The article deals with the possible uses of automated advice and partial automation in sales and customer service.
The interested customer is looking für information before bying. He or she may ask a specialised salesperson and consultant who has all the relevant answers ready and can think in the customer’s interest. This relieves the customer. Or they, the potential clients, may look for publicly available information and customer review to avoid the advice of an inexperienced and overburdened sales representative.
Many sales representatives of complex products, starting with bicycles, are quickly overwhelmed by well-informed prospects. The rhetorically untrained salesperson feels attacked, the sales talk goes off the rails, the interested party prefers to buy from a supplier without advice.
The web part of customer journey
Depending on the product, between 80% and 90% of the buyers begin their customer journey with an search engine. So it is important for the seller to know what it is reported in the web, take care of the correctness of web information and avoid contradicting information. If there is human sales staff, they are supposed to assist the web customer journey and take care of a seamless process.
The consultant with all the facts in mind and the fully automatic customer advisor are extremes, the practical truth in the company lies in between.
Can the web be the better customer advisor?
Yes and no. The informations in the web and the informations given by a human sales person are supposed to go without contradiction. Nobody likes lies and deception.
Some companies help themselves with consulting software for salespeople. In this way, the seller collects the relevant information from the customer, the software itself compares the information with the content of the database and delivers a print-ready result.
This is often used by financial service providers, banks and insurers and is not yet artificial intelligence. The results are determined by a fixed algorithm. Today, the software is mostly a web application, giving management strong control over the sales process. The sellers outside have to adhere to the guidelines of the management. Furthermore, the consultation process can easily be implemented online for a web form to be used by the customer himself. The interested party enters the data themselves without being tied to branches and sales representatives.
An experience from market research: the classic CATI procedure: “read the questionnaire and let the interviewer type in the answers” is no longer the only state of the art. Online research providers are winning and therefore have better data.
Artificial intelligence would record the results of the consultation or process, compare them with predetermined success goals and recommend adjustments. Something salespeople do intuitively, too, if you let them. Artificial intelligence therefore means less control, and the susceptibility to errors is at least not reduced. On the other hand, opportunities are used that might otherwise have been overlooked. Not enough staff. I have to replace people with machines. What to do?
Make as much information as possible available on the Internet in a neatly structured way. Many people would like to find out more before making personal contact, but cannot find the information they are looking for. The use of test studios or at least test persons for user-friendly optimization that is understandable, especially for the uninitiated, can help here. Self-promotion Saving half an hour of calls per working day justifies an expense of €2,000 for an improved sales website or other type of customer information – and that for telephone staff at a standard wage. Informed customers are better customers.
The meaning of human interaction
The seller has my needs, takes my wishes and builds the best possible solution with his expertise. In between, looking up details and availability on the computer is essential for complex inquiries.
Advice form humans or from machines and websites?
Whether or not a human intermediary remains necessary for information collection and transmission depends on the product itself and on the personal preferences of the interested party. Some can evaluate and implement the freely available information, such as product descriptions, customer reviews and more for their own needs, while others cannot.
Good sales people relieve the customers. To do this, they must put the interests of the customer first and not fight for sales at any price. Consulting software in the sales pitch
Success has many reasons
Incidentally, the screen of the gentleman can turn directly to a prospective customer without the computer interfering. And if he needs information from the cloud or machine, he has it quickly at hand.