Use cases of RPA improving e-commerce customer service

Damian Andruszkiewicz

According to Statista.com, e-commerce sales worldwide are predicted to reach $6.5 trillion by 2023. With growing demand also competition grows, and enterprises are looking for ways to reduce costs and boost sales. One of the best strategies is investing in customer service, which through improved customer experience translates into higher sales, higher client retention, level of loyalty and trust, better recognition and brand awareness, and fewer returns or complaints. In this article, we show use cases of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for the improvement of e-commerce customer service.

What is robotic process automation (RPA) and how can it support customer service?

what are RPA uses in customer service e-commerce

RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, is the name given to software that can perform tasks at the user interface level. Robots can do anything that employees do, and free them from tedious, mundane, and time-consuming tasks. Because RPA is great for repetitive tasks that have to follow a specific set of rules, there are multiple areas of business where these robots thrive.

But how does that fit into customer service? Each e-commerce business that focuses on customer experience needs to deal with numerous processes, both before and after purchase, to help customers in finding products, buying, and if necessary, solving problems resulting from the transaction.

Those processes can be streamlined with the use of Robotic Process Automation, which will result in fewer errors, faster response time, and, as a result, more satisfied customers who will often stay with the business and make new purchases.

How to improve the retention rate in e-commerce with RPA and why this is important?

Multiple studies, conducted across various branches show that “most businesses make sales to between 5% and 20% of new customers, but that jumps to 60% to 70% for existing customers”.

Knowing that it is much more expensive to find new customers than to try to sell to existing ones, many e-commerce companies invest not only in marketing efforts leading to new sales but also in customer retention strategies. Customer service departments provide assistance to customers with not only making purchase decisions but also with keeping them informed about delivery status and resolving any issues, to create an exquisite customer experience.

According to data published by Statista.com, among the top 5 reasons to make the next purchase from e-commerce customers stated:

why customers make next purchase RPA in e-commerce

Source: Statista.com

With as much importance being given to refund speed, fast shipping, and package tracking, automation seems to be a perfect fit to streamline the customer service process.

The leading role of Robotic Process Automation software is supporting employees in manual tasks, and completing them much faster. With such optimization the same process that e-commerce companies use in customer service departments can be done easier and quicker, allowing companies to scale up.

RPA use cases for customer service in e-commerce can include:

  • order tracking automation,
  • reduction of Average Handle Time in a call center,
  • improving First Call Resolutions (FCR) rate,
  • reducing customer friction and redundancies,
  • combining chatbots with RPA and AI,
  • online review management,
  • loyalty campaigns automation.

Order tracking automation in e-commerce

Automated order tracking with RPA in e-commerce example

According to ProShip.com as much as 97% of customers want to track orders and receive communication throughout the entire shipping process. This is a challenge for companies that do not use any form of automation. While most shipping companies will provide a way to track packages online, such information has to be passed to customers.

RPA software can help e-commerce companies with order tracking for example through:

  • automatic confirmation emails sent to customers, with the tracking number and tracking information,
  • additional, fully customizable notifications on each step of processing and shipping,
  • with proper implementation and use of AI, RPA software can read and classify emails from customers, capture data from them and if applicable, send auto-replies or alert employees,
  • in the same way, RPA can be used to update customer shipping information when for example errors will be reported.

Role of automation in reducing Average Handle Time (AHT) in an e-commerce call center

At a certain size, each e-commerce business needs an effective call center to assure that customers will receive all information that they need when they request them. From a company point of view, assuring that Average Handle Time, which is the total amount of work hours related to calls, will be as low as possible is crucial, but it cannot be done at the cost of quality.

A good example of such optimization can be using RPA to access a CRM system to gather data about a customer, his order, and any other information that call center agents could need to provide complete answers to any question.

This will help to reduce the AHT, as employees will not have to manually log into various systems to find necessary information, and could instead focus on the customer instead.

More First Call Resolutions (FCR) with RPA

FCR rate in e-commerce with RPA examples

In e-commerce call centers another important factor taken into consideration to calculate effectiveness is First Call Resolution (FCR) rate. The ability to give all required information to a caller during the first call is very important in assuring that the customer experience is as good as possible.

When many issues can be solved quickly and without a need for another call, the overall customer’s perception of the quality of a company’s services is heavily influenced.

With the use of robotic process automation software call center employees can benefit for example from:

  • automatic data capture from e-commerce platform and call center software,
  • opening new cases,
  • checking order status,
  • updating records.

