Should the marketplaces enable customer support chatbots for merchants?

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Industry reports and trends are clear: customer support chatbots are the future. As machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies improve, then the computers can increasingly automatically answer questions from interested shoppers with the hopeful aim of clinching a sale or resolving a post-transactional problem.

If truth be told, we’re using these chatbot services already when we talk to businesses online. And most of the time it may not be entirely obvious.

The various marketplaces are increasingly focused on ensuring that merchants, the people predominantly selling on the platform, are serving shoppers. Amazon in particular (perhaps channeling its origins as a retailer in its own right), is particularly proprietorial considering shoppers as their customers even when facilitating a third party sale.

Two things spring to mind immediately when considering the possibility of automatic help. Firstly, most enquiries, particularly before a sale is made are easily answered. “What is the postage cost to X?”, “What colour is this blue item?” or “what is specification x of item y?”. Every seasoned merchant is familiar with that. But some queries aren’t easily answered, even by a human. What would happen there?

Secondly, if these relatively basic functions could be introduced in an effective and trouble free way that genuinely took the strain off sellers answering all the questions asked, then the notion is a no brainer. Assuming the marketplaces could bring it to market at nil cost to merchants, then it could easily be considered a win-win.

But there are still concerns. It’s all down to the effectiveness of the system. Yes, if an easy answer is automatically provided correctly to a shopper that’s good news. But clearly a merchant should not be held liable for a dodgy answer provided by a marketplace chatbot that subsequently results in a complaint from a customer and, maybe, a dispute and return.

It would also be a bind if getting the chatbot system activated on a merchant’s products meant answering more questions, significantly changing/increasing/renentering the product details. Ideally a new system would seamlessly utilise existing data to answer queries.

Another legitimate worry would be whether the implementation of automated customer support chatbots on the marketplaces would lead to greater expectations from consumers. Perhaps it would mean that live chat staffed by a human would become the standard on marketplaces and that could be a resource issue for merchants. And as it becomes normal, will chatbots also be seen more on ecommerce websites?

What is perhaps undeniable, and very much the prevailing wind, is that sending messages to merchants and expecting a personal reply, hopefully within 12 hours, is an old-fashioned notion. And changes are coming. In any case, let us know what you think.

*But these are both questions that Tamebay’s human chatbots can ruminate on in the days to come.

  • – Should the marketplaces enable customer support livechat for merchants?
  • – Should merchants be using customer support chatbot apps on their ecommerce websites?


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