Artificial Intelligence: Helping retailers enhance the customer experience

BY Australian Retailers Association
08 November 2019

Technology has drastically altered the way retailers interact with their customers, and those that continue legacy service methods are already falling behind.

The rise of the digital age has revolutionised the retail sector, enabling customers to be closer to the brands they love. The advent of new channels of engagement like live chat, AI-powered chatbots, and social media messaging have created a springboard for companies; and in turn their employees, to develop stronger, more meaningful relationships with customers.

In today’s crowded market, what separates a brand from the pack is its customer experience. Facilitating on-demand, personalised service across multiple channels is now the standard, not the exception, and one bad experience is enough to drive a customer away for good. Customers aren’t merely comparing a brand to its competitors any longer. Instead, they are comparing it to the best service received from any company they have purchased from.

While senior decision-makers grapple with meeting these heightened expectations, tools like AI are growing in popularity – helping to free up employees for higher-value customer interactions, enabling around the clock service delivery, and reducing budget blowouts.

Here are some of the many ways AI is improving service and empowering valuable interactions:

Data deep dive

One of the biggest challenges companies face is adapting to the digital nature of today’s customer journey. In January 2018, 21.7 million Australians, or 88% of our population, reported using the internet. Of these individuals, 73% used the internet to search for a product online, and 59% used it to purchase a product or service (We Are Social).

Australians have a massive appetite for interacting with brands online. And with data flowing in from all directions, companies often find themselves stretched and sitting on a wealth of information they aren’t capable of processing, and therefore cannot use to their advantage.

AI helps companies effectively process and analyse the vast amounts of data that they gather to provide actionable recommendations for the business and its customer service team, to enhance interactions. For example, if a company can identify that a customer is continually abandoning an experience at a particular part of the journey or if a high percentage of customers seem to be asking the same questions over and over, they can quickly fix issues and optimise around gaps of information more effectively than ever before.

Empowering customers and agents

As the adoption of AI in customer experience continues to increase, customer interactions will shift from being heavily dependent on the human agent to a hybrid model consisting of the human element, with technology helping share the workload. The rise in AI-powered chatbots means customers are empowered to self-serve where appropriate and are no longer forced to wait in long queues for an employee to help them with a simple question.

That, however, should not translate to massive job loss for human agents, as some predict. Bots should work hand-in-hand with human agents, actioning simple, repetitive tasks and leaving their human counterparts open to more creative, strategic, and meaningful work.

Today’s bots are smart enough to know when they aren’t equipped to solve a problem and need their human ‘co-workers’ help. Technology has made it possible to seamlessly bring the agent into the conversation to continue the interaction, right where the bot left off. It’s also a symbiotic relationship, with AI helping agents in the backend to provide a better, more personalised experience – quickly feeding customer history and preferences as well as recommendations to the agent throughout the conversation.

AI affords companies the ability to better leverage their most valuable resources – their employees – not replace them.

Creating a more consistent experience

AI is helping to close the information gap between customers and businesses through smoother cohesion of communications platforms. It provides both bots and agents with a 360-degree view of the customer journey, ensuring companies are in a better position to support customers when, where, and how they need it the most.

For example, an agent may pick up the phone to a customer, and before the conversation even begins, the agent will know that the frustrated customer sent a direct message on social media outlining their problem and knowing that they are yet to receive a response. Instead of having that customer rehash the issue, the agent can start solving the problem immediately.

Brands know that they need to be thinking about customer experience, but companies who aren’t acting on it will start to feel the full effects, as unhappy customers move to the competition. Businesses now have the opportunity to elevate and personalise their customer support, while backing their employees to deliver high-quality service and AI makes that possible.

Ryan J. Lester, Director of Customer Engagement Technologies at LogMeIn, and his team own the strategic development and implementation for the go-to-market plan for AI, Chatbot, and Virtual Assistant products at LogMeIn. For more information visit the link: www.bold360.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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