Where’s my order? How conversational AI can support supply-chains post-pandemic

By Sean Sherwin-Smith, General Manager, Post-Purchase at HelloDone.

The disruption to logistics networks over the past year has caused chaos across global supply chains. With the pandemic sparking an exponential rise in online shopping, logistics operations have been tested to the max. 

The change in global consumption behaviours amid the closure of physical stores has catapulted the post-purchase experience into the spotlight.

Sticking points like late deliveries and incorrect tracking information once glossed over are now tarnishing the reputation of well-loved brands. Retailers have been forced to overhaul their fulfilment strategies in response, but legacy systems and outdated communication methods mean the post-purchase experience is still failing to deliver. 

Failing to deliver

The evidence is plain to see in our latest research which analysed 3,000 one-star reviews across 150 major UK retailers on Trustpilot. The findings show that nearly 40% of 1-star reviews mention problems with deliveries, while a further 15% cite problems with returns as a contributing factor to their negative experience. 

The findings highlight common delivery issues like incorrect tracking numbers, parcels left without consent, or at insecure locations. All problems which brands could easily navigate through proactive communication with customers. 

Yet, retailers and their logistics partners are working in silos, stifling the ability of technology to transform the final mile. Despite the wealth of data available to enhance this crucial stage of the customer journey, outdated communication means the post-purchase experience is still failing to deliver.

The wrong message

In an ideal world, every order would arrive in the right place, at the right time and in mint condition. But logistics is a complex business, and sometimes things will go wrong.

Our research shows that customer frustration is exacerbated by a lack of information about orders, with over a quarter of one-star reviews (27%) expressing dissatisfaction with customer service responses.

After all, most of us aren’t angry that a parcel hasn’t arrived. We’re frustrated that we weren’t given a  heads up so that we can make an informed choice about rescheduling delivery or arranging a return.

Customer expectations are not being met. And it’s high time the last mile received the same attention as the rest of the customer experience

If retailers want to retain loyalty and nurture repeat business, they need to work more closely with logistics partners to improve the way they communicate with customers. Not only in the frequency of communication but in the channels they use to keep customers informed. 

Currently, consumers are required to bounce between text messages and emails or directed to track their orders via a carrier’s app or web portal. The result is confusion and frustration for customers. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Technology at the final mile

Forward-thinking players are digitising their value chain. New technology, especially AI, is helping to bridge the expectation-reality gap in the last mile, offering visibility and transparency throughout the shipping process via the apps customers use and love the most.

Advances in natural language processing mean brands can now harness conversational AI technology to integrate order management systems and carrier services with popular messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

 There is now the opportunity to automate conversations with customers where they live their digital lives, offering instant, fully personalised replies to common requests such as WISMOs (Where is My Order?) or WISMRs (Where is My Return?).

Not only does this reduce the overall volume of inbound requests, but frees up customer service capacity. This means both retailers and their logistics partners have more time to handle the most complex and sensitive tickets. 

By embracing technology in this way, the e-commerce industry can enhance customer support and leave shoppers with a good impression of their brand - even when there are issues to resolve. 

Customer accountability 

Retailers must work more closely with their logistics and technology partners to resolve issues beyond the buy button. Transparency and accountability, right up until an order reaches a customer’s front door and beyond, is key to reversing the figures detailed in our Trustpilot research. 

Thankfully, we already have a wealth of technology to help us achieve this. The capability of context-driven AI to power conversations with customers during the final mile can transform post-purchase pain points for customers, brands and logistics networks. 

The opportunity presented is a competitive one if done right. By embracing technology with both arms, e-commerce can drive post-pandemic growth and mitigate supply chain pressures as we enter a brave new world.

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