AI is helping human customer service agents to ‘outperform’

Finance


Artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy, but companies such as online furniture retailer Wayfair (W) are already realizing significant benefits from the emerging technology.

At the 2023 Collision Conference, Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah told Yahoo Finance that the company already has a huge selection of everything from hot tubs to sofas to pantry organizers. He said he has seen AI help solve customer support challenges across the board.

With 20 million products on its platform, Wayfair has used AI to help customer support agents gather information quickly and clearly.

“A lot of our conversations are by chat and email,” Shah said. “With an AI model, you can basically take a question from a customer, formulate what you think would be the ideal response, and present a draft response to the agent, who can then modify or edit it.

“What we discovered in very early training is that the AI ​​can still outperform agents, not only in terms of time, but also in terms of customer satisfaction.”

Wayfair, like many e-commerce companies, has seen the pandemic boom plunge headlong into an even tougher macroeconomic environment in 2022. After enduring a price drop of more than 80% last year, the company is up about 90% so far in 2023. In the midst of a broader technology rebound.

In the first quarter, Wayfair reported total net revenue of $2.8 billion, about $33 million higher than Wall Street estimates, but a net loss of $355 million.

Analysts have expressed concerns about the company’s profitability post-pandemic, but Wayfair’s strong customer base has caught the attention of investors and analysts. JP Morgan added Wayfair to its focus list in June, sending the stock up about 10%. By 2022, Wayfair’s total revenue will reach approximately $12 billion.

Additionally, Shah, who co-founded Wayfair with Steve Conine, said Wayfair’s inventory is likely to grow over time rather than shrink, highlighting the need to make AI part of the company’s customer service strategy. expected to be strengthened.

Natick, Massachusetts - August 20: A virtual reality app will be demonstrated at Wayfair's first store at the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts on August 20, 2019. Shoppers can put on virtual reality headsets to see how the furniture fits into the room.  Space with Wayfairs Room Planner tool. They can virtually climb the dining room table to get her 360-degree view of the digitally rendered room and replace the chairs, chandeliers, and art on the virtual walls. This is just one example of how a Boston-based e-commerce giant leveraged its digital DNA to build its first physical storefront. It opens at Natick Mall on Wednesday. Product information such as prices and customer ratings are displayed on screens that update in real time to reflect online price changes. The staffer carries around his iPad with augmented reality tools that display the furniture in her 3D environment. You can also take a picture of an item in the store and find dozens of similar items online.  (Photo credit: Suzanne Kleiter/Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A virtual reality app is demonstrated at Wayfair’s first store at the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts, on August 20, 2019. (Photo credit: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Wayfair in particular is working to build a more repeat customer base.

“What we want is for our customers to come back more often and spend more time with us, so we don’t focus on one purchase. , we hope to come back for a third time, and that’s a big deal,” Shah said.

“The more we become the solution, the more [customers are] From getting married, having a baby, buying a new home, to life events that trigger big purchases, there will be more and more things we can do together. ”

Founded in 2002, Wayfair began as a collection of over 250 websites with professional e-commerce domain names such as “everygrandfather Clock.com” and “racksandstands.com”. In 2011, these 250 e-commerce sites were consolidated under the newly established Wayfair brand. The company went public in 2014.

Ally Garfinkle Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. follow her on her twitter @agarfinks and further LinkedIn.

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