Some three years ago, The Clorox Company launched a chatbot to fix some gaps in customer service for a new RenewLife® probiotic it was bringing to market. Detailing its “crawl, walk, CHAT” journey on its corporate blog, the consumer products giant said their customers found much value in a chatbot that could handle their basic questions and make recommendations. But the most important thing was that the chatbot showed “…how Clorox brands and Clorox IT can work together cross-functionally to solve consumer-facing business problems. Clorox now has a capability it can deploy to other brands across the company where it makes sense.”
Fast forward to 2020, when panicked consumers searched bare store shelves for Clorox wipes to mitigate the threat of COVID-19. Instead of leaving their customers empty-handed at a time when they needed their brand most, Clorox turned to its chatbot strategy again. This time the chatbots were trained on over 100 different scenarios. Now they could educate customers on how to best solve COVID-related cleaning challenges such as sanitizing and disinfecting. They could also share product availability updates.
Every journey begins with a single step
Clorox’s journey proves that “big things” can start small — you just need to put one foot in front of the other. Such an approach is summed up well by Jeff Bezos’ motto, “gradatim ferociter” which is Latin for “step-by-step courageously.”
You don’t need to already be big — whether that means market share, revenue, or digital customer experience capability — to deliver big impacts for your customers. Everything doesn’t need to be spun up at the same time or needs to handle every problem. And you don’t have to go after every opportunity in tandem. Each time you build something that alleviates a point of friction in the customer journey, you show that you understand and care. You gain your customers’ trust, and they’re willing to come with you a little further. Soon, they’re relying on the digital experiences you built to help them and wonder how they ever lived without them.
A crawl, walk, run approach to digital customer engagement
So, how can you start, and how does each step build upon the one before it? Retailers can face many, often interrelated, business challenges. For instance, driving online sales, delivering fast, efficient customer service, and offering an exceptional customer experience that builds brand loyalty and repeat purchases. Let’s look at one way a crawl, walk, run approach to building digital customer engagement might play out for a retailer.
Crawl. Let’s say, there are a couple of points of friction causing frustration for your customers and issues for your business. Surveys and analytics reveal that customers are not finding the information they need on your website. They also face long wait times when trying to get in touch with someone to help. An AI-powered chatbot is a natural place to start to help in these two scenarios. It can answer simple FAQs and cobrowse visitors to specific web pages with the information they need. This automated assistance also reduces call volume and frees up customer service or sales agents to handle more complex and time-consuming queries. And most importantly, it satisfies the customer.
Retailers are seeing 70% of their inbound inquiries being handled by intelligent chatbots while retaining high average CSAT scores. But most business objectives can’t be met with chatbots alone. Human interaction still plays a key role.
Walk. An intelligent chatbot will know when it can no longer provide the needed help. Perhaps the customer is trying to exchange and return multiple items and is struggling with the chatbot response. Expanding the digital customer engagement strategy to include the smooth transfer from self-service to a human is important. The chatbot can route the engagement to the right person who can communicate via live text chat for personalized assistance.
And if the customer service agent identifies that the issue is something that would benefit from a face-to-face conversation, they can offer a live video chat. Now the consumer can actually show the product or the problem they’re having. The agent can also offer to cobrowse the website with the customer to help them find complementary and replacement items. Or they can help them find other solutions they weren’t aware of. Just as you would have a salesperson offer assistance and guidance to someone wandering your store, live engagement helps you replicate that experience online.
Run. In its advanced stages, online customer engagement connects different departments within the organization and the online experience with the in-store experience. It augments the customer’s digital experience by intelligently routing them along their journey.
Given consumers’ preferences for anywhere, anytime shopping and information gathering, this holistic virtual journey is essential. For instance, recent research from Deloitte points to e-commerce experiences in which consumers take part in live-streamed events. Here influencers talk about different products and how they use them. Image launching marketing campaigns that drive qualified leads from social channels or your website to invite-only, live webinars. Now consumers can get a sneak peek at new products or seasonal lines presented by their favorite celebrity. Live video and multiple cameras allow for a variety of views and an immersive experience.
And integration of these sessions with the company’s CRM system provides seamless lead capture. It also identifies qualified buyers and can even provide links for immediate, personalized follow-up by sales. The right technology enables all of this without any required downloads, which supports the frictionless experience for the consumer even more.
Big things can start small
Building a digital customer engagement strategy can start small and can continue at your own pace. Beginning with steps that address discrete use cases will benefit your customers immediately. From there, you can scale it into an integrated strategy across the business that will continue to deliver a seamless, brand-building experience for your customers and better outcomes for your business.