Retail Workshop

Will chatbots take over customer service?

The benefits and limitations of chatbots are a major talking point in retail.

12 Jun 2017

Same old service

Retailers have been using rudimentary artificial intelligence software to replicate the kind of human interactions that people are used to having over the phone to a call centre.

Facebook in particular has been shouting about how chatbots are a game-changer for customer service, and is already integrating them into its messenger platform.

Companies including Sephora and H&M are using bots through apps like Kik.

However, many believe it’s impossible to replace humans with bots for anything other than the most menial enquiries.

Top of the bots

One company that’s come up with a mixed approach is Hero. Its founder Adam Levene has created a website plugin which allows customers browsing a site to speak to real-life shop assistants.

Rather than the customer receiving a text response, it enables engagement with a sales assistant on the shop floor over video call.

Levene argues that for big-ticket products like furniture or jewellery, customers want more information before making purchases, and shop assistants who are often standing idle in empty shops can be put to use helping close sales over the web.

Having launched in September 2016, the company’s challenge will be adapting consumer behaviour fast so the shops that have started using Hero see continued value in subscribing to the service.

This story is taken from Courier Jun/Jul 2017.