Here is a frightening scenario for business owners in the modern world – type the words ‘is customer service dying’ into Google and, in less than half a second, you will find yourself looking at a screen offering access to more than 40 million articles, forums and sites. Now that may be excellent customer service by the search engine – you asked, they over-delivered – but it is a stark reminder that in a world where consumers want things faster and cheaper than ever, many businesses are prioritizing the short-term buzz of speed and convenience over the benefits of good, old-fashioned customer service.
This is particularly so in the booming eCommerce sector where ambitious entrepreneurs are revolutionizing the way people buy and sell goods and services. For too long, online shoppers have essentially been left to their own devices when entering a virtual shop front, free to click here and click there, and as they wander aimlessly they become an increasing risk of leaving without making a purchase. Compare this to a traditional brick-and-mortar store where friendly and knowledgeable staff can greet a new customer and guide them towards the products or services they are looking to buy … and maybe even a couple that were not on their list.
The good news for eCommerce executives is that fast-evolving technology is allowing them to change the game. The lack of a physical retail assistant no longer needs to be a barrier to great eCommerce customer service and that is because online stores can now employ a team of super-friendly, always-on-call, highly knowledgeable experts ready to guide people towards products, services and, ultimately, the shopping cart.
Welcome to the game-changing world of eCommerce chatbots and conversational AI.
eCommerce chatbots are artificially intelligent (AI) solutions that online retailers can develop and deploy to engage customers throughout the entire consumer journey. From conversational marketing and answering queries to providing quality after-sales support, they are the ideal tool to improve customer experience without needing to use human agents.
Crucially, the focus of this article is on the modern generation of chatbots. While the traditional ‘scripted’ variety can be programmed to respond in pre-defined ways to specific questions, they fail when presented with a complex query or one not envisaged by the developers. Fortunately, technology has evolved to find a solution that is literally changing the face of the eCommerce experience.
Enter AI chatbots for eCommerce.
Conversational AI is the set of technologies that enables computers to simulate real conversations. Where traditional chatbots can respond to a limited set of simple queries, virtual agents or AI chatbots are powered by a ‘synthetic brain’ made up of different technologies working in unison to enable a machine to understand, process and respond to human language.
For an intimate understanding of the mechanics of conversational AI, search online for terms such as ‘Natural Language Processing’, ‘Machine Learning’ and ‘Predictive Analytics’. These are the features and components that enable chatbots to deliver a more dynamic, less constrained user experience.
For a practical example of conversational AI though, think of the likes of Siri and Google Home, which are making life easier for millions of people across the world. The rising popularity of such digital assistants and smart speakers are powered by conversational AI and rising in popularity so quickly that ResearchAndMarket.com is predicting the global chatbot market will almost quadruple from $2.6 billion in 2019 to an incredible $9.4 billion in 2024.
At a time when people are debating whether customer service is dying, it’s somewhat ironic that customer experience (CX) has never been more crucial. Studies have shown CX now ranks higher than price and product for consumers, with the ability of businesses to attract and retain customers increasingly tied to whether they are able to provide them with a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience.
In many ways, this is even more important for eCommerce businesses given the highly competitive sector in which they operate. With up to 24 million eCommerce sites only a click away, there are endless options for shoppers and staying ahead of the game requires businesses to provide a level of service that helps them stand out from the crowd.
The modern online shopper wants to access information and resolve issues as quickly as possible and without being directed to pick up a phone. Many also welcome an automated guided hand when browsing a retail site. They want to see customer service thrive, not die, and eCommerce chatbots are allowing that to happen.
There was a time when some businesses reluctantly adopted chatbots as they felt pressure to demonstrate how tech-savvy they were. No more. Today’s eCommerce chatbots offer such a wide variety of benefits that looking good is the least of a business’s worries.
For businesses yet to deploy an eCommerce chatbot, it should not be a matter of if but when. That said, it is also a process that should not be rushed. Among many considerations, it is crucial to pick a solution that will meet one’s current goals but not limit future expansion and also ensure one has a true understanding of how the use of conversational AI will impact customer experience.
The technology driving eCommerce chatbots is constantly improving and while there are cookie-cutter options on the market, it is highly recommended for businesses to partner with a team that can deliver the best solution for their individual needs. Tapping into the knowledge and expertise of a quality eCommerce outsourcing provider is a fast-track to developing and deploying the best AI chatbot for one’s specific situation and helping nurture a better online environment for their customers, their staff and, ultimately, their bottom line.
Delivering quality customer support around the clock can be an expensive exercise, especially with the cost of labor rising in local markets. Discover six reasons eCommerce operators are turning to outsourcing providers that specialize in customer support services to ease that burden.
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