As a customer service expert, you’ll always have age-old problems to solve, like attracting and retaining customers, shipping issues, disgruntled shoppers, and burned out call center staff.
Yet, with the rate of growth in the technology and communications sector, it often feels like we’re traveling at warp speed without a map, compelling us to seek answers to the same challenging questions:
- How do we keep distracted or disgruntled customers shopping with us?
- How do we engage customers to cross-sell or upsell products and services?
- Can we create a frictionless return or exchange experience?
- What can we do to keep our human agents motivated and helpful?
But I have good news: A lot of these problems can now be solved with conversational and proactive artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots.
...we now have better, faster, more convenient ways to communicate that can improve CX.
I consider them as game-changing because it can help automate the process of delighting customers, meeting and surpassing their expectations, and building long-term trust — all tenets of excellent customer experiences (CXs).
So, let me introduce you to the future of customer care.
One in which you can accurately predict shoppers’ behavior, respond to it, troubleshoot in real-time, and build loyal customers for life.
One where you worry less about finding and retaining quality staff amidst the Great Resignation in an uncertain labor market.
Say hello to AI chatbots.
How Does Proactive AI Improve CX?
Phone calls will always be a part of the contact center, but we now have better, faster, more convenient ways to communicate that can improve CX.
Proactive AI and conversational AI are two tools available now that bring not only a 24/7 convenience factor to your customers. But a well-designed bot can bring a simplicity factor as well, helping quickly get answers to routine questions.
First off, customers can conveniently communicate with your contact center on their own terms, when they have time and when they feel like it.
Customers no longer have to spend a half an hour on the phone first waiting on hold for an agent and then interacting with an agent just to find out where their recent order is. AI chatbots can handle these types of inquiries quickly and efficiently so your human agents can take on the more complex customer care concerns.
Secondly, AI chatbots plug right in to all the most popular asynchronous communications channels of today, such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Message, WhatsApp, SMS, and more.
This is important because more and more shoppers are browsing and buying directly on mobile, rather than on computers and onsite in brick-and-mortar stores. For eCommerce to thrive in today’s world, being able to respond immediately to customers where they are is no longer a luxury; it’s a must-have.
A good example of how proactive AI helps improve CX is simply by having a better understanding of each one of your customers.
AI can track purchases and follow up with customers after they’ve checked out to see how things are going.
A typical AI-enabled follow-up in an asynchronous messaging channel looks like this:
“Welcome back Sam! Just checking to see how you like your new suit. Anything we can help you with?”
It’s similar to a tactic we’d employ in a brick-and-mortar store: a customer buys a suit and comes back a few days later. The salesperson asks how the customer likes their new suit. The result is the customer feels taken care of and important.
Since we don’t have that ability in the ether of the internet, proactive AI tactics can be a very powerful way to harness that same personalized, caring service.
How Chatbots Help Retain Customers
Proactive AI can help with customer retention even during events that are largely out of your control, like delivery delays or limited item availability. This shows shoppers you have follow-through—that you care about their orders as much as you care about what’s in their shopping carts.
Outbound text messages are great for letting customers know items shipped have been delayed. These asynchronous communications can go a long way in keeping customers informed of their recent purchases, showing them that you’re invested in what happens after the sales.
Or, if a shopper is in their online account looking for information about their recent order, proactive AI can step in and ask, “We see your shipment has been delayed. We feel terrible about that and want to offer you a 15% discount to make it up to you.”
Proactive AI can help with customer retention even during events that are largely out of your control...
Taking it a step further, proactive AI can even ask shoppers experiencing shipping delays if they want to cancel or change their orders.
This asynchronous communication is exemplary because customers don’t have to wait on hold over the phone to process a return or exchange. They can do it all from their computer or mobile device.
Doubling down on customer retention, people also know which industries and companies offer white glove customer service, either from direct shopping interactions or through the grapevine.
If you deliver a remarkable experience, customers will share, comment on, and recommend your products and services to their friends, families, and colleagues on social or even in person.
While this is an indirect benefit of using proactive AI to foster higher customer satisfaction, it’s an important and relevant aspect of the many ways the technology helps attract and retain shoppers.
How AI Helps Grow Revenue
One of my favorite aspects of proactive AI is its ability to grow revenue. It’s sort of a hidden benefit of AI conversational commerce that we don’t always talk about, but it’s an important one.
Chatbots are programmable, meaning once you implement them into your systems, you can automate retention strategies, such as upgrading to a higher-level subscription or buying an add-on product or service.
They can also field common issues, like invalid codes at checkout: which frequently lead to abandoned carts. These conversations often begin with a simple, “Hey, Sam! Interested in seeing some recommendations based on your recent suit purchase?”
Proactive AI can step in (instead of using up human agents’ valuable time) to troubleshoot an issue and keep the customer moving forward with their purchase.
For example, an AI bot prompting Sam with a conversation starter: “Sam, I noticed you’re having issues with your discount code. Do you need some help?”
This keeps Sam engaged in the purchasing process and lessens the likelihood he will get frustrated and leave.
Instead of fielding routine calls from customers who can’t check out, your team can focus on doing some selling of their own and resolving more complex issues.
Finally, and as noted earlier, proactive AI with chatbots can grow revenues also through attracting new and hopefully loyal customers enabled by highly satisfied existing customers sharing their positive experiences with others.
Bonus Benefits: Analytics and Happy Contact Center Employees
It’s important to track and measure your progress in all aspects of your eCommerce business. Many bot tools work double-duty as data collectors and can help you understand customers’ more nuanced behaviors.
Instead of relying on agents to manually categorize phone calls, your bot can be instrumented so that it automatically records the number and types of issues that customers are having.
And why not improve employee experience while you’re at it?
I’m going to guess that your really highest-performing agents are drained, frustrated, and burned out.
...AI chatbots truly are game changers, especially for businesses looking to prepare for the future...
AI can assist them and prevent burnout because the bots that are used in these applications are asynchronous and employed post-call, which doesn’t have the same emotional drain as being on the phone with an enraged customer.
Why? Because being yelled at, like with capital letters and with text, is much less emotionally taxing than being on the phone with someone who is distraught.
The Future Is Here
AI chatbots have been around for a while, but not until today have we fully realized just how powerful they can be, especially in a post-sale customer journey.
Totally customizable to each unique business, AI chatbots truly are game changers, especially for businesses looking to prepare for the future when even more shoppers than ever will expect instant service and response.
Plus, being proactive is never a bad thing—especially when you’re building for success in the future.