Chatbots are seemingly taking over the internet and mobile applications. First-time visitors to a site or app now are often greeted by a cheery chatbot seeking to answer questions or guide them through an onboarding process.
When site or app users have problems, retailers, banks, and other businesses are asking users if they want to chat rather than call. More often than not, this routes the users into an initial conversation with a chatbot.
Is sending a customer or user to a chatbot something they actually want?
A debate continues to rage about whether chatbots are viewed as annoying or helpful by customers. In fact, both views are true. And the determining factor for whether a user likes interacting with a chatbot — or even prefers it to a human interaction — depends entirely on the context.
Two Paths Diverged in the AI Chatbot Road: T-Mobile’s “No Robots” vs. BofA’s Erica Personal AI
On August 15, 2018, upstart mobile voice and data provider T-Mobile announced it would ban all robots and automated systems from direct interactions with customers on support calls and chats.
“There are no robots or automated phone menus. No getting bounced around from department to department. No shouting “representative,” crowed T-Mobile in a press release.
At the same time, T-Mobile expanded its live customer support hours to 24/7, going counter to trends limiting human support agent times to working hours. Since the move, T-Mobile claims it has achieved higher levels of customer satisfaction and improved customer retention/
Survey after survey has found people tolerate automated customer support through conversational AI and chatbots but don’t love it and don’t prefer it.
On the other extreme, some large enterprises have taken an alternative path of going all-in-on Conversational AI and chatbots. In June 2018, Bank of America launched Erica (a play on the last part of the word America).
The bot resides within Bank of America’s mobile banking app rolled out to all users. By December 2019, 10 million of the Bank of America’s mobile users had activated Erica within their apps and were interacting with the chatbot.
One of the more sophisticated chatbots on the market, Erica allows users to ask questions by voice by text messages, or simply to navigate through tap menus.
Surveys of users showed satisfaction with Erica of over 80%, which is a staggering figure in the often challenging world of financial services NPS scores.
So, which is the right way to deliver a superior Customer Experience in the most efficient manner? T-Mobile’s add-more-humans approach or Bank of America’s deep embrace of expensive but powerful AI?
Do customers prefer to work with bots or humans? The truth is complicated.
Surveys have indicated that customers prefer to speak with humans for support needs.
Conversely, by a variety of metrics, customers are growing more accustomed to chatbots and Conversational AI.
Over time, the reality is chatbots will handle a greater and greater portion of customer interactions and will also become an indispensable tool for human support and sales agents – virtually merging into one support continuum.
Equally important, in technology the true test of adoption is not what surveys say but what users do. Increasingly, that means talking or texting with chatbots rather than waiting to talk to a human,
Consumer Trends Driving Growth of Chatbots
More and more customers are choosing to interact with a chatbot over traditional phone support. This choice is being driven by broad technology user trends.
- Text More Popular Than Voice: We are more used to texting to communicate and even prefer it over voice calls. For large swathes of the populace, these modes are preferred over live conversations with humans. The rise of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which have collectively over 3 billion users and are primarily used for chatting to avoid SMS fees, has further accelerated the trend.
- More Comfortable Interacting With Machines: We are growing more and more used to interacting with machines to ask questions or make requests. Asking Alexa to turn off the lights or telling Siri to call your mother is great. Asking an airline chatbot if any flights going into Denver are delayed has human-machine interactions that are now a normal part of our lives.
- Less Patience: We are becoming less patient. Netflix brings us millions of movie titles in a search window. We use an app to tell our Roomba to clean the house before we get home from work – and get our wish.Technology brings us instant gratification. As a result, we are less likely to be willing to spend time on hold or wait for a call back if a chatbot can answer our questions or take care of our problems. Related to this point is the fact that chatbots run 24/7 every day of the year. They scale up or down to meet demand and are always available. For consumers used to instant gratification, this is a powerful draw.
