Bolstering Customer Service Support with Chatbots

by Shany Seawright

[Cue window crashing sound followed by a desperate “Sorry!”]

“[Sigh] Hey Google – where’s the nearest hardware store?” Conversations like these are being had with virtual assistants in households around the world.

Chatbots have come a long way in recent years and are streamlining a lot of the nitty gritty details of the shopping experience. So how are some of the worlds leading brands utilizing artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots to help shoppers inform and complete their transactions? We take a closer look in this week’s Retail Technology Insider roundup.

5 Ways AI is Impacting Retail Marketing

AI is powering a revolution in the retail marketing space by freeing up more bandwidth for more strategic tasks that need to be executed by humans and taking on grunt work like inventory and stocking. This allows for their human counterparts to put their brain power to better use.

In a recent article, MarTech Advisor contributor Vandita Grover dug into a few ways that AI is making the lives of retail marketers easier including personalization abilities, CRM, and of course, chatbots. Grover reported, “Robots powered by intelligent automation are a new virtual workforce, which assists in the manufacturing industry. They can perform tasks like heavy lifting, stock and remove items from shelves, pack items etc. AI can help improve efficiency and improve the quality of goods.”

The beauty of AI is that it takes the guess work out of a lot of tasks that riddle the retail industry and creates a smoother customer experience by optimizing all potential touch points with them.

Read the whole story here.

Chatbots

How Six Retailers are Using Chatbots to Boost Customer Engagement (and Why You Should Too)

Boosting customer engagement is always a priority for retailers, whether they are in-store or online, so it’s not surprising that leading retailers around the world are integrating chatbots to enrich that customer engagement opportunity.

An article on ClickZ by Chris Camps looked at how H&M, Northface, Taco Bell, Uber, Domino’s and Macy’s (touching on a few different corners of the retail world) are all including chatbots in a key component of their customer engagement approaches. “Chatbots come close to replicating the experience of a physical store, where you’d be able to simply tell the shop assistant what you’re looking for and they’d take you there, before ringing up your selections and checking you out,” Camps wrote.

The use case I found most compelling was Taco Bell’s integration with messaging platform Slack. Customers can place a customized order, review it, and pay for it all using Slack. Camps made an excellent point in reference to the importance of brand consistency. “Taco Bell demonstrates an additional benefit of chatbots: once they’re set up, they can deliver a consistent brand experience to users every time.” That consistency is what consumers look for in a large chain like Taco Bell – being able to deliver that consistency in a more efficient way is a big step.

Read the whole story here.

Long Live the Chatbot: Mobile Chatterboxes Ready Their Next Assault

The path for chatbots hasn’t always been an easy one. Companies like Microsoft and Facebook have faced their share of issues with regards to proper chatbot implementation and those challenges have led to an arguable cooling of the hype for chatbots.

But Steven Melendez at AdAge feels differently. In a recent article, he reported, “…Research firm Gartner recently predicted that by 2021, 50 percent of enterprises would spend more on bots than mobile apps. It’s more accurate to say brands and bot builders have spent the past couple of years learning what consumers actually want in a conversational interface.”

The biggest takeaway for bot builders has been to move away from the obligation to mimic human interaction and conduct open-ended discussions; they can devolve very quickly and customers can be left frustrated. Instead, many successful implementations of bots are exemplified with direct, specific purposes for interactions like booking an appointment or questions about shipping. Delivering on customer needs is more important than being able to properly use and understand obscure American idioms.

Camp explained, “Chat platforms allow companies to mix the personal assistance customers would find in a brick-and-mortar store with the anywhere, anytime availability they expect from e-commerce. And each company’s bot needs to adapt to its surroundings.” That ability to adapt will be crucial as more and more top retailers integrate chatbots into their messaging services.

Read the whole story here.

Chatbots: Conversation for All of Us

Any retailer could tell you that customer service and engagement is king in this industry. But providing that level of attention to every single customer, especially if you are working with thousands every day, can be tricky. How do you set your brand apart and ensure that customer returns?

Paul Greenberg, Author of CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th Edition and Managing Principal at The 56 Group, LLC, examined the application of chatbots to the customer experience in his recent whitepaper with Pitney Bowes.

“Answering questions from customers and taking actions on their behalf is part of business’s life blood and a key driver for engagement. Getting it done effectively – meaning accurately and quickly is one of the key factors in retaining your customers – even as their demands increase and the kind of experience you provide becomes more and more of a differentiator,” wrote Greenberg. “The use of chatbots, especially when you are dealing with customers by the thousands and maybe millions, becomes an important part of your offering, your strategy, the experience that the customers have over time with you and the level of engagement between you and each of them.”

Delivering on customer expectations of 24/7 omnichannel access to their favorite (or soon to be favorite) brands becomes more surmountable through the application of chatbots and their impression of these brands can remain in tact with consistent customer engagement practices.

Read the whole report here.

Interested in learning more about chatbots and how organizations are leveraging the technology to deliver meaningful results? Register for “The Rise of Chatbots: Transforming the Customer Experience Battleground in the Age of the Customer” on July 31 with Pitney Bowes’ Senior Product Manager for Customer Engagement Christopher Cummings.