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Chatbots bring big business opportunities, but don’t forget to establish trust

  • Date: Mon, Apr 9, 2018

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Series of PwC/UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Thought Leadership Papers.

Chatbots bring big business opportunities, but don’t forget to establish trust 

Chatbots, while still evolving, are fast providing a real business opportunity to deliver enhanced customer service whilst simultaneously raising customer service staff out of the repetitive to higher value-add/ more complex tasks. However, addressing data protection and privacy concerns is also key to ensure users are comfortable chatbots can provide a trusted service. 

Research carried out by students of the MSc in Management Consulting at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, on behalf of PwC, confirms that when shopping, customers often fail to find the information they need. Nine out of ten (90%) respondents believe that chatbots will be effective in providing basic information about a product, service or company; a further 44% believe that they would be useful for more complex tasks such as making changes to bank accounts. 

While chatbots provide an opportunity for enhanced sales and also improved customer service, the majority (92%) of survey respondents also said that they should always be able to deal with a human sales agent on request. The desire for a true omni-channel or 360o view of the customer does not go away with the introduction of another channel.

The research reveals that over half (54%) of customers prefer to use text-based communication when contacting a company with a query or complaint. This rises to 70% for 18-24 year olds. 47% expect a 24/7 response from service providers and rises to 72% amongst 25-34 year olds. 61% of respondents under the age of 24 admit to actively avoiding calling businesses to get away from the frustration of automated menus. An overwhelming majority (88%) of respondents who are familiar with chatbots were under the age of 34. 

However, in a world of escalating cyber-attacks and data breaches, information security and privacy concerns may, however, lead customers to be less willing to share information with a chatbot. For example, the majority (87%) said that they would be unwilling to share sensitive information with a chatbot due to security and privacy concerns. The design of chatbots should be conducted with the principles of the GDPR at the core of their development in order to minimise the risk of data loss/breach while ensuring compliance with the regulation. 

Speaking at the research launch, Ronan Fitzpatrick, Digital Director, PwC, said: "Chatbots present a significant opportunity for businesses looking to improve sales, automate their services and improve customer relationships. They can enable organisations to engage with their customers in the right place, at the right time with the right information as well as providing certain elements of customer service around the clock. With customer expectations rising, chatbots have the potential to be an excellent solution for better customer engagement. However, data protection and privacy concerns are key areas we need to ensure are addressed."

Kathy O'Reilly, Lecturer, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, said: "While chatbots are recognised as a digital disrupter, it has been proven that the successful adoption increases significantly when they are implemented as part of a holistic integrated customer service offering."


The survey was carried out in 2017 having over 300 Irish consumers participating and forms part of a Series of PwC/UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business thought leadership papers. The next one is due for publication in Autumn 2018. 

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