Will AI take over customer service this holiday season?

Generative artificial intelligence has changed how ski and sporting goods brand Evo is approaching its holiday season customer service.  

“The scales fell off,” says Nathan Decker, director of ecommerce at Evo, about realizing AI’s potential. 

“It seems to understand any language you throw at it,” he adds.  

Because of the advancements in artificial intelligence, Evo decided to launch a generative AI chatbot to handle light-touch customer service questions, which will work in tandem with its live chat customer service team. The bot soft launched in July, and the brand plans to slowly add it to more visible parts of its website over the next few months leading into the holiday season.  

Evo typically doubles its customer service employees to 80 agents, up from its typical 40, during the busy holiday season. With the chatbot, however, Decker says Evo may not need to hire as many agents, potentially reducing its holiday customer service hiring by 25%, he says.  

Decker is one of the many online retail executives either implementing artificial intelligence or seriously considering it to help handle the higher volume of customer inquiries that come in during retail’s busiest time of year. With the advancements in artificial intelligence, a number of merchants are looking to AI to assist their customer service teams for the holidays and beyond. Some retailers, however, worry that chatbots may not provide the high quality of service they require.  

Artificial intelligence impact and investment 

Ecommerce platform and technology provider Salesforce Inc. predicts generative and predictive artificial intelligence will influence $194 billion in global online holiday shopping spend for the 2023 holiday season. That includes generating copy for marketing emails, testing different marketing messages and generating product recommendations, says Rob Garf, vice president and general manager, retail, at Salesforce. In the customer service vein, retailers will continue to use and empower AI chatbots to respond to more types of questions this holiday season, which will also influence holiday spend.  

26% of retailers said they planned to increase their level of investment in artificial intelligence in 2023 compared to 2022, according to a Digital Commerce 360 survey of 135 retailer executives in October 2022. Plus, 11% of retailers said investments in artificial intelligence will be critical to improving online conversion in 2023, and an additional 44% said it would be important, according to the survey. While more executives were prioritizing customer experience, ecommerce platform and other investments, AI was already on the minds of a significant portion of merchants.  

And that survey was conducted before the OpenAI consortium released ChatGPT in November, sparking massive interest in the new form of AI. The bot uses generative artificial intelligence and natural language processing to answer questions and create content.  

Want to read more? Unlock Free Strategy Membership