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What Exactly is AI Customer Service in e-Commerce?

Growth Spark

Contributed post from Simplr.

Forget price and convenience, customer service is quickly becoming an e-commerce business’s secret weapon for success. The online shopping market is bigger and more competitive than ever - with customers’ expectations for good service going through the roof. It’s no wonder that e-commerce retailers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help them provide the fastest and friendliest support in the game.

Technology in online customer service isn’t new, of course. We’ve been chatting with and “talking” to automated assistants for well over a decade now…for better or for worse. Research shows that customers aren’t wild about chatbots, and prefer to always have a human backup. However, AI plays a critical role in customer service in e-commerce, as both a behind-the-scenes and customer-facing asset.

AI is set out to address a common customer service pain-point for e-commerce entrepreneurs: Managing and scaling customer service when customers expect the moon.

The customer service expectations of e-commerce customers

Today’s online customers expect fast, empathetic customer service at all hours of the day and in all corners of the internet. For the minority that still wants to chat on the phone - you guessed it - they want a quick pick up and a quick resolution. In fact:

  • 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person during an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer. (Inc.)
  • Majority of online customers prefer live chat, email, text, or social media to communicate with retailers.
  • Majority of customers expect online stores to have 24/7 customer service.

E-commerce customer service channel chart

To meet these sky-high expectations, most e-commerce merchants must turn to AI assistance to organize tickets, anticipate future questions, and manage volume. Not doing so may result in unsatisfied customers and, therefore, lost sales. Or worse, a bad Yelp review.

Using AI to streamline the customer service ticketing process

It’s not uncommon for new or smaller e-commerce businesses to organize their customer inquiries manually. Some use a shared Outlook account and some have luck with color-coded tags in Gmail. Some businesses thrive on a manual process, but it’s not scalable and becomes risky during periods of peak volume (i.e. Black Friday). Upgrading to a ticketing system can save resources and eliminate the risk of a customer question falling through the cracks.

Many e-commerce businesses use AI in customer service to make sure things are running smoothly behind the scenes. As customer inquiries roll in, AI-powered ticking systems such as Zendesk, Intercom, or Gorgias can help businesses sort, prioritize, and assign tickets to team members. Here are the most popular ticketing systems:

E-commerce ticketing systems

Machine learning to study past customer interactions

Here’s another behind-the-scenes way AI is settling into customer service: Going through every single customer service interaction ever and creating a comprehensive historical analysis.

The results from this effort provide value to the business on three fronts:

  1. Empowers current customer service team members with more accurate scripts/macros because they’re based on what has worked best in the past.
  2. Provides valuable customer insights that can help sales, product,and marketing teams hone their messaging.
  3. Help sales teams anticipate the needs of the customer, thereby allowing them to be more strategic about offers and on-site behavior.

When AI interacts with customers

Of course, AI can be used to interact with customers directly, or, at least, kick off the interaction. Thanks to the historical analysis mentioned above, it’s feasible for a chatbot to handle some of the very basic customer inquiries that come through. Questions that have been asked many times before, that do not require escalation to a human.

Chat platforms such as Intercom can help with pre-sales support as well. A customer’s behavior on the site can trigger a prompt from a chatbot to ask if they have any questions. If the customer responds, the bot can continue the interaction or signal for a human to join in.

In order to make customer-facing AI work best for your company, a human being needs to be standing by. As noted in Forbes, if a chatbot detects that a customer is angry, upset or frustrated, it will seamlessly transfer the interaction to a human to take over and finish assisting the customer. In fact, 86% of customers say they should always have an option to transfer to a live person when dealing with a chatbot. Good customer service thrives off of genuine interaction and customer expectations, not bots.

AI in customer service is no longer all about frustrating robots answering phones. AI is empowering small businesses to leverage customer service in a way that makes them competitive - and even preferable - to the retail giants.

Simplr provides high-quality, U.S.-based sales and customer support designed exclusively for ecommerce brands (and their budgets).

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