Chatbots: The key to delivering everything, everywhere, all at once
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Chatbots: The key to delivering everything, everywhere, all at once

Chatbots: The key to delivering everything, everywhere, all at once

AI-powered chatbots have an exceptional track record of enhancing customer interactions, and that record includes measurable and attributable increases to revenue

Gulf Business

A recent IDG Communications report found that the vast majority of MENA firms (93 per cent) say that customer experience is an intrinsic part of their brand value. Indeed, customer centricity has gone into overdrive since the pandemic accelerated online engagement.

Technology investment has gone into data-gathering and analytics to capture the customer journey and tweak its milestones and touchpoints. This pivot from competition-centric operations to customer-centric obsession has been around for a while now because, as it turns out, it is not like flicking a switch.

In many cases, digital transformation largely revolves around customer engagement. To retail businesses, it is yesterday’s news that millennials and Gen Z want everything, everywhere, all at once.

The question is “How?” How do we chase the dream of customers as devoted ambassadors who act as voluntary extensions of the marketing function? Not to sound glib, but: “Technology”.

AI-powered chatbots have an exceptional track record of enhancing customer interactions, and that record includes measurable and attributable increases to revenue. And so, the majority of retail executives in surveys conducted around the world predict their organisation will have adopted AI automation by the decade’s end. One does not have to read between the lines here. The implication is explicit. Your competition is going to be rolling out technology that will put them on a prosperous trajectory. Investment in AI will futureproof the business.

Filling in the gaps

But lest we lapse into old competition-centric habits, let us remind ourselves why the investment is appealing. We can know our customers, their history, and their preferences, and bake that knowledge into an automated workflow that uses natural-language understanding to engage the consuming public through any channel they choose – chat, text, or voice. AI-powered chatbots add a range of other benefits for employees and customers.

For example, they can streamline support services and unify business units so that average resolution times plummet. The employee experience – critical to talent acquisition and retention – is also enhanced.

While that ‘human touch’ may not be the bot’s forte, it is more than capable of personalising conversations. Like a digital elephant, it never forgets purchase history or preferences, so product recommendations are going to be more consistently relevant than with human agents. Less upselling and cross-selling opportunities will be missed, leading to increased sales.

One of the less obvious benefits of a chatbot is that it reintroduces a mostly abandoned concept: that of the traveling salesperson. Chatbots can automatically reach out to customers on their preferred channel outside of an initiated conversation. A social media ad could be the starting point of a conversation via any number of channels in which the bot takes control even though a website visit never occurs.

One of the team

Sandie Overtveld

Bots are capable of answering all the basic questions, such as those concerning pricing and availability, as well as going further to recommend other purchases based on a customer’s browsing history. So far, so standard. But with access to information about a customer’s interests, and sufficient integration with back-end catalogs, the bot can support product recommendations with one-click purchase links to complete the sale. And they can improvise phraseology to correct misunderstandings in real time.

All this leads to greater brand rapport and an easier purchasing experience – one that is everything the digital-native customer wants – more personalised and available from everywhere, whenever. But chatbots are doing more than just answering questions and guiding the customer to an explicitly requested product page. They are trained to enhance the decision-making process and shape it through persuasion, just as an experienced salesperson would.

The bot can discern confusion, indecision, intent, doubt, and a range of other dispositions by analysing real-time behavior. It can use this information to reassure customers and nudge them towards purchases. And should a customer abandon a cart, the bot will remind them when they navigate away from the checkout page.

In case you are wondering about aftersales, bots have a presence here too. Today’s chatbots can be integrated with a range of third-party apps to enhance shipping and delivery experiences for customers. As with other bot functions, this lessens workloads by reducing the volume of follow-up queries.

There are also many integration options for chatbots in platforms that process refunds and exchanges. And the AI does not stop there. It can send satisfaction surveys and collate and analyse the results. And it can initiate targeted campaigns, along with promotions and deals, driving repeat business and boosts to customer loyalty.

Chatbots are here to stay

The same bots that autonomously assist customers can assist their human colleagues with autocompletion of text sentences and the summarisation of the key points of a previous conversation. Such functions further streamline the engagement process and lead to faster issue resolution.

Chatbots are, it should be stressed, a trusted, valued member of the team rather than a dismantler of job security. They are a powerful tool for enhancing customer interactions because they take the mundane away from employees and leave the challenging issues. This means human staff members are more rewarded by their daily experiences. Meanwhile, customers are enjoying an experience that is personal to them, from pre-purchase queries to post-purchase issues.

Chatbots have arrived. For retailers that are not considering them as a crucial element of their operations, the future is uncertain at best.

Sandie Overtveld is the senior vice president – APJ & MEA at Freshworks

Read: What is ChatGPT-4 and how to use it: Everything you need to know

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