Meet the WhatsApp-style customer service assistant

17th Nov 2016

Shop Direct has become the first UK-based retailer to use a WhatsApp-style customer service operation.

The multi-brand online retailer has developed conversational user interface technology (CUI) to create a fully automated platform that enables customers of one of its brands, Very, to find answers to their customer service questions.

‘Very Assistant’ sits within the Group’s IoS app for Very, one of the UK’s leading home and fashion retailers. The assistant starts by asking the customer if they need any help. It then asks them a sequence of questions with multiple-choice answers, which the customer can tap within the chat environment. The answers should enable the platform to instantly provide the customer with the information they’re looking for.

Customers can use Very Assistant to track an order, make a payment, check payment dates and check that payments have been processed, as well as request a reminder of their account number.

Shop Direct decided to create the platform after customer research showed that people wanted to interact with the retailer’s brands in a chat environment, and chat with them as they would with their friends on WhatsApp.

The retail group is confident the new technology – which it developed in-house – will simplify the user journey, improve satisfaction among customers and boost the efficiency of its customer service operation. The emphasis is on using artificial intelligence (AI) to provide an automated but personalised, intelligent service that customers appreciate.

Shop Direct’s new platform is an example of how retailers are working to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customer today. The Institute’s recent report, The customer of the future, forecast that customers’ interactions with organisations will be underpinned by a desire for greater personalisation leading to tailored service experiences, with AI applications handling ‘quick win’ processing jobs and offering swift support to the customer in a way that fits their lifestyle – something that Very Assistant’s straightforward questions and answers tap into.

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