More than two-thirds (69%) of Australian consumers believe brands need to improve their customer service support outside of traditional operating hours (after 5pm and the weekend) with the majority (85%) saying current self-serve chatbots can’t solve their issues and they’d prefer human assistance, according to new research from Qualtrics.

Consumers are calling for faster service, improved communications on when to expect a resolution, and better self-service abilities after hours – areas chatbots and automated systems can help. However, three-quarters (74%) of consumers say chatbots understand their queries less than half the time, with 36% of issues raised after hours going unresolved.

One-third (34%) also actively avoid using chatbots, and 44% are willing to wait longer for a customer-service representative. The biggest frustrations with chatbots are slow resolution times, receiving a robotic engagement, and technical abilities.

“With the rise of online and in-app shopping and support, consumers are no longer restricted by opening hours – and consumers expect the organisations they engage with to provide the same levels of customer experience and support they need 24/7,” Qualtrics customer experience solutions strategist, Ivana Sekanic said.

“Improving and tailoring out of hours customer service, be it online or in the call centre, by understanding and addressing common pain points, unmet needs, and behaviours at these times is a significant opportunity for businesses and governments across Australia to create more loyal and satisfied customers.”

Two in give consumers (41%) are optimistic about AI’s ability to improve customer service, citing faster service times, better help solving queries, and faster delivery times. However, separate Qualtrics research highlights the importance of maintaining human connection through these engagements.

On average, almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers prefer to engage with brands via human channels – this increases for specific engagements often performed out of hours, such as getting tech support (80%) and resolving billing issues (79%).

“Consumers are placing a premium on human connection. The key to making self-serve and AI-powered platforms work is both knowing how people want to use them, getting insights into the hands of customer-facing employees to respond to them, and ensuring they’re set up to meaningfully understand the emotion, intent, and effort behind every engagement,” Sekanic added.