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Shopping with Humans and Chatbots

How retailers are communicating with their customers and improving customer satisfaction

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Today’s digital world has changed the way consumers interact with sellers on a day to day basis. The rapid rise in social and mobile technologies has enabled customers to purchase goods or services anywhere, anytime at the click of a button. The retail industry has altered, and the modern customer has become accustomed to a different style of shopping – they now want to move seamlessly through their retail experience across different channels and expect a 24/7 service. With the constantly evolving consumer habits, retailers have also begun to update their strategy with the customer at the top of mind.

As consumers switch to making purchases online, and customer interactions are increasing, retailers have to ensure they are prepared for both the influx of sales and customer queries or complaints. As competition in the retail market ramps up, so does the need to become more efficient, all whilst cutting costs and gaining and retaining customers. The need to deliver stellar customer service comes as shoppers become more connected and they are able to share thoughts and views online at lightning speed. Whilst this can be very beneficial to retailers, it can also be damaging and ruin brand reputation in the case of negative reviews.

It has been reported that businesses can lose around 21 million customers a year to bad customer service[1]. This is bound to have a knock on effect on profits, and can cause retailers to incur profit loss, as they may have to pay out compensation, or spend more time and resources rectifying a problem. Research suggests that 96 per cent of customer complaints come from the amount of effort they have to exert to have their problem rectified or dealt with[2]. Retailers are recognising this problem and are beginning to invest in innovative technologies, so they can offer around-the-clock customer service, to communicate with consumers at every touch point of the customer journey, with speed and efficiency.

As the demand for 24/7 real-time communication increases, retailers are turning to advanced solutions such as chat services to improve the overall customer digital experience. Chat services are being utilised more within business operations, however in retail it has become the main if not the only way for customers to interact with brands. A report from Gartner found that by 2020 chat services will be handling no less than 85 per cent of all customer service requests.

However, as the world continues to become more tech focused, human interaction is still necessary in the customer service sector. It can be argued that consumers are sceptical of chat bot services, as they still require human interaction whilst having their query dealt with. The chatbot technology is used to filter information that comes from the customer to provide an accurate overview, this allows the agent to prioritise queries and speed up resolution time. However, some customer queries require more than just an automated response. This is where, said technologies are growing in sophistication, to mimic human interaction. By adding the human touch, chatbot technologies are now able to measure sentiment, mood and customer behaviour, to track engagement throughout the customer journey. This in turn, ensures the customers query is dealt with efficiently whilst also providing the emotional support the consumer may need. As the number of online shoppers continues to grow, chat services can also be implemented to streamline and improve back office operations. These new technologies allow customer service teams to better manage customer interactions, by reducing the number of inbound calls and decreasing handling times. This then allows them to prioritise high importance issues and alleviates the pressure of dealing with a high volume of requests, which in turn optimises the customer digital journey.

The ecommerce sector is evolving at momentous rates, and with this customers are demanding more from retailers, they want real time communications throughout every touch point. Merchants and online retailers need to ensure that customers are at the top of mind when creating new strategy plans. Implementing new state-of-the-art technologies; which combines both technology and the human touch, to ensure customers are interacted with through omni-channel communications, at every stage of the customer digital journey,  will increase customer satisfaction and overall the bottom line. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Aditya Arora

The author is MD of the International Business Unit at Teleperformance Digital Integrated Business Services

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