3 may 2023
Dustin is an eCommerce strategist, devoted father, mediocre (his words) husband, and you can almost always find him barefoot.
Only the second time counts. In the fiercely competitive eCommerce landscape, customer experience is crucial to success. In truth, many retailers consider it wise to act under the rule that says: "you don't have customers until they buy from you a second time."
After all, the first time could have been a fluke, or out of convenience. With such tight competition, your post-purchase care could make the difference in what matters most to growth. What does this have to do with the rise of AI/tech and customer experience?
The answer is that AI/tech can play a pivotal role in fostering customer loyalty and optimizing the customer experience. Retailers can facilitate better service delivery by leveraging automation, advanced analytics, and machine learning in customer service. Automation powered by artificial intelligence helps to streamline processes so that customers receive faster response times without compromising on quality of service. This can be further improved with advanced analytics that allows for analyzing customer service trends to identify areas of improvement and determine how best to meet customer needs.
This is the first in a series on tech/eComm/CX synergy, delving into the role that technology and AI play in enhancing the eCommerce customer experience. We’ll explore how AI/tech enable businesses to strike the perfect balance (I prefer synergy) between leveraging the tech advantage and the empathetic human interaction desired in the post-quarantine world. By achieving such synergy, online retailers can provide an exceptional customer experience that sets them apart.
Who is this article for?
As a necessity, this article will stay at the surface level. This piece will inevitably be at least partially outdated by the time published (let alone reading). Such are the times we find ourselves.
The intention here is to provide a baseline for new eCommerce retailers, for those who find tech daunting (no judgment if you printed this out to read it), and a sharable entry resource for those "cybernetically-enhanced" retailers among us to point their network to when the eyes of their counterparts gloss over.
Seeking synergy: solutions are rapidly improving and helping online retailers better understand and respond to customers' needs.
Cyborgs welcome: To optimize, seek to complement human agents rather than replace them; swap out the fear that bots are taking jobs with the realization that they are changing careers.
Meet in the medium: Be where your customers are, when they are, with what they need.
AI-driven analytics can provide insights into customer behavior and preferences, such as frequently searched items, preferred communication channels, and previous customer service interactions. By understanding these patterns, customer service representatives can proactively address concerns and tailor their interactions to meet individual customer needs.
For instance, a customer service agent could offer personalized product recommendations based on a customer's browsing history, or suggest alternative communication methods if a customer prefers live chat over phone calls. Additionally, automation can streamline routine tasks and processes, allowing human agents to focus on more complex, emotionally-driven customer interactions that require empathy, understanding, and flexibility.
Developing tech has revolutionized the customer service landscape, allowing businesses to understand better and cater to their customers' needs. These tools enable online retailers to offer a more personalized and efficient customer experience, increasing trust and loyalty. An obvious example is an AI-driven recommendation engine that helps the company provide personalized product suggestions based on customers' browsing and purchase history, enhancing the overall customer experience (Amazon). The less obvious example is utilizing predictive analytics to identify when a customer will likely be dissatisfied before making contact and ramp pre-trained chatbots to intercept calls (predictive deflective CX).
While AI-guided tech offers numerous benefits to eCommerce customer experience, it should not replace human agents. Instead, they should be used as tools to complement and support the work of our humans. Despite the rampant fear, bots aren't going to take our jobs but rather change our jobs.
Author Note: I would insert the ominous opening from T2: Judgment Day where a terminator steps on a human skull, but the last time I brought that up in reference, my too-young counterpart made me feel too old by asking, "What's a Terminator?"
By providing human agents with the necessary technology and AI-driven insights, businesses can empower them to deliver faster, more personalized service while maintaining the essential human touch.
The employee experience is also enhanced—happier, more-engaged reps provide happier, more-engaged customer experiences. Unfortunately, Gallup reports that only 32% of our workforce is engaged. Yet, decades of research indicate a strong link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to achieving business goals. In simpler terms, a highly engaged workforce drives higher customer satisfaction. Perhaps this provides some validation to the oft-quoted Richard Branson line, "Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers."
Engaged employees are characterized by their total immersion and enthusiasm for their work. This emotional commitment motivates employees to exceed expectations and go the extra mile. Knowing this, it becomes imperative to turn to technology internally. A retailer can significantly enhance employee engagement by offering innovative tools and strategies that foster communication, collaboration, recognition, and personal development. Using platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or e-learning resources allows employees to work efficiently and grow professionally.
Additionally, remote work capabilities, performance management software, and gamification elements contribute to a flexible and motivating work environment. By investing in employee wellness and promoting social responsibility initiatives, companies demonstrate their commitment to employees' well-being, positively impacting engagement levels. Overall, leveraging modern tech creates a more connected and supportive work environment that empowers employees to deliver exceptional care continuously.
Meet in the medium
Speak to your customers where and when they want to be communicated with while providing the intel they want. As social animals, nothing is more human than communication. It might still seem a counterintuitive sentiment, but technology can aid us in becoming more human.
For example, using advanced technology in eCommerce customer service can help reps become more responsive to their customers while equipping them with all the data and intel that we modern humans demand— with speed.
As a species, we have grown intensely impatient. When most information we seek is less than 30 seconds away from a device we carry around constantly, thus this need for rapid resolution is continuously reinforced. Conversely, those who realize this late and try to route all experience to AI-guided tech will miss an opportunity to set themselves apart by being human when their customers need them most.
Taking this to heart at Order Protection—where we deliver white-glove, white-labeled post-purchase care for our brands—this surfaces through an omnichannel approach for our partner customers to human-agent interactions. SMS, web, email, site, phone—we digitize our partner's policies in the medium of customers' choosing, resulting in a resolution in 7 minutes or less.
Leveraging tech to foster a more human and responsive eCommerce customer experience
For eCommerce retailers, providing exceptional post-purchase care is crucial to building lasting customer relationships. By leveraging technology and AI in customer service, businesses can offer faster, more personalized service while maintaining the essential human touch. It's not just humans vs. machines—an intelligent fusion of both will bring us to the next level of customer experience.
By investing in employee engagement, embracing technology, and providing human-agent communication channels, eCommerce retailers can develop a personalized post-purchase experience that will keep customers returning that second and third time.