Guest Column | August 12, 2022

The Future Of Voice-of-the-Customer CX In Retail Is Conversational Design

By Rebecca Jones, Mosaicx at Intrado

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Research predicts that by 2024, consumer retail spending for chatbot services worldwide will reach $142 billion, up nearly 5,000% since 2019. This increase in spending is happening for a reason. Approximately 40% of internet users prefer using chatbots to human agents, meaning that moving forward, the importance of AI-powered customer experience (CX) will be more prevalent than ever.

With this trend, retail companies have seen the need to invest in AI technologies that are easy and intuitive for their customers to engage with. Customer service technologies that promote voice-of-the-customer (VoC) strategies should be at the top of the list.

According to TechTarget, VoC is “the component of customer experience that focuses on customer needs, wants, expectations and preferences.” Understanding and implementing a well-designed VoC program can help a business identify trends across its customer base and improve products and services to better meet its customer needs. And, with the increased focus on contact center technology, like chatbots, it’s critical that businesses design these virtual agents to be able to understand and effectively interact with customers.

Brands exploring contact center technologies can use conversational design to execute VoC strategies and boost the overall customer experience.

The Importance Of VoC In Retail

First, it's important to consider why VoC is growing in popularity and how it can benefit the retail customer experience. VoC data summarizes customers’ feedback on their experiences and expectations of products and services. This feedback includes how the service or product met their needs, as well as their thoughts for future improvements. Businesses can source this feedback in a variety of ways, including surveys, web forms, conversations with virtual contact center agents, and text and sentiment analysis. Any channel that a customer uses to communicate with a brand can provide beneficial information on trends and stakeholder needs.

Securing and implementing this feedback is vital to a retail company’s success because it prioritizes customers’ preferences. By understanding customer preferences and demands, companies can better design products and services that customers want and avoid wasting money on goods that won’t sell.

However, VoC tools are only as good as they are designed. Poorly implemented VoC strategies can serve as a black hole to brands that don’t understand their customers’ changing voice and communication preferences. The previously mentioned 5,000% increase in chatbot spending would lack a substantial ROI if not carefully designed.

 Cue Conversational Design

Conversational design can help retail companies achieve desired ROI on their contact center technology investments. For background, conversational design analyzes customer conversations to make a brand’s customer service technologies feel more natural and human. It can enrich conversational AI, a form of intelligence that allows for live, human-like communication between a customer and a computer, like a chatbot. At its most basic level, conversational design ensures that AI-enabled customer experience tools communicate with customers in a conversational tone, matching customer persona and making stakeholders feel like they aren’t speaking with a robot.

How Can Retailers Improve VoC With Conversational Design?

Retail brands that want to better understand stakeholder needs would be wise to implement conversational design into their AI technology. Conversational design allows for better customer interactions through a brand’s channels (e.g., chatbots, automated emails, and virtual agents). These enhanced interactions can provide much-needed data for a company’s VoC strategy because the above tools are better equipped to interpret customer requests, tone, and sentiment. Once a brand has this VoC data, it’s better positioned to provide the best purchasing experience for potential customers.

Understanding conversational design can be complex without seeing it in action. Below is an example of an AI tool responding to a customer with and without conversational design.

A customer orders two pairs of shoes but only one is delivered, and she is charged for a third pair by mistake. The customer, reasonably frustrated, goes online and starts a chat with a non-conversationally designed virtual agent. The virtual agent, only able to accept limited keywords and respond with a preapproved script, suggests she returns and cancels her entire order. This only makes her more upset. This leads to a negative experience for the customer, who may refuse to shop with the retailer in the future.

However, with a conversationally designed contact center tool, the customer is free to explain the issue in her own words. The virtual agent uses AI to interpret what she said and uses preliminary data to develop a response that is indistinguishable from a human. The virtual agent understands that she is happy with the first pair, wants tracking information for the second, and wants a refund for the third. The customer leaves the interaction feeling like the company understood her individual frustration and offered clear steps for resolution. In addition, she might have a more positive or renewed perception of the brand and its value to its customers. It’s also important to note that this positive customer experience was achieved without escalating the issue to a human agent.

Understanding Conversational Design’s Impact On Overall CX

Conversational design improves overall customer experience by enhancing self-service resources like a company’s virtual agent. It allows the company to serve the needs of stakeholders better. Having a natural, flowing conversation with an AI tool allows for more straightforward problem solving, resulting in faster service, fewer wait times, and fewer customer complaints.

A retailer without conversational design can miss out on opportunities to improve its business. Using conversational design allows for improved VoC, which leads to more informed feedback. This feedback can help inform training for future customer interactions. Not only that, but it can support a retailer’s overall brand imaging with a tailored and unique personality and customer experience.

 Meeting The Needs Of Retail Customers With Conversational Design

The bottom line for retailers is always going to be whether the technology they use and the products and services they sell have a good ROI. With conversationally designed VoC, a brand can have both. Companies gain access to customer data that can inform future business endeavors. In addition, having customer service technology that listens and responds to customer communications in the same way a human sales representative might increase customer loyalty, satisfaction, and retention.

Conversational design can be a fantastic way to understand how stakeholders feel about a retailer’s brand and the products and services. A retailer that utilizes conversational design will be able to meet the needs of stakeholders, build brand loyalty and improve overall customer experience. As the overall spending for AI grows over the coming years, an intentional and forward-thinking brand should invest in AI technology that utilizes conversationally designed VoC – not just for their customers but also for their bottom line.

About The Author

Rebecca Jones is senior vice president and general manager of Mosaicx from Intrado. She joined Intrado in January 2021 from Appriss, a SaaS data, analytics, and technology company, where she served as vice president of operations, responsible for driving operational strategy and margin expansion while managing global teams across data management, professional services, technical support, and customer contact centers. In her 25+ year career, she has held a broad range of operations executive roles focused on growing businesses, people, and profit margins. Rebecca also serves as a member of the board and technology chair for the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).