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How AI Can Help With Customer Experience This Holiday Season

chatThe holiday shopping season is upon us. It’s a time many consumers look forward to year after year, and it’s arguably the most important season for many retailers.

As we enter the second holiday shopping season undergoing a pandemic, some of the consumer behaviors that have changed over the last two years may be here to stay. Consider this - 40% of retail executives expect double-digit online channel growth this year.

Consumers plan to spend about 25% more this holiday season, but the global supply chain crisis will create some headwinds for retailers and consumers alike. Shipping and logistics bottlenecks, product shortages, and labor disruption will have “major consequences” for retailers. From lower inventories to longer delivery times, Bloomberg recently described this year’s peak season as “daunting”.

This is why – in part – it’s never been more important to prioritize experiences that delight your customers, even when the news may be disappointing.

Think of this scenario: a customer is shopping for this year’s must-have toy for their child, and one store promised that inventory would be delivered the following Tuesday. If the customer returns only to find out that the shipment had not, in fact, arrived, it creates a distinctly negative customer experience that could have been avoided.

Instead, a growing number of retailers have begun optimizing how they handle consumer engagements and service requests by deploying conversational AI solutions. Virtual assistants, chat bots, and messaging solutions – powered by conversational AI – are particularly well-suited to answering many of consumers’ most common questions, such as order status, shipment updates, store locations and hours, and more.

Moreover, when integrated with business services like Google Maps, customers can chat with the retailer via a “Message” prompt online to see whether certain items are in stock. With this solution, when a customer is searching for that toy, they can save an unnecessary trip to the store.

Other retailers have turned to in-store messaging, enabling customers to text a staff member when assistance is needed. It’s yet another strategy retailers can utilize to make the most of their employees’ time and resources.

Not only do these solutions empower consumers to avoid waiting on hold or in line, but they also provide an opportunity to proactively engage customers with a range of critical communications while having a positive impact on agent productivity and satisfaction. Imagine, for instance, being a live agent who must continually inform customers that their item is out of stock or delayed in shipment - it’s frustrating and emotionally draining for everyone.

In short, by shifting some of the high-volume, low-value inquiries to conversational AI platforms, live agents now have the space and time to serve consumers’ more complicated, higher-value – and more rewarding – requests.

Another inherent benefit: conversational AI platforms can be available to support customers 24/7/365, so they’re available whenever there’s a question. The result is a smarter, more responsive contact center that is in a far better position to create positive customer and employee experiences.