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Last weekend, I went to my local farmers market to buy strawberries. Multiple vendors were selling boxes of them for the same price. One vendor asked if I’d like a taste and suggested that I should smell them because her strawberries were exceptional. She also whispered that she’d sell me a box of them at a discount — $8 versus $10. I bought two boxes. Even though other vendors might have offered the same discount, after smelling these, I was sold. Her pitch worked. I showed my intent by browsing; she responded in real time, at the right time, with a discount and added smell as a differentiator.
We should be able to get the same personalized, real-time experience when we’re shopping online. Why we can’t get the right support when we need it, but only when we need it? Why do we receive fast, proactive chat offers as soon as we land on a website? We shouldn’t have to tell a representative, “Hi, I just arrived and I’m only looking around….”
Customers shouldn’t have to explain intent. Businesses should monitor what customers are up to so they can expect the same personalized attention from online shopkeepers as they get when visiting their favorite farmers market.
Put simply, the online marketplace is fundamentally different than the physical marketplace. As customers, we’re often alone online and need to find the products or services we’d like to purchase. We’re also impatient. If we can’t find what we want, we simply navigate away without a trace.
Conversion Rates Stagnate Without AI
This is one reason why online marketing suffers from lackluster conversion rates. Businesses spend more than $200 billion per year on digital marketing and yet, the average conversion rate hovers around 2.9% — and it’s been going down for years. The explosion of digital touchpoints, use of several unintegrated software tools and operating silos all cause this low-conversion problem — and these factors also make it extremely difficult to ensure the completion of the buyer’s journey.
Customers abandon their journeys for a number of reasons, including bad site navigation, complicated checkout procedures or lack of real-time support. Leave a customer alone, confused or idle, and you’re leaving money on the virtual table.
Chat pop-ups were once considered a good idea for always-on engagement, but they don’t have the context or know what each customer is doing. Proactive chat with no context at the wrong time not only annoys customers, but it’s also not helpful.
Save Customers Before They Lose Confidence
Here’s an example of an online purchase that didn’t go as well as my strawberry purchase. I visited the website of a major retailer in search of a specific product that was hard to explain because I didn’t even know the proper name of the product. I wanted to share a picture with the agent to help figure out what I needed. Unfortunately, the retailer’s chat didn’t have visual capabilities. The agent asked me for the product name or code, but I didn’t have it. And I wasn’t even sure if this was exactly the product I needed. I asked if I could call to talk through it. The response was, “That’s a support question and this is sales. You’ll have to contact our service center for advice.”
If that vendor had been set up to resolve my issue and spend just five more minutes with me to figure this out, they would have had a good sale and a return customer. Instead, I purchased the same thing from another vendor who took a few minutes to find what I needed.
Using artificial intelligence (AI), that first business could have monitored my browsing for a major product and been very proactive as my experience faltered. Customers like me might need just a little help, but if no one engages in a timely manner, your competition is only a click away.
AI Teams With Consultative Super Agents
Older support organizations often are enabled for only very simple interactions, such as customers who know what they want to buy and or need links or easy resolutions. But when conversations get more complex — and for higher-value purchases — customers don’t want to jump around to multiple agents or repeat the details from the previous conversations. These types of obstacles to a seamless customer service contribute to low conversion rates. And when you consider high-value products, it can get very costly.
AI-powered commercial sites can figure out most customer queries and use bots to support buyers. But as soon as a human is needed, these sites can connect the buyer seamlessly to a live agent who can help.
Today’s online customers expect the same type of service they receive from good brick-and-mortar shops. An AI-enabled customer experience platform enables sharing of context and history between bot and human. This ensures that agents are fully engaged in consultative sales transactions when it makes sense and that converting the prospect to a customer is a seamless experience. Human support is expensive for these super agents — although it’s not as expensive as losing high-value product sales.
Build Your Customers’ Confidence in You
Successful businesses sell the value of confidence, not just products. Engagement that’s intent-driven — when customers have already shown what they want to purchase – makes it much easier to take action and support customers’ purchasing journeys by using AI technology.
Customers want support in real time when they need it, and not necessarily proactive support. But when they do engage with sales and support, it should be an integrated experience across all channels and include services like co-browse. In addition, when you engage with customers, consider showing them how to self-serve so that when they engage the next time — it’s faster for them and more cost-effective for you. And when self-service isn’t enough, sometimes a five-minute conversation with a knowledgeable agent — or a strawberry vendor — can make the sale and build long-term customer loyalty.
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