Introducing chatbots in AI-driven call centres can bring savings to online retailers, as well as providing a better and more efficient service for customers, according to a new survey

AI in call centres 3D rendering humanoid robot with headset on white background

With the high street in seemingly terminal decline as shoppers switch online, seven in ten retailers have invested in AI in call centres to improve their e-commerce businesses, according to a new study.

Cloud communications provider Olive Communications found 71% of retailers have made the investment in technology such as chatbots to attract online shoppers ahead of Christmas.

More than a third saved over £100,000 a year at a time when shopper footfall was at its lowest since the recession in November.

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.

“The latest advanced AI-powered contact centre technology removes this frustration, empowers the agent and the retailer while delivering a seamless customer experience.”


Customers prefer to use AI in call centres

Some 500 call centre operators, 1,000 consumers and 500 heads of customer service in retail and e-commerce were interviewed for the survey.

It found that 59% of the 500 retailers questioned have invested in virtual customer service agents – chatbots that handle minor queries before passing to a human.

Customer demand is another driver for the move to AI-enabled call centres, with 82% of the 1,000 customers polled preferring the speed and 38% commenting on the convenience of chatbots.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at retail strategist Ipsos, said: “We’re all part of a ‘now’ society, in which consumers expect a personalised, instant and frictionless experience in which we buy on demand at our convenience.

“Retail is constantly pursuing new initiatives to push the envelope, from grocery deliveries within the hour to chatbot technology opening up a smarter, rapid-response  communication channel between consumer and retailer.

“We cannot underestimate the future importance of AI to improving customer service and experience, particularly for fielding online shopping queries.”


AI in call centres doesn’t mean the end of human workers

Despite a greater prevalence of automated call centre services – caused by the uptake in AI – retailers are continuing to invest in people.

Of those surveyed, 81% said they will hire more operators this year compared to last Christmas.

As chatbots take over some of the less challenging tasks from call centre operators, these companies are able to handle higher call volumes and more complex enquiries.

According to half of the UK retailers, AI in call centres is improving the role of the contact centre operator as 23% said it made the job more challenging and rewarding.

Call centre workers also commented that they had more time per customer and 42% felt more productive.