Voice-based AI in Call Center Customer Service: A Natural Field Experiment

Production and Operations Management, forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2020 Last revised: 1 Aug 2022

See all articles by Lingli Wang

Lingli Wang

Tsinghua University

Ni Huang

Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami

Yili Hong

University of Miami Herbert Business School

Luning Liu

Harbin Institute of Technology

Xunhua Guo

Tsinghua University

Guoqing Chen

Tsinghua University

Date Written: July 31, 2022

Abstract

Voice-based artificial intelligence (AI) systems have been recently deployed to replace traditional interactive voice response (IVR) systems in call center customer service. However, there is little evidence that sheds light on how the implementation of AI systems impacts customer behavior, as well as AI systems’ effects on call center customer service performance. By leveraging the proprietary data obtained from a natural field experiment in a large telecommunication company, we examine how the introduction of a voice-based AI system affects call length, customers’ demand for human service, and customer complaints in call center customer service. We find that the implementation of the AI system temporarily increases the duration of machine service and customers’ demand for human service; however, it persistently reduces customer complaints. Furthermore, our results reveal interesting heterogeneity in the effectiveness of the voice-based AI system. For relatively simple service requests, the AI system reduces customer complaints for both experienced and inexperienced customers. However, for complex requests, customers appear to learn from the prior experience of interacting with the AI system, which leads to fewer complaints. Moreover, the AI-based system has a significantly larger effect on reducing customer complaints for older and female customers as well as for customers who have had extensive experience using the IVR system. Finally, we find that the speech-recognition failures in customer-AI interactions lead to increases in customers’ demand for human service and customer complaints. The results from this study provide implications for the implementation of an AI system in call center operations.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; customer service; service flexibility; natural field experiment; difference-in-differences

Suggested Citation

Wang, Lingli and Huang, Ni and Hong, Yili and Liu, Luning and Guo, Xunhua and Chen, Guoqing, Voice-based AI in Call Center Customer Service: A Natural Field Experiment (July 31, 2022). Production and Operations Management, forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3633100 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3633100

Lingli Wang

Tsinghua University ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

Ni Huang

Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://nihuang.me/

Yili Hong (Contact Author)

University of Miami Herbert Business School ( email )

P.O. Box 248126
Florida
Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

Luning Liu

Harbin Institute of Technology ( email )

92 West Dazhi Street
Nan Gang District
Harbin, heilongjiang 150001
China

Xunhua Guo

Tsinghua University ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

Guoqing Chen

Tsinghua University ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

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