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Are your Customers Comfortable Purchasing through a Chatbot?

Sandra Thomson By Sandra Thomson
Aug. 11, 2017

Would you complete a purchase through a chatbot? Do you feel like chatbots deliver satisfactory customer service? Is this the true omnichannel customer experience?

According to a survey from DigitasLBi, 37% of people are willing to make a purchase through a chatbot and would spend an average of about $56 per purchase. Nearly half of millennials have or would be willing to receive recommendations from a chatbot. It’s not surprising since most consumer brand websites now offer some kind of “live chat” option. And, given the trend that teens, young adults, and beyond prefer text messaging over phone calls, it seems very reasonable that chatting with a bot may increasingly become the standard way to purchase a product. But is it really a future behavior or trend? Heck, I’m not a millennial and I am willing to do that NOW. 

I recently bought a pair of running shoes the other day at a well-known brand store. Our in-store experience was not the greatest. My husband and I both needed shoes. I knew what I wanted because I buy the same model every year. It works perfectly with my orthotics. But my husband was just diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and had questions, so off to the store we went.

This is when the experience got questionable in terms of efficiency, value-add, etc. There were a lot of  customers at the store and not enough staff to serve us all.  Truth be told, I’m a little bit impatient as a customer, so I just wanted to grab my shoes, try them on for size and leave the store.  As mentioned, though, my husband wanted to talk to somebody to get recommendations.  An hour later, we finally got some attention and ultimately left the store with three pairs of shoes.

In retrospect, it simply didn’t have to be that way. The brand’s website could have used a bot - or even a bot/agent hybrid approach -  to answer his initial questions and subsequently provide recommendations. Eventually if he felt more comfortable chatting with a live agent, the interaction could have escalated from an automated response system to a human.  The live agent and he could have co-browsed the e-commerce site, with the agent guiding him toward the right shoes to choose within 15 minutes - even if it meant reserving a couple of pairs to try in the store. That would’ve been a great omnichannel experience and most of - if not the entire - journey would have taken place from the comfort of our home.

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Granted, there is an inherent challenge in balancing high-tech with high-touch, but the benefits of using bots are significant. For starters, the relevant data a brand can capture based on a single interaction with a single customer is very powerful when integrated with the company’s CRM. In the case of my husband, a given retailer could learn that he has a particular need (plantar fasciitis), preferred attributes (size, styles, colors, etc.) and even a buying cycle (e.g. shoes in fall, sneakers in spring). On a larger scale and over time, collecting this kind of data on an automated basis paves the way for identifying discernable patterns, distilling actionable intelligence, and ultimately providing direction to product, marketing, and sales channels. 

Where the rubber meets the road - or, in this case, where the sole meets the shoe - is when a brand can leverage data from the bot interactions, couple it with all other data points in the CRM, and disseminate campaigns targeting customers like my husband. In marketing, it’s proven that sending more campaigns to fewer recipients - when targeted properly - drives greater aggregate results. And, adding chat as a channel only helps multiply the odds - a win-win for both brand and customer.

At the end of the day, we (consumers) just want what we want or need and either get it from home or get back home ASAP. Along the journey, we also want knowledgeable and courteous service - even if it’s from a learning system or bot. The proof is already there that the market is ready and, given that 60% of Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we’re particularly proud that CaféX Live Assist for Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the first chatbot-enabled omnichannel customer service solution for Dynamics. Enterprises can choose from two deployment models - full integration using the Microsoft Bot Framework or escalation from chatbots to a live agent using CaféX APIs. Either way, brands can enjoy the benefits of the solid partnership between Microsoft and CaféX to improve agent productivity, leverage the intelligence learned from the bot and, most importantly, deliver a better customer service experience.