Three Things to Tell Retail Customers Who Engage with AI

4 minute read

Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to retail brands and AI. Be forthcoming about what your AI is designed to do, how consumers are protected from data theft and errors, and how they can avoid AI if they choose to do so. Read this article to find out why.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers brands an intriguing opportunity to provide customers with personalized experiences at scale. Digital colleagues such as IPsoft’s Amelia are available 24/7 on any device to provide interactive consumer engagements. No matter how many customers land on your website to discuss products — either in text, on video, or with their voices — Amelia can meet demand. Because of her emotional intelligence, she’s able to deftly and empathetically encourage excitement and satisfaction, or negotiate anger, frustration and sadness. Think of Amelia as a digital personal shopper guiding customers through product options, customizations, payments, technical support, and more.

Despite Amelia’s human-like ability to interact with customers, it’s crucial that brands don’t present Amelia as a human customer service agent, regardless of the engagement channel. Although Amelia can provide the same level of service (or better in some cases) than human workers, providing customers with false information about the person (or solution) with whom they’re interacting can drive a wedge between your brand and its base.

When implementing Amelia, it’s important to strategize how you’ll introduce Amelia to consumers, and her role and abilities. You may choose to initiate this conversation before or during an initial human-to-AI conversation, or you may wish to wait for your customers to ask if Amelia is AI; either way, how you communicate Amelia’s capabilities and limitations will be crucial to whether or not your customers choose to engage with Amelia, and re-engage with her in the future.

How to Explain Amelia’s Role

Whether you send an email or notification to consumers prior to their first interaction with Amelia, or if you choose to wait for them to ask, the way in which you describe Amelia will color your customer’s impression of who she is and what she can do. We recommend avoiding the word “bot” or “agent” because it doesn’t fully encapsulate what Amelia can accomplish during a retail engagement.

We prefer the term digital concierge, or, if you’re being literal, AI system, both of which more accurately reflect the kinds of higher-level services Amelia can provide versus chatbots. Unlike bots and agents, Amelia can do much more than resolve common problems or answer frequently asked questions. Her memory allows her to recall previous conversations to provide more personalized service. She recommends products and advertises promotions and discounts. She can tell jokes, make small talk, empathize with frustrated shoppers, or celebrate with excited ones (if you program her to do so).

Don’t be afraid to tell customers about her versatility. They’ll be intrigued. They’ll test her to see how much she’s capable of accomplishing. They’ll have fun interacting with her. Conversely, if you present her as a bot or an agent, your customers will likely try to find a way to be transferred to a human — most likely because they’ve had bad prior experiences with low-level chatbots.

Amelia is One Option of Communication

Despite Amelia’s capabilities, some customers may still feel uncomfortable communicating with her. Some people still have landline telephones, send paper mail, and deposit their checks at a bank’s retail location. Each customer deserves to interact with technology at his or her own pace. It’s important that you offer your customers options that meet their preferences and needs. As a result, you should let them know that they can escalate conversations to a human worker if they no longer choose to converse with Amelia.

Trying to force AI on consumers is a bad move, even if it’s proven to be fast, efficient, and cost-effective. It’s your decision how, when, and if you should alert customers to the escalation option, but you shouldn’t attempt to avoid mentioning it, even if the customer wants to speak to a human for something as simple as a password reset. The customer is always right…even when they’re not.

Amelia Doesn’t Go Rogue

One of the first things that gets mentioned when discussing AI is HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. (You know, the machine that rebels against its human astronaut colleagues and sets one adrift without oxygen into space?) Amelia isn’t like HAL. Your customers should know this as soon as they learn they’re interacting with AI.

Amelia is programmed to follow procedure with precision. She will never deviate from the exact processes established for her. She can, for example, approve and reject credit card payments, or suggest products and customizations; but she’s only able to do this by processing data and making decisions based on the strict parameters for which she’s been programmed.

If Amelia encounters a request that isn’t covered by her training, she doesn’t rebel like the fictional HAL. Instead, she escalates the request to a human colleague. Customers should feel secure knowing that Amelia won’t reveal credit card data to consumers in tertiary conversations. She won’t get angry at rude customers. She won’t decide to use a customer’s credit card to go on a spending spree.

The above talking points are crucial to the success of your AI implementation. Amelia is meant to be used as a complement to human workers and customers. She’s not designed to replace or overrule human decisions. Your customers should know that conversing with Amelia is a faster and more efficient option than waiting on hold to speak to a human. However, they also have the right to know that she’s not the only option at their disposal. This honesty will earn customers’ trust and make it more likely that they will be willing to experiment the next time you recommend Amelia as a communication and purchasing channel.


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