- Better Algorithms: The technology behind chatbots, Natural Language Processing (NLP), has progressed in leaps and bounds. This means we impatient humans can more easily interact with chatbots without having to repeat ourselves or resort to using multiple phrasings to get our request to register.New algorithms – most notably GPT3 – have come out that can reliably and economically be trained to understand specific types of subject matter and respond in ways that are remarkably close to normal human response.
According to the 2019 AI Index Report, published by a global consortium including Stanford University and Google, NLP can now comprehend passages of text better than humans. This also has allowed more advanced chatbots to handle complex, multi-step support tasks.
Chatbots can provide proactive guidance and even anticipate needs. A flight delay question might prompt an advanced chatbot to offer to book a hotel room for the night because it knew a late flight might mean a missed connection.
Three Simple Questions to Determine Context
Clearly, chatbot usage is growing and users are voting with their texts and their voices, indicating preference. That said, the desire for a human versus a bot remains highly context-dependent.
Context dictates what the chatbot is capable of doing in any given situation. Context is also variable and can shift with the state of the user as they run through a customer or support journey.
Understanding where a user is on the journey and their context can inform expectations of and proper usage of chatbots. Here are some simple questions to determine whether to use a chatbot or to what the limitations of a chatbot might be in a given situation.
Does the user want to talk to (or likely prefer to talk to) a representative?
This is a no-brainer. If they don’t want to chat, don’t make them chat. Ironically, many companies still push hard to drive users into chat support queues under the thesis that users will learn how to chat and adopt it (and save the company money).
Usually the act of saying “representative” is intentional enough that a company is far better off complying with their wishes. Here, too, AI can provide a guide.
Over time, companies can gather data about customer preferences and use that to better understand which conversational mode is best for what type of users based on any descriptive characteristics.
Can a chatbot recognize the user?
If a chatbot can recognize the identity of a user, then it can tap profile and historical data about the user to generate more bespoke solutions and conversation. Identifying the user is far easier when the user is on a mobile app or logged into a website or calling from a known phone number.
This question does limit advanced support to existing users rather than new users for which there is little history. But when it is possible to recognize the user and match them to a profile? If you can get a profile, then the canvas for chatbot to operate with is much more broad and interactions can be much more detailed rather than limited to simple keyword and menu-driven interactions.
Is the user asking a complicated or simple question?
Chatbots can quickly and easily dispatch more personalized answers to many simple questions. “When is my reservation?” or “What is my order status?” are easy to answer when the identity of a user is known and they are operating inside of a controlled environment.
In a similar manner, when the company is using a chatbot to replace a form or other structured information gathering exercise, then chatbots or Conversational AI can operate very effectively.
For more complex questions that involve multiple variables and may not be as easy to understand based on pure keyword analysis, more advanced chatbots that leverage NLP and conversational AI can increasingly provide back-and-forth support that is on par or better than human agents.
This is riding the curve of rapid improvements in AI, as demonstrated through the steady increase in the ability of AI systems to understanding complete even more complex natural language tasks as well or better than humans.
Conclusion: The Future of Customer Conversations Is A Hybrid Between Chatbots and Humans
T-Mobile may claim that it does not force anyone to talk to robots but in reality, its system can recognize automatically whether you are calling from your own device.
Behind the scenes, T-Mobile uses analytics and automation to help customer service agents do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. In this case, the chatbots may not be visible on the front but their output and enablement are visible on the back. Agents happen to act as the intermediary between the two.
This is the true future of chatbots – a technology that acts as a fluid interface somewhere in the customer journey to provide assistance. The recipient may be a customer talking to a chatbot or a support agent that has a chatbot automatically populating conversational snippets.
In this scenario, a company like T-Mobile can help agents work faster, answer questions more quickly, and breeze through the simplest queries. They can then save more time for the harder customers and questions that internal systems cannot automatically address.
BofA’s Erica can serve as a more forward presence, intercepting and deflecting simple inquiries. When a query grows too complex — and out of context for Erica — then the AI chatbot can easily route the request to a human support agent spending most of their time on tougher cases.
