When you hear the term “artificial intelligence”, chances are your mind turns to films like iRobot, Blade Runner, or maybe real people like Elon Musk. How long would it take for you to consider “customer service”?
The truth is, companies have been using artificial intelligence with various applications for decades now. In fact, 22% of companies surveyed by McKinsey & Company suggested that more than 5% of their organization’s earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were attributed to AI, and since the Covid-19 pandemic, they plan to invest even more.
Image Source: McKinsey & Company
However, this guide will specifically address AI solutions to problems in the eCommerce industry. By the end, you’ll be able to understand what AI is, what its role is in the eCom space and the benefits of adopting AI technology for your team and your customers.
What exactly is AI, and why does it matter?
In a basic and general sense, artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer to perform tasks, make decisions, and solve problems at a level as complex as a human.
These tasks, decisions, and problem-solving skills happen in real-time thanks to algorithms that process huge amounts of data. These algorithms are also possible thanks to sub-disciplines called Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
AI is important because we live in a world run by and reliant on data. According to Domo, over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day (that’s 18 zero’s, in case you’re wondering).
Image Source: Domo (data produced every minute)
As such, AI helps us more efficiently manage and make use of all the data people are producing.
The role of AI in eCommerce customer service
Now you might be thinking, “that’s pretty impressive, but what does AI have to do with customer service?” Well, the use of artificial intelligence has already made its way into our regular customer interactions, mostly in the form of AI chatbots and product recommendation systems.
Most chatbots are a basic form of AI in customer service, which we wrote in more detail about in this article:
In the article, we point out how basic chatbots (virtual assistants) only serve to answer simple customer questions that they could self-service from a company knowledge base or faqs. For chatbots to have a real impact on both customer engagement and support teams, it needs AI workflows and process automation.
If you’re still not convinced of the importance of AI in eCommerce customer support, let’s look at how AI (beyond basic chatbots) can help your business thrive.
The benefits of AI in eCommerce customer service
No matter the size of your eCommerce company, AI can help your customer service team(s) in a variety of ways. Here we’re going to discuss those benefits as well as look at practical use cases of AI solving customer service pain points.
Streamlined customer support
One of the best benefits of implementing AI in your customer support system is how much it helps to streamline tickets that need human attention, and efficiently deal with ones that don’t. It manages this in two main ways.
These days, people can be quite impatient. Research from HubSpot suggests that 82% of customers want an “immediate response” when they contact customer services.
The problem we see here is that if you don’t have AI giving you a helping hand, your customers can end up waiting an hour or even longer to address their questions. Which is exactly the problem Skullcandy were facing when they approached DigitalGenius for help.
After implementing the DigitalGenius AI model in their customer service system, they saw that 48% of their tickets were automated, and 80% were handled by DigitalGenius alone.
Another problem customer service agents face is having to use multiple backend systems just to answer a single question. These hurdles can often draw out the interaction to a point that frustrates customers.
One of the ways AI can help streamline customer support is to automate many of these processes in single customer interactions in the background. When Runtastic was seeing fast growth in their app, they wanted help in decreasing average handling times.
DigitalGenius helped Runtastic implement automation capabilities in their cancellations and refunds processing. This change resulted in a 40% reduction in AHT (equivalent to 7 minutes per ticket) and 80% cancellations and refunds fully resolved.
Improves customer experience and customer satisfaction
Of course, an essential metric of success for customer service and sales teams in eCommerce is customer experience and satisfaction.
The previous points on streamlining support do also help with improving customer experience, but other elements of the process help even more.
Human agent-assisted chats
Alongside unnecessarily long and unfruitful chatbot interactions, a problem that basic virtual assistants face (if people aren’t waiting to speak to a human first) is that they can’t detect changes in mood.
One of the most innovative areas in AI is natural language processing. Within this field, is the ability to use sentiment analysis to quickly address negative language and direct customers to human support agents right away.
The DigitalGenius Agent-Guided Automation solution allows customer support teams to increase capacity by up to 30% thanks to sentiment analysis and automatic tagging or routing.
Better customer relationship building
Another, slightly more recent problem customer service teams face is the splitting of channels offering customer support — phone, webchat, chatbot, and social media to give some examples. As a result, the information customers give doesn’t always get passed along or recorded.
With the implementation of AI, this omnichannel customer support is much easier to handle as it can fetch data from multiple locations, like your CRM and Customer Service Console to help solve queries. This improves customer relationships because you’re able to use all of their interactions in one place to help them.
When G-Star Raw was seeing year-on-year increases in customer service volumes, they implemented DigitalGenius’ AI eCommerce package.
By quickly adopting the AI system, they improved all of their customer support metrics within weeks and were well on their way to becoming a value-based centre.
Makes your customer service agents’ lives easier
Finally, there’s an adage in the customer service industry that says “happy employees = happy customers”. In fact, in the UK attrition rates of contact centre agents during 2018/19 were sitting at a mean average of 21%, which is pretty high.
Adopting AI solutions can help take some of the pressure off of agents in a few ways.
Using historic customer data
A common customer complaint in the eCommerce industry is how it often feels like they are repeating themselves when they go from one agent to the next. While CRM data can help to identify previous complaints or conversations, it’s hard for agents to quickly read through previous interactions to find the best solutions.
That’s where AI and Machine Learning can step in to help. Where it might take several minutes for an agent to go through the historic communication of one person, it can take an AI model seconds to analyse potentially hundreds of thousands of previous interactions.
In the case of Brooks Brothers, they needed this AI solution to help them manage the sudden influx of online customers after the Covid-19 pandemic shut all of their physical stores.
With the help of DigitalGenius, they were able to completely resolve over 20% of incoming support tickets without human intervention.
Ability to tackle more high priority support tickets
All of the points above lead to this final benefit for customer service staff — streamlined support, better customer experience and satisfaction, and the use of historic data help agents to tackle more complex cases.
A big problem that agents face is the simple but repetitive nature of most customer queries, and so they’re not able to spend as much time solving high priority tickets. This was a problem On Running were facing before they approached DigitalGenius for help.