Among 2,500 award applicants, Linc was selected for its innovative work in helping brands and retailers reinvent their customer care strategy. Linc’s platform leverages purpose-built AI to answer more than 90% of customer inquiries with automated assistance across web, email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, and voice assistants including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
On June 8th, 2018, InStyle Magazine posted an article on 9 Women Who are Changing The Face of Fashion With Technology, featuring our CEO, Fang Cheng.
Email is the new filing cabinet.
When’s the last time you checked email? How about when you last checked your phone for new messages? If you’re like 4 out of every 5 consumers, you went first for messages and left email alone. Most people leave it alone for a day, or 2, before checking it, and it is earning a reputation for being a place where official records are sent and can be searched for later.
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It’s definitely not where most people chat about the weekend’s plans, or check out the latest styles from favorite brands.
Now, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, but based on the ecommerce’s love affair with email, it would seem that there’s a misalignment between marketing and its intended audience.
While many consumers are using instant messaging, text and social apps multiple times per hour, brands are working hard on their email creative for the week, and setting up their campaigns to go out at just the right time, though it has far less impact that it did 10 years ago.
This is troubling for a number of reasons, but let’s keep this brief. Primarily, the problem here is that many teams are structured around channels. And at a higher level, many companies are structured with marketing, ecommerce and customer service teams sitting apart from each other, and doing their level best to “enhance communication channels” and ‘share data’.
So while consumers are putting little voice assistants in the kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms, email marketers are working hard to get their graphics approved and their segments locked down. Seems like something’s a little off, right?
It is. Though email is still an incredibly effective channel for ecommerce marketers, not many brands are investing in newer ways to connect with their customers. And though we used to talk about preparing for new channels, the new apps and devices consumers are using today represent the need to do more than just develop a strategy for a new channel. The real showstopper here is that marketing, sales and service all collide on these channels when its done right. And that doesn’t jive well when you have separate teams.
So while 20-somethings are scribbling on photos and sending them to their friends, brands are trying to figure out whether Messenger is going to work well for customer service. Or if they should have a branded skill on Alexa that offers some content to the customer.
If you’re having these conversations at the moment, please stop.
With most of your customers going to instant messaging as their first communication channel, and the majority of consumers who have bought voice assistants saying there’s no way they would want to go back to their life before voice, its time to start learning about what these channels can be used for, when the customer is put in center-focus.
The opportunity is real, but only for brands willing to step outside their traditional mindset. Customers are ready and willing to build new habits, and will be delighted by the services that can be offered through these channels. The same channels they use dozens of times each day.
The biggest brands recognize this, and that’s why they are investing in voice, and chat, with a focus on the customer’s interests. They see the opportunity and know the time to start is now. For many others, there’s a hint that this could be mobile all over again - too slow, too little, too late, and too many lost opportunities.
No one likes the friction-filled process of returning unwanted goods. Say hello, literally, to Alexa, and a streamlined process of getting what consumers want through a turbocharged customer care experience, via Linc. Giving voice to returns can save sales.
In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Linc CEO Fang Cheng said that the skill lives at the intersection of AI and customer care, enabling brands and retailers “to have a much more intimate way of serving their shoppers across any channels those shoppers prefer.” The platform also works with retailers who are not plying their wares over Amazon, through both Alexa and Google Assistant.
In an example of the customer care continuum, Cheng said that a consumer can ask Alexa “where is my order?” and the assistant will respond with tracking information and a projected delivery date. It’s an example of quick answer and quick response.
One notable absence, and perhaps a refreshing one: There’s no need to know the order number or the specifics of a product, and thus no need for a paper chase. Linc’s platform, the company has said, does all that housekeeping, so to speak, in the background. As Cheng stated, the platform and the merchant are integrated to the point where brands can come to market with their Alexa skill in a matter of weeks.
“The beauty [of the skill] is that the assistant already has access to all the past purchases that have been made with the brand,” Cheng noted. Linc’s platform knows what orders are eligible for return, and there is no need for obsessive paperwork, she told Webster.
“What makes the assistant smart is that the assistant needs to have a fairly deep level of data,” she said. Linc does not store anything related to that data or the emails that customarily alert consumers to their commerce activity.
As technology advances and customer expectations evolve, stores are faced with two choices: innovate and thrive, or continue business as usual and fade into irrelevance. Presenting to a full room at a recent conference, Scott Emmons, head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, made it clear during his keynote that the retailer would not be passive. Instead, with Emmon’s guidance, Neiman Marcus is making strides to be a role model for the store of the future through forward-thinking technology initiatives. As Scott demonstrated throughout his presentation at the conference, his vision boils down to one key goal; exploring different ways to deliver great customer experiences using new digital methods throughout the retailer’s channels.
Linc’s Botlet Framework allows retailers and brands to automate over 90% of customer interactions via Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Talk doesn’t come cheap, and this is especially true in retail, where managing customer care costs across the ever-expanding landscape of communication is top of mind for retailers. While retailers will spend exponentially more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, taking care of an existing one is expensive. Recent research found that 55 percent of retailers are experiencing an increase in customer care costs. Pair this with the increasing pressure from retail disruptors and you see why the industry as a whole is looking for a winning formula for customer care.
The Linc team is looking forward to Salesforce Dreamforce in San Francisco (Nov 6-9) to listen, learn and meet with the industry’s most innovative and envelope-pushing. As we approach the holiday season and New Year, delivering and building an exceptional customer success strategy is a top priority for retailers and brands (and a major theme of this conference).
Life used to be pretty easy for well-established CPG brands. As long as they had a handle on their supply chain, manufacturing and distribution, their operations would run smoothly. Competition was centered on securing prime shelf space and fending off brand or product line extensions from other CPGs or the private label offerings of supermarkets or big-box retailers. Magazine and TV ads, along with retail coupons, would remind consumers why they preferred this brand of household name toothpaste or breakfast cereal over another. Maybe if you wanted to be seen as particularly cutting-edge, you tried your hand at a light-hearted branded Twitter account.
And then things changed quickly and dramatically. What was once smooth sailing got a whole lot rougher.