So which is right? Do customers prefer to talk to human agents rather than chatbots as the surveys indicate? Or do customers prefer to use chatbots to waiting to talk to humans, as the usage trends clearly indicate?
The answer is both. If customers are voting with their time spent and their immediate menu choices, they clearly do like intelligent chatbots more than waiting for a human. Meaning, they prefer chatbots and AI, given the right context and the right situation.
On the other hand, humans still and probably always will prefer live support agents when they have complex, nested and conditional questions to resolve.
These types of questions require the most advanced sort of conversational intelligence — one that even agents do better fulfilling when assisted by technology and AI behind the scene. The irony is that either way, customers are talking to chatbots — directly or indirectly.
The technology to improve both the experiences of T-Mobile and Bank of America customers is invariably the same under the covers. The sooner businesses realize that this is never an either-or-equation, the sooner they can determine where AI should sit in their Customer Experience stack.
RUSSIA’S DEFAULT IS A REALITY AS GRACE MONTH IS OVER
Russia’s default has finally arrived on its sovereign debt in foreign currency for the first time in more than a century. Moscow has been unable to pay the interest on two bonds in dollars despite having enough foreign exchange reserves to do so. Investors assure that they have not received payment after the grace month.
Russia is showing the consequences of the sanctions the West has massively imposed on it after the war against Ukraine.
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For months, the country has managed to find ways and shortcuts to wade through the measures that tried to isolate the government of Vladimir Putin and make the country fall into technical default. In the end, the West has achieved its goal, albeit somewhat later than expected.
Although Russia had the capacity to meet this payment, leading economic indicators —the composite PMI sank in March and remain below 50, indicating that the economy is contracting— reveal that the country is facing one of the major economic crises of recent decades.
With double-digit inflation and several leading companies on the way out, Russia will face a deep recession and perhaps years of economic stagnation.
The one-month grace period expired on Sunday on around $100 million of trapped interest payments due May 27, a deadline that is considered an event of default if not paid in the correct currency, according to Bloomberg.
Russia’s default is also backed by other data. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reveals that the Russian Government had a debt of around $40 billion in hard currency at the end of 2021 —a relatively small amount.
Although the total foreign debt exceeds $470 billion, only part of that amount is in foreign currency and a smaller part is still a liability to the Russian Government.
This is a clear symptom of the rapid transformation that the country is facing, both financially and economically. Russia will have to go on without the foreign capital flows that have historically helped finance investments in emerging countries.
The nation’s Eurobonds have been trading on the secondary market at very low levels since early March, while the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves remain frozen. Russia’s largest banks are cut off from the global financial system, leaving the country in isolation.
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Take Inspiration From Trending and Successful eCommerce Businesses
Believe it or not, online shopping has become a massive trend nowadays, and its popularity is increasing daily. Of course, we were already in the era of digitalization, but this entire pandemic situation has made eCommerce industries flourish more than expected in the last few years.
Nowadays, everything is digitized as people buy food, groceries, cosmetics, clothes, and even electronic gadgets online. This digital revolution has made it easier for creative founders to convert their dreams and ideas into a waking reality.
Old ways and patterns of handling businesses are changing every day, and business owners need to adapt to the fluctuating market trends. And in this, some trending eCommerce businesses have taken this eCommerce industry to a whole new level. They are ruling and conquering like a boss.
Here in this blog, we will be discussing such inspiring eCommerce businesses. So, keep reading to find out more and cope for the better.
What are The Types of eCommerce Businesses?
E-commerce businesses are not limited to one particular business model. Instead, there are various sorts of eCommerce business models as per their business offerings. So have a look at some of the highly prevalent eCommerce models.
- Business to Consumer (B2C): The process of selling from business to customer comes under B2C type E-commerce.
- Business to Business (B2B): The buying and selling process between businesses comes under the B2B type of E-commerce.
- Direct to Consumer(D2C): This new idea of selling directly to end customers without the involvement of any retailer comes under D2C type E-commerce.
