Imagine a customer service team who can deliver instant, personalised service, without taking a break – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Some of Australasia’s most well-known companies are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence technology to do just that.

You may have heard about ‘ChatGPT’, a conversational AI chatbot that is trained using vast amounts of data. At Ambit, we’ve been using the underlying GPT language models to help retailers for a while now, so have a good grasp of what’s real (and what’s hype).

We understand that retailers are facing a lot of challenges including overloaded employees, a shortage of skilled workers and managing stressful spikes in demand for customer support. But we’ve helped companies like Glassons and Laybuy to deploy AI chatbots to address these challenges.

AI chatbots learn fast. In fact, the more training, the faster they learn. They can be taught to understand the context and meaning of customer queries, making them incredibly effective at responding to a range of questions. 

And using an AI to answer the simpler questions frees up the rest of the customer service team to handle the trickier ones. That means employees aren’t overworked and are able to give a more personal service.

Another advantage of using AI chatbots is that they can use data about a customer’s previous interactions and purchase history to offer personalised support. This not only improves the customer experience, but it also increases the chances of a customer making a purchase.

With chatbots able to deliver CSAT improvements of over 30%, reducing agent support queries by over 70%, and shortening wait times to seconds rather than hours–it’s no wonder customer centred organisations are rushing to embrace the technology.

For example, the chatbot ‘Hugh’ enabled Laybuy to increase customer satisfaction rates by 30% and reduce its response time by 75 hours, according to Gary Rohloff, the company’s Co-founder and Managing Director.

So, how can retail business owners make the most of AI technology to improve and scale up customer service?

  1. Choose a platform partner – someone with experience with chatbots, AI, and retail. You need a partner who will be on hand when you need them.
  2. Implement a chatbot: Decide what your AI chatbot will handle – such as customer queries, product recommendations, or sales – and the tone of voice you want it to use. You can even give it a name!
  3. Train the chatbot: Training your AI chatbot is probably the most important step, because the more you train it, the more effective it will be. We recommend starting with a library of common questions and answers and going from there. This will be an ongoing process. Choosing a platform partner who has pre-trained models will ensure accuracy and accelerate the time to value.
  4. Integrate with other systems: To maximise the benefits of AI technology, it’s important to integrate your chatbot with other systems such as your CRM, e-commerce platform, and customer service tools. This will ensure that the chatbot has access to all the data it needs to provide the best possible customer experience.
  5. Measure success: Finally, it’s important to measure the success of your AI chatbot. Work with your partner to make sure that your chatbot is providing the best possible customer experience, and it will help you identify areas for improvement.

What are the common pitfalls?

  • Expecting too much too soon. Start small and evolve quickly.
  • Not understanding the ‘WHY’. If you set out wanting your chatbot to be ‘cool’, but a year later decide the goal is shorter call time resolutions, it won’t show success on these new metrics. Define success at the outset of the program and review regularly.
  • Very few companies have achieved success with homegrown chatbots. Ask yourself these questions: Are you an AI software company? Will you be able to bring on another 20-30 headcount to do it properly? Did you develop your own CRM? Specialist partners deliver because they have had success in the domain.

AI chatbots are revolutionising the retail industry by providing a new level of customer service. With the ability to offer 24/7 support, personalise the customer experience, and integrate with other systems, AI chatbots are becoming a necessary investment for any retail business.

Tim Warren is co-founder and CEO of Ambit.