Why Chatbots are Necessary for E-commerce Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is a necessity for any e-commerce store. And if you really want to please your customers, you need to be ready to offer assistance whenever they need it. No matter how good your online storefront is, you will always have some customers who need to ask questions or talk about concerns before they’ll enter in their credit card information.

And when your customers need you, you need to be ready to help. If your team isn’t available to answer inquiries and help shoppers through the buying process at all times, there’s a chance you could be losing sales.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have a full staff of support agents online 24/7. Instead, you can incorporate chatbots into your e-commerce customer service strategy.

What are Chatbots?

If you’re unfamiliar with chatbots, the basic concept is fairly simple. These automated bots interact with customers through a chat interface and provide an experience that’s similar to speaking with a customer service agent via live chat.

Though you can use them for a variety of purposes, they are popularly used in customer service. Thanks to their ability to provide on-demand responses for simple questions and inquiries, they’re an effective customer service tool.

But it’s important to note that not all chatbots are the same. In general, there are two different types: rule-based bots and machine learning bots.

Rule-based bots operate by a set of pre-set rules and typically offer pre-written responses to customer questions. In some cases, they utilize a similar setup to automated phone menus by offering a list of options to users and moving forward accordingly.

Machine learning bots, on the other hand, provide much more human-like interactions. They look for certain phrases that signify intent and pull from context, previous interactions, and other resources to offer appropriate responses. Plus, they “learn” from every exchange, so they become more effective at answering inquiries over time. And though these types of bots are fairly rudimentary, the technology behind them is continuing to evolve.

In fact, IBM predicts that 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human agent by 2020. Chatbots aren’t widespread yet, but they’re likely to establish an increasingly large presence in the world of customer service over the next few years. So if you’re looking for a way to step up your customer service and stand out from your competitors, chatbots could be the perfect addition to your strategy.

4 Reasons Chatbots Improve E-commerce Customer Service

Although chatbots are still in their early stages, they present many opportunities for e-commerce retailers. So if you’re still not convinced of their potential value, here are four reasons why chatbots can improve your e-commerce customer service.

1. They Improve Efficiency

One of the biggest advantages of adding chatbots to your customer service strategy is that they improve your entire team’s efficiency. Providing fast, helpful service to each of your customers is a top priority for most companies. But if you’ve ever worked in a customer-facing role, you know how frustrating it can be to spend time addressing the same simple questions over and over. In fact, if your company is like most, there are likely a handful of straightforward questions that make up a large portion of your inquiries.

And this is one area where chatbots can be extremely helpful. That’s because, when built correctly, a bot can essentially act as a self-service support tool. When customers ask basic questions (like whether you ship to their country or if a product will be back in stock), the chatbot can provide the straightforward answer they’re looking for instantaneously. This way, your team can focus their time and effort on more complex issues that a bot can’t solve — which is ultimately a much more efficient use of their time.

2. They Play the Role of a Sales Associate

In addition to addressing customer concerns, chatbots can also play the role of a virtual sales associate by helping shoppers make purchasing decisions. For example, beauty retailer Sephora uses chatbots to assist customers in finding products that meet their styles and preferences. After choosing from a menu of product categories, customers can tell the bot what features or qualities they’re looking for. Then, the bot responds with direct links to relevant product pages.

Sephora-Chatbot

This way, shoppers don’t need to spend their time sorting and scrolling through pages upon pages of products. Instead, they can navigate directly to the ones that meet their needs. Then, if they like the bot’s suggestions, they can also make the purchase. And for many shoppers, this level of ease and convenience elevates their standard buying experience into an interactive one.

3. They Let Shoppers Communicate How They Want

As you develop your service strategy, it’s important to make sure that your approach is in line with what your customers actually want. After all, even the most advanced, expensive support platform won’t help you achieve the results you want if your customers don’t like using it.

That’s unlikely to happen with chatbots because consumers now have an overwhelming preference for chat interfaces. This preference is relatively unsurprising as studies show that 42% of consumers prefer live chat as a customer support channel. And fortunately, chatbots integrate seamlessly into this channel, and the businesses who use them can attest to this.

As Jeremy Kutner, VP of Web & Mobile at Warner Music Group, explains, “Our chatbots are already performing better than email when comparing organic growth, read rates, and click-throughs. This solution helps us connect with customers in a way that’s authentic. Email just doesn’t provide the same opportunity to show off your personality.”

So if you’re on the fence about incorporating chatbots into your strategy because you’re not sure if your customers will actually use them, there’s no need to let this stop you. If your majority audience prefers instant, chat-based support over the email and phone alternatives that you likely already offer — this presents you with a clear opportunity to improve your customer service.

4. They Make Automation Interactive

Today, the majority of e-commerce businesses use automation to communicate with customers in some way. For example, automated emails with order confirmations, shipping information, and follow-up content are now widely considered a standard part of the online buying process. And while these emails are helpful, most shoppers simply delete them after reading.

But you can make your automated content more interactive by sending them via a live chat interface instead of using email. For example, Nordstrom uses chatbots to accomplish several tasks that are typically done via email, including following up with customers after a purchase.

Chatbots-Nordstorm

As you can see in the screenshot above, the bot begins by confirming that the customer received their purchase and had a chance to try it on. From there, it asks for a rating on a scale from one to five to gauge the customer’s satisfaction. It also asks for feedback on their shopping experience. This essentially serves the same purpose as the automated emails but in a much more engaging way.

Conclusion

Chatbots are still a relatively new addition to the customer service industry, but they’re an addition that presents significant opportunities for businesses that use them. In fact, even though the technology behind these bots is still in the early stages of development, many companies are already incorporating them to maximize their ability to provide great customer service.

So regardless of what your customer service goals might be, there’s a strong chance that chatbots could help you reach them. And if you incorporate this technology soon, there’s still time to be at the forefront of this trend that’s likely to become a core part of customer service.