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September 26, 2018 | By

Guest Blog: Using AI to Eliminate Wasted Effort For Customers

Years ago, the internet and E-commerce were new and suspect inventions, bringing promise and excitement to consumers, but also unfamiliarity and uncertainty.

For starters, as a customer, when you placed an order (or thought you had placed an order), you never knew exactly if your order had gone through or had wafted away somewhere in the ether, never to be fulfilled.

The result was a lot of customer insecurity, and a whole lot of phone calls and emails. Inquiries like: “Hey, Amazon.com [or Pets.com, or eToys.com, or WebVans], I just tried to place an order on your website. Did it go through?”

Even if the company in question responded to such an inquiry pleasantly and in a timely manner, it wasn’t the most efficient process.  Both customers and agents wasted time confirming that the order had indeed been placed.  And Amazon very quickly took it upon itself to come up with a way to eliminate all of this wasted motion and effort.

Amazon’s solution?  The instant order confirmation that we’ve since come to expect after every order we place:

Thank you for shopping with us. We’ll send a confirmation once your item has shipped. Your order details are indicated below. If you would like to view the status of your order or make any changes to it, please visit Your Orders on Amazon.com.

This little innovation was so successful that Amazon then went further and applied this “eliminating dumb contacts” approach (as Bill Price, a former Amazon executive, calls it) to the dozens of other types of customer inquiries that similarly added no value for the customer or the company.   It became an obsession, really, at Amazon, to identify every type of unnecessary customer inquiry and then figure out how to head them off at the pass.

While Amazon pioneered this approach, saving time and effort of customers (and agents) is top of mind for most companies today. Happily, today, unlike in the early days of Amazon, there are high-tech arrows you can put in your quiver to help attack the menace of unnecessary inquiries.

One of the best of these modern tools is artificial intelligence — and here’s how it is helping:

  • Modernizing the FAQ — AI can reside in a dynamic search bar on a site, helping anticipate the questions customers are likely asking and directing them to the best resource to resolve their queries.
  • Providing an “always-on assistant” — AI-powered chatbots are helping customers get answers to common and simple straightforward questions 24/7. In addition, they can help customers take the next action needed, for instance, generating a return label automatically.
  • AI can help agents deliver “policy exceptions” that assist customers who may have stepped slightly outside of stated company norms, such as being a day over the standard use period for a coupon or return period for a product. By quickly offering agents historical information on the customer, in real-time, this helps agents to easily make those exceptions based on the loyalty/VIP status of the customer.

AI has the ability to save time moving forward as well because of AI’s ability to “learn on the job.” The more of these “dumb contacts” it’s involved in heading off, the more information companies have to increasingly optimize the customer journey, and the more time agents have to focus more interesting, valuable work that truly drives great customer experience.


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