How Retailers Can Use Conversational AI to Drive Positive CX This Holiday Season and Beyond
According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, in-store sales are anticipated to increase 7.9 percent this holiday shopping season, with an estimated 4.2 percent increase in online sales. A survey by Deloitte predicts an even stronger e-commerce increase of between 12.8 percent and 14.3 percent.
This growth points to an expected increase in shoppers contacting retailers for different forms of support. As contact center agents can only handle so many calls at a time, this presents the significant risk of them becoming overloaded — and dissatisfied customers and potentially lost business as a result.
During peak times of the year, it's more critical than ever for shoppers to have a quick, streamlined and hassle-free experience. They should be able to easily and efficiently get what they need without stress or confusion. But the reality is that the overwhelming volume of customer service interactions can lead to long wait times and abandoned calls, along with agent burnout and damaged brand reputation on the retailer side. Given this, retailers must ensure their contact centers are equipped to handle spikes in customer communications, like during the holiday shopping season, and the challenges that come with them.
Enter Conversational AI
Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) enables consumers to interact with computer applications as they would with humans. By leveraging this tool, retailers can replace limited chatbots and clunky IVR menus and simply ask customers, “How can I help?” — and then get them to the right place. That could be a priority agent queue; low-friction deflection to digital channels; or smart, conversational self-service that ensures customers’ needs can be met quickly, rather than forcing them to wait in queue and risk losing a sale, or worse, losing a customer forever. Conversational AI allows retailers to efficiently automate high-frequency contact types, while making the most of their human agents and digital channels. This is particularly beneficial as retailers struggle to hire people in their contact centers given the ongoing labor shortage.
In addition, conversational AI can deliver richer and more relevant insights than what companies currently get from other contact center technologies. With conversational AI, retailers will know what customers contact them for most. What products they’re asking about. And what problems crop up most often. These insights create opportunities for better use of automation, digital deflection, and workforce management.
Despite its many benefits, Waterfield Tech’s recent research found that only 14 percent of respondents had implemented conversational AI. As Gartner anticipates a 25 percent increase in 2023 customer satisfaction scores among organizations that use AI, retailers that aren't leveraging the power of conversational AI are greatly missing the boat.
When shoppers contact a retailer, they expect to be treated as a priority and quickly get the information they need. This requires retailers to not only gather essential data, but also be able to make sense of that data in a way that lets them rapidly and accurately act upon it. Conversational AI can provide positive interactions that give shoppers the answers they require in just a few questions — while improving customer satisfaction, driving sales, increasing revenue, addressing workforce issues, and lowering service costs — all required this holiday season and beyond.
Thanks to the experience we all enjoy in our homes with digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, conversational AI will soon be table stakes for a retailer’s contact center.
Kerry Robinson is vice president, conversational AI at Waterfield Tech, a contact center solutions provider offering a full suite of services and platforms.
An Oxford physicist with a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence, Kerry is a technologist, scientist, and lover of data with over 20 years of experience in conversational AI. He combines business, customer experience, and technical expertise to deliver IVR, voice, and chatbot strategy, and keep Waterfield Technologies buzzing.