With quick, automated access to all necessary information, including data about previous customer purchases (if applicable) and behavior patterns, call centers can solve many more problems during the first call, effectively improving customer experience.

A direct correlation between customer satisfaction and FCR was proven a few years ago - research and consulting company Service Quality Measurement (SQM) found that for “every 1% improvement in FCR there is a corresponding 1% improvement in overall customer satisfaction”.

While most call centers had an average FCR rating of 67%, amongst the top-performing contact centers in terms of customer satisfaction, the average FCR rating was 86%.

Identifying and reducing e-commerce customer friction and redundancies with RPA

Research conducted by HubSpot proved that one of the most frustrating aspects of the interaction between customers and e-commerce support representatives was being forced to repeat their problem.

customer friction in e-commerce reduced with RPA

Source: HubSpot.com

It is strictly related to how and where information about customer interactions is stored by e-commerce companies, and how accessible they are for support representatives.

By using Robotic Process Automation we can easily collect those data from multiple sources, including legacy systems if they are in use, and provide them to the employees, so they would have a full understanding of customers' issues and their past relations with the company.

RPA software can be also used to gather data about consumer journeys and compile them in a format that would allow to quickly identify friction points, understood as variables that slow down customer engagement and retention. Such data can help companies to identify changes, trends, and points when customers need support in their e-commerce journey.

Combining chatbots with RPA and AI capabilities for e-commerce

Leading e-commerce enterprises know the need for human customer service representatives available for their customers. According to a CGS survey quoted by Forbes, “86% of consumers prefer to interact with a human agent and 71% said they would be less likely to use a brand if it didn’t have human customer service representatives available”. But we need to consider also that not all problems and inquiries that customers have, require humans to solve.

Chatbots are designed to interact with customers, identify their intent, and help them complete their goals. To be able to do that, chatbots often need to integrate with systems like CRM or HRMS to gather information about customers, their purchases, or the availability of products and services.

For an e-commerce company that plans to use chatbots, problems can arise when such systems do not support integration through API, which is most frequently used by chatbots.

In this case, RPA is a perfect solution, as it also interacts through a user interface (UI) to capture data, and in many cases does not require any programming to be implemented.

When artificial intelligence (AI) is added to the picture, RPA can not only handle data collection and pass them to the chatbot but could be also used for the conversation itself.

example of RPA and chatbot integration UiPath

A good example can be UiPath combined with a chatbot, that allows:

  • connection through multiple channels like websites, enterprise apps, plus FB Messenger, Whatsapp, WeChat, Slack, Mail, Skype,
  • fast deployment in any model - on-premises, cloud, or hybrid,
  • use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to better understand customers' requests.

Case study - UiPath robots working with Druid chatbot to proceed claims without need of employee intervention

Combination of RPA software with chatbots gives employees easy way to use the chatbot interface to get information or post data into applications without needing to switch from screen to screen. This way they can focus on contacting the customer, not thinking about need to access other applications, gather information and keep customer on hold in the meantime.

We mentioned a case of integration between one of leading RPA vendors, UiPath, with Druid Chatbot Platform, delivering work class artificial intelligence (AI)-driven, no-code chatbots. With native integration automations can be triggered directly from chat requests. The integration enables natural language handling of customer requests with chat providing easy communication between robots and humans.

In this video you can see how chatbot integrated with RPA solves customer refund claim without any intervention of employees:

Online review management with the use of RPA

RPA software for e-commerce online reviews management

According to a “State of global customer support” report by Microsoft, 96% of consumers say that customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand. An important part of building this loyalty is how e-commerce companies handle online reviews, not only positive but also negative.

Online review management can speed up and vastly automated, with the use of RPA software such as UiPath combined with AI functionality of natural language processing (NLP), which gives robots the ability to understand the text and spoken words in much the same way human beings can.

Properly set up RPA software can be used to automatically respond to customer reviews, not only positive but also those negative.

Bots can identify a negative review, send answers automatically and immediately, or only alert assigned employees. It can also forward information to other departments for further use, which can be especially useful when negative feedback results, for example from product malfunction.

Robots can not only help to manage all publicly available reviews but also be a part of seeking customer feedback. It’s unfortunate that customers that have a negative experience are highly likely to share that experience by leaving a bad review when on the other hand, a customer who has a positive experience is unlikely to leave a good review.

With RPA software e-commerce companies can easily gather information about product strengths and weaknesses, not only by creating for example automated emails requesting feedback and follow-ups in case of no reaction, but also use robots to collect those data from messages and distribute them to appropriate departments.

