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Can Artificial Intelligence Improve Customer Service?

The Motley Fool – Customer service isn’t just about having a pleasant attitude or adopting a “the customer is always right” policy. Those things are important, but they’re only a few of the things a company needs to do to meet the needs of its patrons. Attitude and a willingness to serve become almost irrelevant if a store’s shelves don’t have the right merchandise, or a retailer does not offer the delivery or pickup model that meets a customer’s needs.

Currently, most retailers try to figure out the right mix to keep their customers happy using old-school techniques like observation and satisfaction surveys. Only 7% of retailers currently use artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service. But that’s going to change: Another 48% plan to start using artificial intelligence technologies with 3 years according to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said BRP President Perry Kramer in a press release. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

The challenge — and it’s a line that has not been fully fleshed out yet — is that consumers may not know they are interacting with an AI. Some may not be happy to find out that the helpful “person” on the other end of their conversation is actually a robot/AI.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said BRP Senior Vice President Jeffrey Neville in the press release. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

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More retailers use AI to improve customer service

Chain Store Age – Retailers are increasingly applying artificial intelligence (AI) to better personalize customer service initiatives, and momentum is increasing. Fifty five percent of retailers plan to leverage AI technology within three years, and applications will vary, according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP) retail consulting firm.

AI’s ability to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention makes it a credible option to improve customer service. Some retailers use it to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions. Others use it to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with product suggestions, which are also based on past clicks and website visit data.

While chatbots can be a useful customer service tool, some consumers may not know if they are talking to a real person or a bot until they’ve already entered the interaction. Without transparency, that lack of clarity may also turn off some consumers.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior VP and practice lead, BRP. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

Read Full Article: More retailers use AI to improve customer service

Retailers Plan to Add Artificial Intelligence

Convenience Store Decisions – Retailers are watching technology trends, especially artificial intelligence and deciding how they might best implement it to serve their customer base.

Retailers recognize the value of using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service, as 55% plan to leverage this technology within three years. According to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 7% of retailers are currently using AI as digital assistants and chatbots, and another 48% plan to implement this capability within three years.

Artificial intelligence is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Some retailers are experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions or to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with products they would be willing to purchase based on past clicks and website visit data.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP Retail Consulting Firm. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

Read Full Article: Retailers Plan to Add Artificial Intelligence

55% of Retailers Plan to Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Improve Customer Service within Three Years

BRP’s Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey Addresses the Customer Experience of the Future

Boston, MA – September 27, 2018– Retailers recognize the value of using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service, as 55% plan to leverage this technology within three years. According to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 7% of retailers are currently using AI as digital assistants and chatbots, and another 48% plan to implement this capability within three years.

Artificial intelligence is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Some retailers are experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions or to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with products they would be willing to purchase based on past clicks and website visit data.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

Amazon and other multi-channel retailers are currently experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on responses to a series of questions and past purchase history. Sephora, using a Kik chatbot, offers customers “conversational commerce” by offering a one-on-one mobile chat experience to offer ideas on new makeup looks and identify products in tutorials to offer customers a better shopping experience. In-store, the chatbot is becoming a personal shopping assistant by offering product recommendations, reviews and ratings.

While chatbots can be a useful customer service tool, some consumers may not know if they are talking to a real person or a bot until they’ve already entered the interaction. That lack of clarity may turn off some consumers, which can negatively impact your brand.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

For more details and other retail insights, download the complete 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-unified-commerce-survey/.

The 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey platinum sponsors are Aptos and Manhattan Associates, gold sponsors are CayanECRS, enVista and PCMS, and the silver sponsor is STORIS.

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

Robot Associates

Robot Associate: Are retail jobs at risk?

Even though headlines may seem to scream otherwise, the store is not dead. Shopping is a social experience that people want to participate in and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. What is changing is the traditional customer engagement model, as customers now have more information and resources at their fingertips and demand more from their shopping experience.

Today’s stores must encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world. To accomplish this, many retailers are looking to technology and automation to improve the in-store customer experience.

Robots, Automation & Retail

While automation and robots can be a good way to cut overall costs, there is a fine line as to where it makes sense to deploy. Operationally, RFID technology can automate inventory/cycle counts, augmented reality can help with merchandising and floor sets, and blockchain technology can be used to prove authenticity of a luxury good. Areas such as visual recognition and augmented reality displays can enable personalization of merchandise – choose a color, monogram, etc. – to create a custom order and deliver directly to the customer. While virtual mirrors can offer customers the ability to try on merchandise and feel comfortable with their purchase without the merchandise physically being there.

And we are seeing retailers embrace some of these technologies. According to the 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Survey, 41% of retailers plan to utilize augmented reality within three years and 23% plan to utilize virtual mirrors in the same time-frame. These technologies offer further ways to personalize the customer experience in the store. But their best use is as a supplement to knowledgeable, well-trained, technology-enabled human sales associates.

Customer ExperienceCustomer Experience & Personalization

The real-time retail trend of identifying a customer and guiding the customer through the sale via human interaction won’t soon be replaced by automation. The process of customer engagement and personalized context (understanding the time of day, how the customer is dressed, what department they are shopping, if they have a wedding ring, if they are well dressed, etc.), as well as cross-selling and up-selling require a finesse that today’s robotics cannot replace.

However, there are opportunities to utilize technology to enhance relationships by improving associate’s ability to sell to the customers while making them more efficient operationally. Much of the recent automation focus has been on reducing the dependence on cashiers. For example, the elimination of a traditional POS via a “scan and go” technology, allows retailers to redesign their stores and eliminate the classic cash wrap desk to enable more customer-associate interaction and personalization.

While there is a fascination with robots in retail and we are certainly seeing more uses for technology in the store, the adoption will be a slow process with sales associates still a necessary role.

New Study Finds 45 Percent of Retailers Plan to Integrate AI

JCK – Artificial intelligence is poised to become a more commonplace technology in retailing, according to a study released by Boston Retail Partners (BRP) this week. In BRP’s 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, 45 percent of retailers polled said they plan to use artificial intelligence within three years to enhance their customer service.

Virtual reality doesn’t lag far behind—34 percent of respondents said they plan to use the immersive tech in the next three years.

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45% Of Retailers Will Utilize AI Within 3 Years

Retail Touch Points – The popularity and know-it-all nature of artificial intelligence platforms such as Siri and Alexa have given rise to more sophisticated digital communications, and more retailers are noticing the potential of these capabilities. Within three years, up to 45% of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) — through chatbots or digital assistants — to enhance their customer experiences, according to a survey from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

While a majority, 55%, of retailers say their top priority is optimizing the customer experience, they also are prioritizing other shopper-related goals.

Read Full Article: 45% Of Retailers Will Utilize AI Within 3 Years

Retailers getting serious about artificial intelligence

Chain Store Age – A new survey suggests that retailers are ready to invest in artificial intelligence and other new technologies.

Forty-five percent (45%) of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence within three years to enhance the customer experience, according to the BRP (Boston Retail Partners) 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey.  Virtual reality is also in retailers’ sights, with 34% of respondents saying they plan to deploy it within the next three years. Another 34% of retailers plan to implement augmented reality within the same time frame.
Additionally, 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty by improving the mobile shopping experience and creating a unified experience across channels.
“Stores must now encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate – whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics – married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world,” according to the report. “The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look to the future.”

Read Full Article: Retailers getting serious about artificial intelligence