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C): Consumer-to-consumer sales on platforms like eBay, Etsy, Fiver, and many more come under C2C type E-commerce.
- Consumer to Business (C2B): An individual selling their services to different businesses comes C2B type E-commerce.
Examples of Successful E-commerce Businesses
1. Warby Parker
Warby Parker is popularly known for producing designer, reliable and inexpensive frames for eyeglasses. An MBA student, Neil Blumenthal, and 3 of his friends launched this eCommerce company in 2010. They proposed the idea in 2008, and took nearly two years to implement.
Their idea of business was something very essential at that period because Luxottica (Another eyewear brand) was one of the few companies that used to sell designer and reliable frames, but they were costly as compared to Warby Parker.
Warby has a free try-on policy with free shipping and numerous return offers, and this is what the brand has adopted to stand out from the crowd and appeal to its customers.
An online Mattress retailer is helping people sleep better and comforting their sleep cycle. The whole idea behind this business model was to help people realize the importance of sleep and how an adequate amount of sleep can increase their productivity and quality of life.
Their first-ever mattress was “Universal Adaptive feel.” It was so flexible that it could easily adjust to all body types.
The 100-night free trial policy worked well for their customers and made the business model a huge success. Leesa had traditional showrooms at first, but with time they also opened online stores.
ModCloth is an eCommerce company launched in 2002, selling women’s clothing worldwide. They sell fun and quirky clothes that are not so exclusive but are comfortable and budget-friendly.
Everything about their store is creative and exciting – which customers nowadays love. The copies describing their clothes are also fun to read because every product has a name and story behind it – now, this is something very catchy.
ModCloth became a brand within a few years of its launch because of its targeted marketing strategy. They know who their target audience is and what requirements they have. Knowing this has made their business reach exceptional heights within a short period of time.
Mostly we know Amazon was launched in 1995 as an online bookstore and has been flourishing since then. Now amazon is not limited to books anymore because now it sells almost everything you can think of. From groceries to clothes and even jewelry, Amazon has it all.
Right now, Amazon is one of the largest eCommerce stores by revenue worldwide. Though amazon started with no competitors, now it has Walmart as one of its biggest competitors. Last year Amazon made a revenue of $470 billion.
Amazon has adopted a stellar marketing strategy, which is targeting the right customer and offering products at comparatively lower rates.
Shopify is a SaaS (Software-as-a-service) company that provides all the tools needed by a business to run its eCommerce business smoothly. It helps them with website building, marketing, payment processing, financial tracking, and everything in between.
It is a tech infrastructure that supports more than 2 million merchants and various operations ranging from mom-and-pop businesses to global brands. Shopify made $389 million in revenue in 2016 to $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021.
The profitability of Spotify has been improving with time because, just like every SaaS business, it has also scaled up.
LARQ is a business model that makes self-cleaning water bottles that are reusable, rechargeable, and also have some advanced features. For example, it has UVC technology used to eliminate viruses & bacteria from water bottles.
LARQ has the initiative to provide clean water to everyone. They also raised $1.7 million for the same. In addition, LARQ donates 1% of its earnings to help maintain clean water worldwide.
The product was so unique and exciting that it attracted numerous customers. As a result, many environmentalists and aware citizens switched to these LARQ bottles and saved their money from buying single-use water bottles.
7. Beer Cartel
Beer Cartel, as the name suggests, is Australia’s number one beer subscription service. It is said that some ideas sell themselves; the same was the case with this one.
Beer Cartel sells beers from all around the world to their subscribers at their doorstep. This online store gives people the freedom to select their unique beer bottles at a price better than traditional stores.
One of the significant reasons for Beer Cartel’s success is that they offer exclusive taste under budget. In addition, they have a wide range of varieties that keeps their customers interested and coming back.
8. Berlin Packaging
Berlin Packaging is well known for sourcing, designing, and even distributing containers and closures for companies like fortune and various family-owned startups.
