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Working smarter not harder: the rise and rise of retail chatbots

Retail chatbots will be familiar to many and are particularly useful in fast-paced, information-dependent industries. Getting the information to customers quickly while they’re poised to convert is hugely important but challenging without automation.

However, in our recent retail research, a surprisingly small proportion (just 56%) of the UK’s top 25 retailers had implemented a chatbot. While voicebots are yet to build the momentum of chatbots, it’s still perhaps surprising to learn that none of the retailers we surveyed had implemented one for customer service.

With that in mind, we’ve identified some common retail issues to show you how automation can solve them quickly and efficiently.

Problem #1: How do we train new staff without impacting customer service performance?

With customer service agent turnover rates ranging from 30-45% globally, recruiting and training new staff is a genuine headache. Getting new team members up-to-speed can be time-consuming for other team members—particularly line management—taking them away from front-line work and reducing their influence over the day-to-day.

The solution: internal knowledge base chatbot

An internal knowledge base chatbot gives new team members access to a vast range of information to help them do their jobs and allows them to start answering customer queries faster and with less oversight.

Problem #2: Operating 24-hour customer care means huge staff overheads

Assembling a round-the-clock team of crack customer service operatives can be a costly business. Outsourcing your out-of-hours team to another country can help reduce the cost, but quality control will still be a huge issue, and it’s still a hefty regular outlay.

The solution: chatbots and/or voicebots

Rather than replicating issues with your team in another location, a better solution is to use automation in the form of a chatbot or voicebot. While a second out-of-hours team could be more than capable, automation can also be used during office hours to assist your current team and fill in gaps in their capabilities.

Problem #3: Our customer service agents spend too much time tracking down customers’ order statuses

If your team spends vast amounts of time tracking down customers’ orders rather than solving more complex issues, it’s arguably not the best use of their time.

The solution: WISMO chatbot

A WISMO (Where IS My Order) chatbot can help your customers track down orders simply and effectively without ever having to speak to a human agent. It also keeps your customer service team focused on solving more complex issues.

Problem #4: How do we get customers to an agent with the right skill set to help them?

A third of respondents in a global Microsoft survey said that the most important aspect of good customer service was resolving their issues in a single interaction. A large part of that is getting the customer to someone who can help them, which means knowing what they need and who they need to speak to.

The solution: skills-based routing

Skills-based routing allows your chatbot to determine customer needs and direct their query to the right customer service agent. Routing can be sent based on skills, language, store, or brand, and your customer’s query appears directly in the chosen agent’s inbox.

Problem #5: Returns admin takes up a huge chunk of agents’ time

Unfortunately, returns are a necessary part of the retail day-to-day. They can take up large amounts of agents’ time, and while they don’t contribute to the bottom line, they do contribute to your brand’s reputation.

Solution: Returns chatbot

Automating the returns process with a chatbot makes it simpler for customers to resolve their issues as painlessly and quickly as possible and frees up valuable customer service time.

Problem #6: Most of the questions we get asked have simple answers, but they take up a lot of agents’ time

Customer service agents often spend the lion’s share of their time dealing with simple informational enquiries that could be better dealt with using automated solutions. If you can remove these distractions, your agents can spend more time working on more valuable tasks like building customer relationships and assisting customers with transactions.

The solution: FAQ chatbot

An FAQ chatbot can help your customers find answers to questions that would otherwise take up your customer service teams’ valuable time. Giving customers the opportunity to self-serve means they can find those answers more quickly and gives your team some breathing space.

Problem #7: Customers want to contact us on the phone, but we struggle to handle the volume of calls

Given that the telephone is the preferred customer support contact method for 69% of consumers of all ages, according to's customer service research, it makes sense that it’s probably one of your most popular customer service channels. However, calls take longer to process than most other contact methods and don’t allow your customer service agents to deal with more than one contact at once like, for example, Live chat does.

The solution: Voicebot

A voicebot can pick up the slack with voice calls and triage them as they come in, identifying those that can be answered by the voicebot and those that require a human agent to resolve. Naturally, your voicebot can also handle calls outside office hours.

Problem #8: We want to be more active across a variety of channels to ramp up customer acquisition

With the sheer volume of channels your team needs to operate, it’s easy to miss opportunities to interact with customers. Asking the right questions and delivering the right information when and where customers need it is a big step along the journey to conversion, but how do you manage the raft of social and conversational channels available?

The solution: Facebook Messenger & WhatsApp chatbots

Chatbots can be installed across various channels and can take the form of scripted ‘bots or those that can learn as they interact with consumers. These chatbots can be used to acquire or upsell customers across a number of channels, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, so you can start talking to customers before they’ve even visited your website.

If you’d like to discuss how our chatbot solutions can help to relieve some of the pressure on your retail business, we can schedule a call with one of our experts to discuss your needs further. We can then build a bespoke package that perfectly fits your business requirements.

Discover more about retail chatbots with and speak to an expert.

Speak to an expert Chatbots

Discover more about retail chatbots with and speak to an expert.

Speak to an expert Chatbots
Theresa Bullock
Theresa Bullock,
Technical Consultant
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Theresa is a Technical Consultant for the UK&I. She is passionate about NLP, cutting-edge solutions and conversational AI technology. As an expert in her field, Theresa guides customers in implementing chatbots, voicebots and SaaS solutions.

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