Ecommerce businesses need a clear mapping out of their customer facing AI services. Done right, it can be such a wow factor for the business. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Businesses everywhere are turning to AI to enhance customer support services and drive growth. The ecommerce sector, in particular, is witnessing a surge in AI adoption, with 69 per cent of support leaders planning to invest more in AI in the year ahead, and giants like Amazon and Carrefour already using AI chatbots to improve customer experiences.

However, ecommerce companies face many challenges in deploying AI solutions, while 77 per cent of consumers in the UAE concerned about unethical use of AI by businesses, and 85 per cent want to know when they are interacting with AI technology rather than a human.

Here are three key insights we have gained about AI implementation in customer support:

Good products cover most enquiries - without AI

Before making the decision to implement AI in customer support, we engaged a specialised AI-powered chatbot company. They conducted a diagnostic study of our support requests, revealing that the majority of customer inquiries extend beyond basic questions and require a human touch.

If a platform’s user interface and experience are well-designed and thought through, users will not need to contact customer support for common queries as much. The support team plays a dual role — they act both as customers and contributors to system improvements. Support agents collaborate closely with the product team, identifying bugs and suggesting user-friendly changes.

A thoughtfully crafted UI/UX effectively handles the basic and routine user inquiries regarding the service, thereby diminishing the overall volume of queries. Tasks involving more intricate or delicate matters - managing complaints, resolving disputes, or handling emergencies - are delegated to human agents.

Cost-to-value balance

While AI-powered chatbots offer efficiency in large-scale customer support, they may not be the ideal solution for all companies in terms of scale, cost, and resources.

If you receive a massive volume of user inquiries with 10,000 orders per day and have to maintain a staff of 50-100 operators, there are two possible approaches. The first one has been described above – adapting the product to address user questions.

If the nature of your business makes this approach unfeasible, then embracing AI is undoubtedly worth considering.

Think about tech giants like Amazon: if only 1 per cent of users have queries, that still amounts to 16,000 inquiries out of 1.6 million daily deliveries. In this case, AI chatbots, coupled with automation tools and human supervision, contribute significantly to relieving the customer support team’s substantial workload.

An AI-powered chatbot comes with many costs: 23 per cent of surveyed customer service pros believe that AI is too expensive to leverage. Successful AI implementation requires a dedicated product team. You need experts to train the bot, develop its logic and structure for providing answers, and enlist integration specialists.

For AI to be as effective as possible, it must seamlessly integrate with all external services that the user interacts with. Additionally, when you introduce a new feature, the AI requires retraining.

If you turn to a third-party AI system, such as ChatGPT, the learning process will accelerate, allowing the bot to engage with your users not only about their experience with your service, but also topics like weather, news, and trends. It is essential to estimate the cost of an external solution beforehand and remember that you will still need to train the bot specifically for your product.

Balance between human touch and AI

Around 44 per cent of customer service pros who do not currently use AI in their roles believe artificial service may leave customers less satisfied than human communication. The fear is that AI might be unable to match the empathy and understanding human agents provide.

A recent survey by Intercom highlights the evolving role of humans in customer support. Over three-quarters of support leaders say they expect AI to transform customer support careers in the next five years, creating new roles and opportunities.

According to a survey by McKinsey, 75 per cent of respondents from the GCC retail sector saying their companies have adopted AI in at least one business function. But, rather than diminishing human roles, AI and humans are forming a symbiotic partnership in the future of customer service.

Consider Netflix’s approach: their support agents are encouraged to infuse a personal, human touch into interactions with customers.

The right implementation of AI and automation can relieve support teams of routine tasks and allow them to focus on empathetic customer interactions and creative problem-solving.