Customer Service Automation Through Conversational AI Has Become More Crucial Than Ever Before
COVID-19 has upended the way consumers think about their work, their time, their buying habits, and their overall lifestyle.
Things we all took for granted (summer vacations, finding toilet paper at the supermarket) are no longer sure bets.
Your customers, by choice or by necessity, are re-prioritizing their buying behavior. Their previous expectations around convenience, real-time engagement, and a seamless, self-directed customer journey haven’t gone away, but they’re now accompanied by a much greater emphasis on safeguarding the value of their own time and health and safety and a willingness to only trust those retailers that share these priorities.
In this post, we detail three key areas where AI is powering customer service and engagement.
Order Inquiry Urgency
Whether it’s attributable to increased employee sick time, new time-consuming cleaning and safety protocols or larger supply chain disruptions, extended shipping times are becoming the new normal.
Consumers have largely resigned themselves to waiting a little longer for their orders, but what they’re less willing to tolerate is a lack of information.
Now more than ever, real-time, cross-device order look-up capabilities ares foundational elements of your CX strategy and are what customers crave as they make plans based on order arrivals in a way that was unthinkable when it was easy to make a quick trip to the store to pick up more flour or to grab a bottle of wine on the way home from work.
Your customers will tolerate delayed shipments if it means they can still know where their package is at any given time.
Pre-Purchase Discovery Dominates
There’s no denying that Americans have been cutting back on discretionary purchases during the pandemic. Unemployment is high, job security is uncertain and products that felt necessary or at least useful a few months ago (that new pair of shoes or an upgraded grill for block parties) suddenly seem frivolous or of little use when socializing is at a minimum and public gatherings are off the table.
We’re seeing shoppers be much more deliberate about their purchases and how they fit into their current and future lifestyle.
It used to be B2B buyers who did the bulk of their research before ever connecting with a brand, but now B2C shoppers are doing more due diligence as well.
For brands, this means your CX approach needs to support this increased pre-purchase scrutiny. More time to comparison shop and less money to spend on discretionary purchases means your customers are becoming pickier.
They want their questions to be answered upfront and they’re less willing to take a chance on an online impulse buy than they were pre-pandemic.
You need to provide channels such as on-site AI-driven webchat to allow them to engage with you before they buy and satisfy their product questions fully.
Digital Is Non-Negotiable
Forrester recently chastised those brands that have delayed overhauling their digital operations, stating that now is the time for laggards to fully embrace the need to be digital-first to help them weather inevitable future volatility.
One of their key recommendations in this arena is to focus resources on your brand’s core competencies and to outsource everything else to trusted vendors.
For CX automation, that means identifying a solution provider that deeply understands your space and your potential use cases, uses purpose-built, ecommerce-trained AI and is continuously refining and augmenting its offerings to scale to new platforms and customer preferences.
As competition for every dollar increases, brands can’t afford to be digital dabblers or to take years to ideate on in-house automation while the industry continues to contract and reshape itself around new norms.
Conclusion: The Future Is Friction-Free
A recent piece from WIRED sums up one of the most resonant pieces of retail wisdom from the pandemic:
Striving for a frictionless experience for your customers, employees, suppliers, or other stakeholders isn’t just something that the digital era has enabled you to do. At this point, it’s a requirement. If you aren’t reducing friction in every part of your business, you will soon be done.
Post-pandemic, inefficient, cumbersome ordering and return processes, spotty customer service, poor communication and lack of efforts to win customer loyalty at every opportunity will be a death knell for certain brands. The culling of the herd has already started and it will continue.