“Can I help you, sir/madam?”
Step into a store, any store, and there’s a very high probability that these are the first words you’ll hear from a shopping assistant or sales clerk. And whether or not you actually need their assistance, you’ll appreciate the fact that someone is on hand to give you all the help you need, and make your shopping experience as seamless and pleasant as possible.
No business can afford to underplay the crucial role that effective customer service plays in boosting customer retention and building lasting brand loyalty. And in an era where retail is overwhelmingly making its presence felt online, there is a burning need for businesses to be able to replicate the ‘shopping assistant’ experience digitally.
A need that is increasingly being fulfilled by Conversational AI.
Today, a large number of E-Commerce businesses use AI-powered chatbots or ‘virtual assistants’ to offer customer service to visitors on their websites or apps. The “Hi, how can I help you?” message in the chat window that pops up when you land on those websites/apps is the 21st century equivalent of the shopping clerk’s polite inquiry when you walk into a store.
From a businesses’ perspective, Conversational AI is tremendously beneficial. Even the most capable human customer service rep can only handle so many customers in a day. But a single chatbot or voice bot can resolve thousands, even millions, of customer queries at a time. This allows enterprises to massively scale up their customer support, without the need to incur significant manpower costs. Moreover, according to a recent study by Salesforce, 64% of customer service agents in companies that have implemented a Conversational AI solution, spend the majority of their time solving more complex issues and offering customers a more personalized experience. In companies that have not implemented a Conversational AI solution for customer service, only 50% of agents are able to do so.
But how has the Conversational AI revolution been received by customers? After all, a business can only really benefit from the deployment of virtual assistants if the end-user embraces them.
Well, as it turns out, customers have indeed welcomed the helping hand of chatbots and voice bots in their online shopping journeys. Let us explore some of the factors that make Conversational AI appealing to customers:
Chat is already the way most people communicate
In the 21st century, chat is the most natural form of digital communication. It’s hard to find a smartphone owner who goes a day without checking WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or any other messaging platform. WhatsApp alone has over 1.5 billion users – that’s over a fifth of the world’s population!
From the moment you wake up in the morning to check notifications, to staying in touch with friends and family, to coordinating with work colleagues, to making dinner and weekend plans – chat is now inextricably woven through the fabric of our daily lives.
Thus, people find it convenient to communicate with businesses over chat. Rather than waste time waiting for an overburdened or inefficient call center staffer to take your call, isn’t it better to raise a support query or file a customer complaint with the same ease with which you make movie plans with a friend? And get an instant response!
And if the business they’re interacting with is employing a Bot + Human hybrid model of customer support, then they still get to interact with a human agent in case the bot is unable to satisfactorily resolve their issue.
So it makes sense for businesses to reach out to customers using a form of communication that they are already extremely comfortable to it.
But there’s more to it than just comfort…
Conversational AI is the ultimate shopping companion
When you visit the mall with your friends or family, you have people by your side who are a constant source of advice on your purchases – helping you explore and evaluate options and compare prices. When you visit the ‘digital mall’ that is an E-Commerce portal, you can try to replicate that experience of having friends and family by your side as you browse online, by sending them screenshots of items, discussing prices, discounts, deals etc.
But despite how much you try to make it work, the experience simply isn’t as seamless as actually having your shopping companions by your side. Especially if you need to make a quick decision and are unable to get their opinion in time.
This is where Conversational AI can really add value to a customer’s shopping experience.
An AI-powered chatbot or voice bot can be a constant companion to a customer on his/her purchase journey. With all the data of the business at its disposal, the bot can instantaneously respond to a customer’s queries, present options to customers based on their preferences, redirect them to the right sections of the website/app, and more.
A bot is arguably a much more efficient, knowledgeable and reliable shopping companion than any friend could hope to be! And as customers start to take the presence of these virtual assistants for granted, it is incumbent upon businesses to ensure that they offer them the very best conversational experience.
And a major factor that goes into offering that superior experience is the fact that…
Conversational AI offers a personal touch
In 2017, a humorous story emerged online about a Zomato customer who ‘flirted’ with the food delivery apps’ customer support bot, and ended up getting 400 credits for free in return!
While the bot arguably malfunctioned in that regard, this example does highlight the fact that Conversational AI has become really good at engaging customers by simulating human-like communication.
By drawing upon all the data they have access to, as well as new information fed into the system or gained from every conversation, bots become smarter over time. With the power of natural language processing, bots can pick up on the user’s interests and preferences, and offer personalized service. Moreover, bots can be programmed to have distinctive personalities and speech patterns, a factor that lends an added authenticity to the conversational experience.
Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that bots are increasingly starting to sound a lot like humans…with the added advantage of being much more efficient.
The Key Takeaway
Conversational AI has been enthusiastically adopted by an ever-increasing number of enterprises in recent years. One of the major reasons for this is the host of benefits that the technology offers businesses, which ultimately translates to increased efficiency, cost savings and ROI.
But another factor that has driven the growth of Conversational AI has been its acceptance by customers. Chatbots and virtual assistants are easy to talk to, always available, have all the answers at their fingertips, and can offer instant help. They truly are the perfect companion to the 21st century digitally-savvy consumer. And thus, a great way for businesses to boost customer loyalty and retention.
In a study conducted by Usabilla in 2018, as many as 54% of consumers said they’d rather deal with a chatbot than a human customer service representative if it saved 10 minutes of their time!
Customers across industries have embraced Conversational AI. And if the customer truly is king, then enterprises would do well to meet their expectations by implementing robust, sophisticated and engaging chatbot and voice bot solutions.