, said more than half of organisations have already invested in chatbots for customer service because they are beginning to realise the advantages of automated self-service, as well as the advantage of being able to escalate a problem to a human agent in complex situations.
"As more customers engage on digital channels, VCAs are being implemented for handling customer requests on websites, mobile apps, consumer messaging apps and social networks," Alvarez said. "This is underpinned by improvements in natural-language processing, machine learning and intent-matching capabilities."
Gartner also found that 84% of organisations expect to increase investments in customer experience (CX) technology in the year ahead - and by 2019 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps.
"Many brands are finding that mobile applications are not delivering the level of adoption and customer engagement they expected," Gartner' research read. "Original return-on-investment calculations are missing the mark due to the cost of support, maintenance, upgrades, customer care and marketing to drive downloads."
Instead, brands are now investing to build presence in consumer messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, via bots, to reach customers where they spend more of their time, the report said.
The analyst house added that by 2022, two-thirds of all customer experience projects will make use of IT, up from 50% in 2017.
Gary O'Connor, CTO at parcel delivery firm Doddle, has previously spoken to IT Pro about the potential of AI to help call centre workers, without actually replacing them. He said: "We see AI at the moment as a way of providing the right additional information such that we can maximise the benefit of a person's time on the end of it. When a query lands with someone in a customer call centre, they've got as much information in their hands to resolve that query as quickly as possible."
Get the ITPro. daily newsletter
Receive our latest news, industry updates, featured resources and more. Sign up today to receive our FREE report on AI cyber crime & security - newly updated for 2023.