Some Retailers Look to AI for Customer Service Efforts 

But many are still unsure about the technology

Author: Monica Melton

July 31, 2017

Artificial intelligence is still a new concept for many retail executives. But according to recent data, that’s not stopping some from experimenting with the technology and using it for customer-facing issues.

According to a May 2017 survey from Linc, gathered in partnership with Brand Garage, over a third (34.1%) of US retail executives said they’re currently experimenting with AI, whether by using it to assist human agents in resolving problems or through customer-facing chatbots.

But for many retailers, artificial intelligence is still a new concept, and a significant amount aren’t currently using the technology. According to the survey, more than half of respondents said they weren’t; just 7.7% said AI plays a regular role in their customer service efforts.

When asked why they hadn’t implemented AI conversational interfaces, such as messaging platforms or voice assistants, over a third (36.2%) said the technology isn't sophisticated enough to do what they need. Some said they don’t have the technical resources to support AI, while others felt that consumer adoption isn’t strong enough yet.

Additionally, 8.7% said that these types of AI conversational interfaces would erode their direct connection with consumers.

“If someone wants a human, they will obviously be disappointed by an AI bot/assistant,” said eMarketer principal analyst Victoria Petrock. “However, as the systems 'learn’ customers’ preferences and become more sophisticated at predicting their wants and needs, AI bots might actually deliver up a more precise and personalized experience. They also may free up the employees to do higher-level work.”