About 20% of global retail purchases in 2023 are expected to take place online. There’s no denying the growth e-commerce has seen in recent years and with it, the increased pressure on e-commerce support teams.
These teams are often at the forefront of a brand’s customer experience and if overwhelmed, can have serious business consequences. Even in the digital age, a recent PWC survey illustrated just how important customer experience remains with one in three survey respondents saying they would walk away from a brand after just one bad interaction.
With inefficient customer service having such high costs, what is the ROI of AI technology when used in e-commerce customer support? That’s the question we’ll be answering in this article.
We’ll explore common challenges businesses face in this area, where support teams get overwhelmed, and how investing in AI for e-commerce customer support through technology can offer businesses both tangible and intangible benefits.
The Challenges Faced by E-commerce Customer Support
The biggest challenge of any e-commerce customer support team isn’t just keeping up with high query volumes but being flexible enough to respond to a wide variety of issues. Added to this pressure is the expectation from customers to resolve issues quickly.
If there’s one thing anyone in e-commerce support knows, it’s that customers don’t enjoy waiting. The speed at which most digital interactions occur these days means that people expect instant responses and solutions. A support query left unresolved for too long can lead to low customer satisfaction, missed sales opportunities or customers even bad-mouthing a brand.
Traditionally, the way to avoid this and ensure quick responses has been a matter of hiring enough staff. As query volumes increase, more people have to be added to the team to stay on top of things. The problem with this approach to scaling operations is that it pushes costs up exponentially, bringing a whole extra set of issues for a business to wade through.
Investing in AI: The Tangible Returns
Investing in AI for e-commerce customer support is one of the best ways for businesses to solve the challenges just discussed. Companies like Neople provide AI efficiency that helps reduce costs without compromising on speed or customer satisfaction. The ROI of AI-supported customer service is undeniable. Here are the key, tangible returns of scaling support with AI:
Direct Cost Savings
The most attractive ROI of AI customer support for many businesses is the way in which it directly reduces labor and hiring costs. Scaling support with AI cuts the need for expensive new hires, allows e-commerce support teams to operate on comparatively fewer staff members, and saves businesses huge amounts in the process.
AI virtual employees are not only equipped to take over many support issues but can be available to do so 24/7. Having staff ready and online at all times is an expensive endeavor for many businesses and yet another instance in which the ROI of AI is undeniable. Instead of struggling to find and pay staff members who can work long hours, AI takes on the job.
They also do so without intensive training required, which is yet another costly aspect of traditional e-commerce support management. Instead, AI tools like Neople largely train themselves. There is input required from users to set them up appropriately, but the technology is built to learn over time from customer queries so that it only gets better.
Another ROI of AI-assisted e-customer support is boosted efficiency. Our Neople virtual employees can deal with customer queries far quicker than regular support staff which means faster ticket resolution and less chance of backlog slowing down an entire support system.
It’s one of the best aspects of AI: instant results with minimal human input required. The efficiency isn’t just speed, but that things are handled better without requiring much effort from e-customer support teams to achieve those improved results.
Beyond Numbers: The Intangible Benefits of AI
The tangible ROI of AI intervention in terms of cost savings and increased efficiency also brings a host of intangible returns. Like any good investment, AI-driven virtual employees have a positive ripple effect that goes far beyond the immediate challenges it’s intended to solve. AI efficiency and scaling support with AI can help boost customer satisfaction and other business aspects. Here's how:
Improved Customer Satisfaction
No matter the industry, customer satisfaction and experience remain paramount for e-commerce success. In their mid-year round-up of customer support stats for 2023, Forbes shared that 39% of consumers have less patience with online interactions than they did before the pandemic and that 54% feel that they’re treated as an afterthought by most brands’ customer support.
These figures show just how important it is that consumers get quicker responses and are made to feel like a priority when they reach out for help. Adding AI-driven virtual employees to a support team helps businesses improve in both areas.
The ROI of AI ensures that responses to customers are quick, friendly, and well-informed. As a result of this efficiency, customers get to walk away feeling more satisfied in their experience and that their issues matter to a business. The ROI is intangible, yes, but still hugely beneficial to any business trying to create lasting relationships with their customer base.
Consistency in Support and Brand Voice
Another intangible ROI of AI-assisted customer support is greater consistency in brand voice and in how queries are handled overall. A worry that many businesses have to contend with when managing support staff is that team members may go off-script and misrepresent the brand in some way.
With something like Neople, that’s no longer an issue. AI can be trained to respond to customers with language and solutions that are consistent with a brand’s voice and ethos. This then helps build trust with customers and better protects the business from risky interactions between customers and support staff.
Data Collection and Insight
One of the best ways in which e-commerce support teams can better serve customers is to adjust their approaches based on prior data. A significant benefit of technology like Neople is that while it’s helping customers, it’s also collecting data to help shape future interactions and improve ongoing customer satisfaction.
Regulatory bodies like the GDPR are still catching up to how our generative AI can operate in terms of data, but privacy and security are a priority regardless. The value of a Neople is that it simply makes it far easier for businesses to use learnings from customer interactions for future improvements.
Calculating ROI for AI in Customer Support
AI can seem a daunting addition for anyone new to it, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the returns it can offer. Here’s a simple look at how we recommend calculating the ROI of investing in AI for e-commerce customer support:
1. Define your Goals: Clear KPIs and goals are the first step for any ROI calculation so that you know what exactly is worth tracking in your business. For some, support expenditure may be the biggest concern while others are more worried about time management and efficiency.
2. Put a Value on Your Current Performance: If lowering labor costs is the main objective when it comes to customer support, then ROI calculations need to start with a figure on where exactly those costs start before AI intervention so that any returns are measured accurately.
3. Implement AI: Add Neople to your team and let us do what we do best.
4. Calculate the final ROI of AI intervention: The simple formula is ROI = (Benefits – Costs) divided by Costs X 100%.
This essentially compares how much investment has been put into AI versus the benefits it brought in terms of your goals and KPIs. This data can then be analyzed further and tracked over time to create a fuller picture.
Neople: A Case Study in Maximizing ROI
With Neople, businesses get a virtual employee that can integrate into various messaging tools - from WhatsApp to Zendesk and Trengo. Not only do they seamlessly fit with an e-commerce team from an employee side, but they operate as highly effective brand representatives for customers.
Neople's AI technology means that Neople can respond to customer queries with context-aware answers instructed by business directives but are also designed to learn from customers as they go so that responses become even more fine-tuned over time.
This helps boost customer satisfaction, while also providing incredible, tangible returns for a business in terms of saving time and money. Our Neople don’t need time off or holidays and can be available to customers and fellow support staff 24/7. Not only that, but we can generate hundreds of responses in just minutes which keeps customers happier and prevents system back-logs.
More Return Than Investment
The success of any investment, AI or otherwise, is marked by a return that goes far beyond what was needed to acquire it. At Neople, we’re confident that using our AI technology to scale customer support and improve efficiency brings both tangible and intangible results that go beyond the cost of implementation. These benefits are also compoundable and the longer a company uses AI, the more rewards they’ll be able to reap.