Shop Direct launches WhatsApp-style automated conversational user interface for MyVery app
Shop Direct, the owner of Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, has begun using CUI technology for customer service by launching a fully-automated platform that allows customers to find answers for their questions in a WhatsApp-style chat environment.
Available initially in the iOS ‘MyVery’ app, the new Very Assistant works by asking the app user if they need any help. The customer is then presented with a sequence of questions and multiple action options, which the customer taps within the chat environment. The customer’s answers enable the platform to instantly serve up the information they are looking for.
Shop Direct said customers can use Very Assistant to track an order, make a payment on their Very.co.uk account, confirm that recent payments have been processed, check their payment dates and request a reminder of their account number.
The new technology, which was developed in-house by Shop Direct’s ecommerce team, has been introduced in response to Shop Direct customer research which showed that people wanted to interact with the group’s brands in a chat environment.
The research also analysed the most common queries customers ask, those questions that are best suited to the Very Assistant platform, and how the new technology fits into the company’s overall customer care journey.
Shop Direct said the technology is the first step towards a ‘natural language’ solution. The company is now working with IBM Watson to develop and introduce in 2017 an AI-fuelled CUI platform. This will allow customers to ask questions in their own words within a chat environment, with the AI technology serving up the answers they are looking for.
Alex Baldock, group chief executive at Shop Direct, said: “Our customers want to chat to us as they do their friends on WhatsApp – it’s what they’re used to. Very Assistant is our response to that desire and it will make it even easier for our customers to shop. But this is only the start.
“AI will change the game and we’re backing it in a big way. It’ll allow us to offer a personalised, ‘natural language’ CUI experience for service queries in 2017 – which will be massive for our customers.
“And in the long term, we believe AI-driven CUI will go even further by democratising the personal shopper. We will chat to them about the best products, style ideas and offers, and help them select what's right for them. The more customers talk to us the better we'll know them - AI learns on its own. Why should top-notch personalised service be restricted to those who can afford to shop in Bond Street? It’s a bold ambition, but it fits our goal of becoming a world class digital retailer and we believe in it.”
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