has been pushing for Bots to handle customer inquiries, and Apple is offering Business Chat for iMessage.
But where do smaller sized businesses fit into this equation? For them, the AI helpers might carry too high a price tag and, more importantly, cut down on the personalized service a brand can provide.
based out of has a unique solution for a customer base that stretches far beyond the Garden State, into global territory.
A Virtual Personal Shopping Experience
With a brand that focuses on customers, AI wasn‘t really an option. Instead, Poor Cat Designs offers a “virtual personal shopping experience” that is done through text, iMessage, or email. A customer can message the number or email, and one of the in-store associates will work with them to find a solution to any question. They can even offer product suggestions and help finding the right piece for the right customer (with photos), if asked.
It‘s a neat solution to customer service, especially with one store and a broad catalog of gold and silver charms that can be attached to leather bracelets or necklaces in addition to a selection of gem stones, pearls, beads, and diamonds. Customers can also attach the unique creations to silver or gold chains.
The team is tasked with double duty; handling both customers in-store and via a text system. That team consists of 17 jewelry stylists, 4 managers, and owner Krista Karagias. The team also fields questions across social pages, via email, and through phone calls.
A big question is how do you handle the demand?
“We receive dozens of inquiries on a daily basis,” Karagias said. “It is a collective team effort to answer any questions as well as sending pictures. It is a nice alternative if someone is unable to physically make it to our store, as we have customers all over the country and internationally as well.”
Customers can text questions about specific items, check availability, ask about sizing, or even just learn about the brand. It is meant to complement the experience in store and is one in theory that AI as of right now couldn‘t match. It is also common for the team at Poor Cat Designs to handle dozens of inquiries a day, some of which require a back and forth.
For Poor Cat Designs, this virtual experience allows them to reach an audience that stretches beyond New Jersey, beyond even the United States. The stylists in-store work to help customers who can visit and those who are far away find a piece they will love.
Many of the chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are quite limited. Business can only set specific responses, and the price generally rises with more than a few custom responses. Poor Cat Designs utilizes a simple but it ultimately ends with the inquires being handled by a real person. The questions have to be worded in a way that a computer can understand and at times a customer is limited to a certain set number of choices.
Apple takes a more holistic approach with as it utilizes traditional customer service reps mixed with AI to get your questions appropriately fielded. However, these are locked to larger brands like T-Mobile or Lowes. Moreover, even Apple‘s customer support has an AI bot in the beginning that can be hit or miss, but ultimately you end up with a live agent.
At Google‘s 2018 I/O Developer Conference the technology giant unveiled . A fully AI assistant that can complete tasks, the sort of stuff that would traditionally require a person on the phone. While this is both freaky and exciting, the technology is promising but is limited in its application thus far. Still though, it can take natural pauses and add in “uhms.”
While Duplex comes close, none of these bots solve the customer service equation. They‘re not always easy to use, and they‘re costly for a business to employ.
Is AI the answer for customer service?
The good bots get expensive, and although there are free alternatives, those don‘t really cut it with limited options. Poor Cat Designs is still taking a more natural experience and combining it with technology. There isn‘t an annoying automated voice you need to get through, and let‘s be honest if there were you‘d just yell operator.
Image: Poor cat designs
Instead just text, iMessage, or email the number for a virtual personal shopping experience that is meant to help the customer. Karagias said that Poor Cat Designs loves providing this virtual yet still personal experience.
“We find it is a good way to send visual suggestions for creating the perfect piece. It is a collective team effort to answer any question as well as sending pictures.”
And as someone who who has been both in-store and tried the virtual experience, the end result is the same. The team there manages to expertly answer questions and find solutions even if you don‘t end up making a purchase.
In the end, for now, AI just can‘t compete with the time-trusted customer service approach of having a real human being help you, even if it is done digitally.