Automating loyalty campaigns as part of customer experience

RPA automating loyalty programs in e-commerce examples

When e-commerce companies try to track and reward their most loyal customers, it often results in additional repetitive tasks involved, depending on campaign complexity, that might cause a human employee to lose focus.

Applying RPA to loyalty campaigns will increase the accuracy, speed, and reliability of the program, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

One of the simplest examples of RPA use would be automatic selection and grouping customers based on what they’re buying, and sending targeted marketing messages to those who reach a certain order value or a number of purchases. For example, each customer that spends over $300 can automatically receive a discount code by email or through SMS.

Depending on the complexity of loyalty programs and campaigns RPA can do much more. For example, if a company requires customers to send in proof of purchases, like receipts or invoices, they can be automatically collected, read (with the use of ABBYY Optical Character Recognition /OCR in UiPath), and verified to avoid fraudulent entries. Verified data would then be added to the customer database and invalid entries proceeded to review by human employees.

Measuring and optimizing customer support effectiveness with RPA

Ways in which e-commerce companies are interacting with customers are not “set in stone”. Each customer support process should be reviewed and improved, based on data that can be captured from various sources thanks to RPA, including:

  • identifying common topics and problems,
  • tracking busiest hours,
  • collecting data to analyze metrics such as Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Resolution Rate, to name just a few.

Such use of Robotic Process Automation software can be especially beneficial for e-commerce companies that have relevant data scattered across multiple sources and compile them in a manual, time-consuming way. Streamlining such processes is basically a core of RPA.

Outsourced customer support and RPA

Some e-commerce companies decided to outsource their customer support to an outside partner with better expertise, that is responsible for the hiring, training, and managing of the customer support team as well as the day-to-day operations of company customer support channels.

Not only outsourced customer support companies can use RPA in the same way as it could be done in-house, but such software can be used to streamline right control processes and communication between company and outside partner, to assure that cooperation would be really beneficial.

RPA as a part of a strategy to automate processes and workflows in an e-commerce company

In this article, we focused on a small part of the automation strategy, which is the use of RPA software for streamlining manual and error-prone processes, which can be identified in e-commerce customer support.

It’s worth noting that it would be impossible to find today an e-commerce company that did not implement any sort of electronic document workflow. But with all the changes that are happening within the industry, it is essential to ensure that such document circulation systems still properly serve their purposes, which are most of all:

  • eliminating human error from the document flow process,
  • ensuring control over the document circulation processes,
  • creating a central repository for documents,
  • putting in order messy and unstructured processes.

Many companies have implemented an electronic document workflow without proper thought. That is why we can find even today companies that struggle with outlandish and intricate processes executed in an even more outlandish way.

To learn more about what companies should consider to assure that automation is being implemented and used in the most effective way, we invite you to read our in-depth guide on How to streamline and automate processes and workflows in your company.

How we can support RPA implementation in your e-commerce business?

RPA consulting and implementation services GGS IT Consulting

With our experience from working on complex projects, as RPA consultants we are able to guide your company through the entire process of RPA implementation, from creating a strategy, discovering processes, designing optimal configuration, testing, up to full-scale use, and effectiveness monitoring.

GSS IT Consulting experts can support your company in starting digital transformation with RPA through:

  • defining strategy,
  • analyzing, understanding, and documenting business processes,
  • setting up operating models,
  • identifying technical infrastructure requirements to deploy automation solutions,
  • educating employees and helping to create an “RPA-friendly” environment, where each team member looks for more automation opportunities to support company transformation,
  • creating and documenting test scenarios and procedures to ensure optimal configuration,
  • training our clients on building, operating, and maintaining automation solutions,
  • helping to solve issues that arise in day-to-day operations with RPA software,
  • further support of the implementation of any type of automation technologies by the company,
  • helping to plan and set up Centers of Excellence or Process Mining Hubs, to boost up automation efforts.

If you are wondering how to improve customer service quality in your e-commerce business with RPA, get in touch with one of our consultants. You can book a free 30 minutes consultation with us and we will help you identify your needs and pick the right technology to match your challenges.

By providing both basic and in-depth information on digital transformation we are helping our clients at every stage of their journey, ensuring that our robotic process automation consulting services are complete.

You can read more about RPA software and its applications for e-commerce companies on our blog:

How to use RPA in e-commerce to gain a competitive advantage?

What is robotic process automation (RPA)?