HOW DOES CONTACT WITH AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AVATAR INFLUENCE CUSTOMER PERCEPTIONS OF BANK SERVICE QUALITY?

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Artificial intelligence is thought to improve the efficiency, quality and operations of many organizations. For example, the use of chatbots allows organizations to serve customers 24/7 without the need to hire frontline staff to work around the clock. This thesis investigates how AI, specifically an avatar, influences customers’ perceptions regarding the services offered by a bank. Banks are service-oriented and operate in a competitive environment, and therefore customer satisfaction is extremely important. Past research shows that the adoption of AI in the banking industry is increasing, but banks tend to use AI to improve their operations rather than to improve customer satisfaction. Previous studies have also focused on the benefits of AI for banks rather than how AI systems benefit customers. The primary question for this thesis is how does an AI avatar influence customer perceptions of bank service quality and satisfaction levels. The study hypothesized that the use of a virtual assistant would increase bank customers’ perception of service quality and level of satisfaction. For this thesis, 60 participants aged between 20 and 60 were recruited at AUT Library in Auckland, New Zealand. Participants were divided into two groups, one group accessed bank services using the ANZ Bank’s virtual assistant Jamie, and the other accessed information about bank services online without using Jamie. They were asked to complete rating scale items adapted from the SERVQUAL, and e-SERVQUAL instruments. Hypotheses were tested using t-test and two-way ANOVA. Based on the results, there was no significant difference between a virtual assistant and not using one regarding perceptions of service quality. In addition, there was no significant difference between the group using the virtual assistant and the one that did not regarding perceptions of customer satisfaction. Gender did not influence how customers perceived the quality of bank services or their level of satisfaction. This thesis expands the available literature on the use of AI in banking and whether banks use of an AI avatar would in fact enhance the quality of their services and increase customer satisfaction. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) suggests that customers’ intentions to utilize new technologies depend on the perceived ease of use and helpfulness. The thesis bore this out as the participants found Jamie was not simple to interact with and had challenges accessing bank services, which suggests that this technology would not be readily accepted under the TAM model. If banks are seeking to adopt an AI avatar system, they must ensure that customers perceive them as beneficial in terms of service quality and satisfaction. In this study, with this particular avatar system, the results did not bear this out and customer satisfaction and perceptions of service quality may have been put at risk.
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