A few days ago I had a terrible shopping experience while browsing for an Ethnic wear on India’s biggest clothing website. I was looking for a “Lehenga” of a specific type. There were so many options with no proper product description. I tried to contact customer support, ten minutes passed by, and even after navigating through multi IVR options, I didn’t get connected to any agent. After waiting for a pretty long time, I logged out. With lockdown and social distancing as the new normal, I can’t even visit the store and I just wonder — why is it so difficult to get answers to my questions from my favorite brand?
Before i explain further on how AI Chatbots could have made a significant difference to my shopping journey above, let’s first understand some basics about this technology
A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps or through the telephone. The chatbot market size is expected to grow from USD 2.6 billion in 2019 to USD 9.4 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 29.7% during the forecast period.
1. Analyze the user’s request to understand the intent and extract relevant information (also called NLP)
2. Respond to user with an appropriate answer which could be either of the following
i) a predefined text message or a helpful link
ii) relevant information from a knowledge base
In this article, let’s dig more into how chatbots in customer service are helpful and why every retail brand should have customer service chatbots that can simplify the shopper’s journey and her buying experience. According to research by Gartner, by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational AI platforms on a daily basis. There has been a more than 160% increase in client interest around implementing chatbots and associated technologies in 2018 from previous years,” says Van Baker, VP Analyst at Gartner. “This increase has been driven by customer service, knowledge management and user support.”
The main goal of the best customer service chatbots is to help your business make more money and save more money. Period! How can it achieve it’s goal? By providing exceptional customer service across the customer’s ‘consideration’ journey, ‘during-sale’ journey and also add value in the ‘post-sale’ journey.
Now let’s break the buying journey further and understand the typical pain points customers face where an intelligent customer service bot could help.
- Product Discovery: As i narrated above, i am looking at a specific type of Lehenga and i am finding it difficult to find out the right one from the vast assortment available in the catalog. Instead of having me spend endless hours trying to locate the right product, an AI chatbot for retail that is knowledgeable of the products on offer could make my product discovery journey much more easier and simpler.
- Answering my questions about the brand and about the products: I like the black Lehenga with a golden lace and I want to know what is the material used for the inner lining. To my dismay, the answer is not available on the product description. I search some more but still no answer. I call the call center but the agent is clueless. Should it be really this difficult for me to get the answer? I am sure the brand knows everything about this Lehenga, then why is it so difficult for me to find the answer to this simple question? An AI chatbot in retail could help here too by giving me the answer instantly. A study conducted by PwC revealed nearly 80% of American consumers feel that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.
- Connect me with in-house experts seamlessly: Often time “buying” is an emotive experience. It is about knowing the variety and possibilities we as consumers can derive from the products we intend to buy and who better than the brand itself to guide us on this journey. The best customer service chatbots can help here too — not just answer my factual questions instantly but by seamlessly connecting me to the brand’s in-house experts who can help me not only with choosing the right Lehenga but might also be able to recommend what tops and looks i can buy from the same brand.
Often chatbots in customer service are equated to cost savings as its primary business outcome. The logic is quite simple — 70% of your customer queries to your call center agents are repetitive in nature. Examples being “where is my order”, “how to return”, “when will i get my refund” etc. For answering these questions, why do you need a human agent behind the phone? AI for chatbots that integrate with your order management system should be able to handle the job at 30% the cost of an agent. Indeed that is true and that is one of the primary use-case for existing customer service chatbots. Infact Chatbots will be responsible for saving over $8 billion annually by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017 (Juniper Research). Business Insider Intelligence estimates that up to 73% of healthcare admin tasks could be automated by AI, and the adoption of chatbots could save the healthcare, banking, and retail sectors $11 billion annually by 2023.
But if you head customer service of a brand, you probably care for 2 metrics
Increasing your Revenue-per-case while reducing your Cost-per-case is a difficult one and is what differentiates best customer service chatbots from the rest. Only those AI for retail offerings that are vertical specific (also known as #VerticalAI) and focused on your specific industry can deliver on both the metrics i mentioned above and during your planning phase make sure that you are choosing the right one. To learn more about how these specialized domain specific chatbot offerings work i invite you to read my colleague’s blog “Every brand needs a digital product expert”
Chatbots for customer service can be a real game changer for your business- especially during these times when digital shopping is expected to increase exponentially in the post Covid-19 era. Not just help you keep pace with the increasing call volumes at fraction of a cost, an intelligent Vertical AI based chatbot for retail can actually help you sell more by filtering out high-intent buyers from the rest and connecting them to your human agents to close a sale. You can read about one such success story of a leading Europe based fashion brand here.
So, if you are running the customer service for this ethinic brand in my story or maybe any such brand, here is why you should have intelligent customer service chatbots to add some serious firepower to your existing customer service team.
- It will help you accelerate your conversions by simplifying the shopper’s journey
- It will help you save on your customer service operations cost by automating the repetitive queries of your customers
- It will help you get to know your customers a lot more intimately by engaging them in 1:1 personalized conversations at scale.
PS: This article is attributed to my colleague Shraddha M.