Customer service is an art and science, so it’s no wonder artificial intelligence is part of the conversation.
The Motley Fool reports, however, that only 7% of retailers turn to AI to bolster customer service. That may be changing sooner rather than later. According to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, another 48% have their sights set on AI within three years.
While a cheery robot workforce may not be that far-fetched, this isn't entirely what retailers have in mind when it comes to AI in customer service. AI is also valued for its broader data analysis capabilities, which retailers can leverage to optimize purchase suggestions and product recommendations.
In the press release, retail consulting firm Boston Retail Partners President Perry Kramer elaborates on how AI can help retailers grow.
"The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience."
"The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience," shared Kramer. "AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience."
Kramer goes on to describe how retail leaders are already using AI for their customer service, from Amazon’s algorithm-powered product recommendations to Sephora’s chatbot that gives personalized makeup advice.
A potential risk of using AI is that consumers may feel duped if they discover they've unknowingly been speaking to a bot, while others may dislike the idea of AI in customer interactions altogether.
BRP Senior Vice President Jeffrey Neville emphasizes the importance of transparency in the press release.
"Do you want the customer to think they're speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology," said Neville. "That's a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they're talking to a computer."
The expansion of AI in customer service appears destined. If companies can create a bot that drives sales, they will certainly use it, as The Motley Fool muses. Humans won’t need to hightail it out of retail, but they will need to adapt how they work to complement the presence of AI.