Procurement · 11 December 2018

Online retailers turn to chatbots to handle Christmas demand


Retailers are ramping up their use of chatbots to cope with the Christmas rush, new findings have revealed.

A new survey from cloud communications provider Olive Communications, has found that nearly-three quarters of retailers are gearing up their online customer service this Christmas by investing in AI.

It found that 59% of the 500 retailers questioned have invested in Virtual Call Centre Agents -chatbots that handle minor queries before passing to a human agent- 42% use Virtual Agent led Live Chat – managed by a chatbot rather than a human – and 22% utilise Agent Assist technology, which transfers an unresolved enquiry to a human agent with full context of the Virtual Agent conversation.


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According to a quarter of retailers polled, AI adds another layer of intelligence, data and insight that online customer service agents can use for smarter, more personalised interactions while 56% said customer queries are resolved at greater speeds.

The study found that the use of AI has also “radically transformed” where customer service operators can work from. Around 60% of operators now work from home either in their bedroom, kitchen or study, whilst around a quarter work from locations such as hotel lobbies, cafés, friends’ or parents’ homes, and student accommodation. One in five work from home 100% of the time.

Olive Communications said using chatbots thus save one in three retailers £100,000 or more a year.

Customers are also happy with Olive stating that 82% of the 1,000 polled prefer the speed and 38% the convenience of virtual customer service agents. Over three-quarters of busy working parents and 88% of students highlighted how ‘it’s much quicker’ to speak with a virtual agent.

Martin Flick, CEO of Olive Communications, said: “With customer experience predicted to overtake price and product by 2020, retailers must be prepared to evolve to offer a more personalised experience, which our research has proved must be quick and convenient for the customer across all channels. Customers get frustrated if they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives.”

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