They have always provided products at a lower cost to their customers to increase the overall efficiency of their enterprise. One interesting fact about it is that it is not a new startup; it is 80 years old, in fact. But Berlin Packaging has somehow still managed to bring their customers the latest and top-quality beer.
They started this eCommerce business model to keep up with the times, which worked out well for them.
With the introduction of eBay, Bonobos knew that the eCommerce business was getting more competitive with each passing day. So, they introduced a unique business model targeting only a super-specific audience.
This strategy of narrowing down to a particular audience helped them make loyal customers who also flourished their business in the long run. Bonobo’s success made everyone realize that focusing on the competition is not good for your business’s health.
They should focus on the value they provide to their customers, and they will reach greater heights of success.
The name of the company seems fascinating, right? Well, so is their initiative. TOMS is an eCommerce company that sells its customers quality shoes that are reliable, comfortable, designer, and inexpensive.
What separates TOMS from other similar eCommerce is that with every transaction, they will help one in need. Yes! Not only this, but they also run various social media campaigns with hashtags like #withoutshoes and many more to stand out from the crowd.
Everything about their business model is catchy and interesting, making it easier for them to drive more traffic to their online shop.
What are the Biggest Benefits of eCommerce?
Shopping in the comfort of home: eCommerce has made shopping easier and more convenient for our customers. Buying and selling things is a child’s play nowadays. As a result, our purchases are simpler, faster, less time-consuming, and not so hectic.
Markets are globalized: Now, you can shop from anywhere around the world at the convenience of your home. The impact of eCommerce on the planet can easily be visible. There are no limitations or barriers to buying from a different state or country.
Building startups is not so expensive anymore! Yes, in this era of digitalization, anyone can set up their online store at a meager cost. In addition, the operating cost is minimal because both buyers and sellers are now digital.
Technologies are evolving rapidly because of this, eCommerce businesses have to see a lot of changes frequently.
If you have an eCommerce business that is not growing as expected, you must adapt to new business models that add value to your customer’s life and your e-commerce services (my business: krishaweb dot com).
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What Does the G7 Russian Gold Ban Mean for Gold Stocks?
The G7 plans to announce a ban on Russian gold imports. But does that really matter for investors? While there hadn’t been an official Russian gold ban until now, this news isn’t exactly a surprise to the industry. Today, we’re seeing that lack of reaction in gold prices.
Typically, a ban on imports for a particular commodity sends prices soaring higher. Just look at what happened to oil after Russia invaded Ukraine. As it pertains to gold, prices also initially ticked higher this morning, with the futures opening up by under 1%.
However, it has now turned lower on the day, as have the VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX) and the VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDXJ).
Does the Russian Gold Ban Matter?
This latest decision does matter. However, it will have a limited impact on the global gold market and gold-mining stocks. Warren Patterson, Head of Commodities Strategy at ING Groep NV (NYSE:ING), had the following to say:
“The impact from a ban on Russian gold imports by G-7 nations is likely to be fairly limited, given that the industry already took steps to restrict Russian gold […]It looks as though its largely symbolic.”
Russia has the world’s fifth-largest gold stash according to the World Gold Council. However, it only exported roughly 5% of the world’s gold supply in 2020. A bulk of those exports — over 90% — went to the United Kingdom, a G7 member. Still, Russia will likely find buyers in China and India.
In actuality, the buying pool may shift, but it will not completely evaporate.
How Does This Affect Gold Stocks?
At this point, the ban does not seem to have much of an impact on gold stocks. There’s multiple reasons why this is the case.
- The industry seems to have largely prepped for such a ban.
- Russia is not that large of an exporter of gold.
- The efforts from central banks to raise interest rates and strengthen currencies is likely playing a more important role in regards to precious metal prices.
Ultimately, a Russian gold ban certainly doesn’t hurt gold prices — if anything, less supply is a bullish catalyst — but right now that catalyst is not reverberating through the market. However, removing Russian supply from the market will be a modest positive for gold miners.
Published First: InvestorPlace. Read Here.
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