The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Conversational Commerce

Automated customer service has been around for some time, delivering on the promise of faster, more efficient customer engagement. From predictive dialing solutions to IVR menus, customers are empowered and save time when optimized self-service options are available to them. Yet, with the growing trend of conversational commerce, automation has become ever more sophisticated: from chat bots to intelligent assistants, artificial intelligence is now the norm for offering the most advanced personalized service possible.

The rise of intelligent assistants and chat bots

Conversational commerce enables customers to have more personal relationships with brands while receiving service and sales assistance on a single channel. Many brands are therefore turning to artificial intelligence to give customers the most comprehensive assistance possible. E-commerce site Amazon unveiled its intelligent assistant Alexa, which is able to assist customers with everything from searching its vast product catalogue to making purchases while consulting customer purchase history. Similarly, Facebook M enables customers to make virtually any kind of request, from ordering food to checking an account balance. While humans are on staff to handle complex cases, the interface is nonetheless powered by an intelligent assistant capable of carrying a natural conversation in order to provide detailed search results, make purchases, and fulfill other customer requests.

In addition to intelligent assistants, chat bots are a hot trend in conversational commerce. As software programs that simulate intelligent conversation, chat bots interact with customers through chat interfaces using both textual and audio means. Some function based on rules and may only perform limited functions, such as providing fact-based answers to highly specific demands (requesting the current weather, finding the nearest grocery store, and the like). Chat bots powered by artificial intelligence, however, respond to language and are able to learn continuously during a conversation with a user, growing smarter as they go and providing highly personalized responses. Many retail brands have embraced the artificial intelligence aspect of chat bots to offer in-depth and humanized service, from fashion brands such as Everlane and Louis Vuitton to fast food chains such as Taco Bell and Burger King.

The evolving role of human agents in customer service

So how will artificial intelligence impact the role of human agents in customer service? It’s more than likely that automation will not fully replace the live agents on the front lines. As it is, many bots are currently monitored and backed up by human agents, especially at times when human intervention is absolutely necessary. Just as IVR and other self-service tools eliminate the need for agents to perform monotonous tasks, it’s fair to say that artificial intelligence will give agents the time and focus to work on more complex cases and creative tasks.As a global leader in cloud-based contact center software solutions for customer service and sales, Vocalcom chose to integrate Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WeChat, Viber, Kik, and conversational SMS into its cloud contact center platform to evolve into a premium conversational commerce platform for delivering great customer experiences, offering a data-rich context that enables customers to switch easily between channels in a single interaction. Conversational interactions through text messaging, in-app messaging, and platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WeChat, Viber, and more allow customers to engage with brands in real-time or asynchronously through a single thread. Currently, 40% of companies have seen a call deflection rate when shifting customers to SMS, and 23% have plans to add it this year, resulting in more than 60% of all contact centers offering SMS support by the end of 2016. 

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