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For brands and retailers, providing a great experience for shoppers encompasses more than what happens during the time leading up to a sale. Whether it’s a question about a product that arises or an issue that comes up, the interactions that take place during the post-purchase period can be key to ensuring a customer is happy with their new find, and that they will return to the brand to buy again.
It’s one reason why customer service remains a crucial part of the operations equation for brands who are building a base with ecommerce. In fact, during a time when shoppers are still getting acquainted with digital experiences and fledgling brands, one could argue that it’s more important now than ever.
At the same time, customer service itself is evolving for the internet era. The web elevates all things instant, meaning consumers want a quick response and resolution when they reach out. For a brand, the direct communication presents a chance to engage more deeply with a consumer and better understand them.
HiOperator shows how this is an area where software can assist humans as they work to meet those expectations. The growing company is providing customer service outsourcing for marketplaces like HipCamp, subscription businesses like The Athletic and DTC brands such as Outdoor Voices and Tipsy Elves.
It employs US-based agents, and equips them with AI-powered technology that helps to make decisions, and provide solutions.
“We’re partnering software with customer service agents to make them faster, make them smarter and make them much more data driven,” HiOperator Chief of Staff Wayne Worthington told The Current.
This is designed for the kinds of customer service requests that require the person responding to catalog the type of issue, match it with a company policy and make a decision.
Worthington said most ecommerce brands receive about 5-15 standard inquiries frequently, whether it’s requests for replacements, price adjustments or general questions that tend to come in. These types of requests are too complex for a chatbot, but also happen with enough frequency that a process can be applied.
HiOperator creates automated workflows that segment these tasks, and help agents move quickly to address them. Case studies from the company show that it helped to speed up the times of first responses and resolutions, as well as clear backlogs. With humans still responding directly, brands can project the empathy and voice that helps maintain authenticity with customers.
HiOperator's Wayne Worthington. (Courtesy photo)
Using a standard process and centralized system can also enable a brand to gather insights to improve their service, and business as a whole. Along with helping to move issues to resolution, the technology can assist a company as it gathers data on what customers think of their experience with a brand, and use that to refine processes. This opens up customer service as a new area in which to measure customer interactions, which are closely tracked during the pre-purchase browsing and buying process on a website.
“Not only are we solving customer service, but the feedback is the rich data insights that come out of it,” Worthington said. “That only happens when you’re a tech-first provider when it comes to the execution of customer service.”
With a stateside team of 200 employees based in Dallas and Buffalo, New York, the company’s model shows how adding technology to these processes can power onshoring in an industry where outsourcing has often meant hiring in other countries.
The service it provides is one illustration of how advances in technology change the way we work. Professionals have plentiful access to devices, so, as Worthington pointed out, virtually every job is tech-enabled. The next wave of data advances points toward AI, in which what's on those devices can do some parts of the work for us. While sci-fi and Hollywood depict AI-enabled technology as powering sentient beings, what’s happening in the real world is that this technology is being applied to help humans make predictable business processes more efficient. In the end, an AI-powered capability comes down to the ability to inform a decision.
“It’s not the Terminator. It’s not this organic, self-thinking object. It’s a program that uses a vast quantity of data points, creates a statistical probability and then can start nudging people in those different ways,” Worthington said.
Trending in Shopper Experience
The marketplace teamed with Techstars to support entrepreneurs charting the future of ecommerce.
Ecommerce marketplace eBay is teaming up with a national pre-seed investor to launch a new accelerator for startups building ecommerce technology.
The program, called Techstars Future of Ecommerce powered by eBay, will apply an accelerator model from Techstars that has supported thousands of companies to innovation that aims "to make selling and buying more equitable, attainable and sustainable,” according to eBay.
“Techstars has supported thousands of entrepreneurs that are using innovative technologies to transform industries,” said Collin Wallace, Managing Director at Techstars. “eBay’s expertise as an ecommerce pioneer paired with the programming, capital and connections that Techstars provides will create an unparalleled opportunity for founders.”
Here are key details about the program:
- Length: 13-week program
- Location: Hybrid. Founders can participate in-person in San Francisco, or remotely.
- Applications are open here through July 5.