The Customer Is The Channel

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‘Alexa — Turn That Return Into A Saved Sale’

This is a summary of an article published by PYMNTS. You can read the full article here.

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. 

Amazon Alexa

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.

You can read the full article here on PYMNTS.com

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Designing a Customer Experience Strategy for Conversational Commerce

When you master conversational commerce, you’ll deliver experiences that make your customers feel as if you hired a personal assistant to help each of them.  There are several key strategies, smart brands need to think about as they go about creating their conversational commerce strategy. Don’t Forget The Data If conversational commerce is the new paradigm of customer experience, data is the engine that drives all those delightful interactions across touchpoints. Your customers are creating data every time they click, swipe, and like --it’s up to you to find it, analyze it and use it to inform customer engagement. Nordstrom, for example, uses sensors and Wi-Fi to track who comes to the store, wherein the store they shop, and how long they stay. They also incentivize their Nordstrom’s credit card and rewards program to gather data about their clients. Target is also known for its data-collecting. The mega-retailer assigns every customer a Guest ID number, which is linked to their credit card, name, or email address. This Guest ID number becomes a repository of info on a shopper’s past Target purchases and any demographic information the company has collected about them and/or bought from a third-party source. Target’s data is so accurate and fine-grained that they were even able to determine a teenage shopper was pregnant (and send her the appropriate mailer filled with baby items) long before her father ever knew. Collecting relevant data, analyzing it and using your learnings to inform which conversational channels make sense for your brand and what types of experiences your particular customers seek to have on them is the foundation of your conversational commerce efforts. Focus On The Highest-Value Activities Put your energy toward meaningful services that customers already care about. Look at service-oriented features, such as notification capability and on-demand service and support capabilities, to guide the customer journey. Don’t just focus on the “Checkout.” The main benefit of service-oriented conversational channel offerings is the ability to organically drive usage into new channels. For example, a customer might place an order on your website and learn that she can subscribe to order status updates through Facebook Messenger. What she sees as taking advantage of a perk will benefit you by encouraging her toward a channel where your chatbot can take over. ChatBots are best for organic conversations with common use cases, but also provide a sense of personalization and convenience for the shopper. Customer service should be your core use for this technology to start. Be Prepared For Bot-to-Human Handoffs The great thing about a conversation handled over text or Messenger is that the customer doesn’t have to know when they might be switching from a bot to a human. Bot design in the future will focus on what they can do, knowing what they can’t do, and designing a bridge to employee assistance that feels seamless to the customer. It’s not just the customer that will be helped by the bot, but the employee. It will provide faster information and better analytics in real time, perhaps then parsing information to pass on to the consumer. The most important aspect of innovation is convenience for the shopper. They should never have to explain their request twice. Start Simple and Grow to Brand Management You can start with bots as a single voice in the chorus of messages from your brand. The long term will have bots as representatives of your entire brand, managing relationships with your customers. You can start conversational commerce, however, with just a single entry point. You can get your customers used to interacting with you on the same channels they use to chat with their friends. You can piggyback on the culture of quick and informal communication, but be ready to meet their expectations for highly personal and meaningful results. If your bot can’t meet that expectation, your customer could walk away disappointed or annoyed. As the technology improves, and it is, even as we write this, you’ll be able to put more and more of your brand management in the hands of the bots. Authentication Giving your bot a way to confirm the customer’s identity is key to a truly intelligent communication that can leverage data from across your other channels. If this isn’t done right, your bot will see each customer as a stranger, negating the opportunity to provide personalized service. Focus On Concepts Rather Than Solutions Your customers might be on Kik today but head over to Facebook Messenger tomorrow. Focusing on the concepts of conversational commerce rather than today’s hottest medium will help you keep your sanity and provide an agile approach that can be applied to meet your customers wherever they migrate. Try not to get bogged down with the details of how to build for one particular channel, and look instead to use-cases. You can learn more about conversational commerce and engaging your customers at every touchpoint by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.