Here's How Dell Used Live Chat to Optimize E-Commerce for B2B
Despite its vast retail presence and household-name status, PC maker Dell relies heavily on e-commerce – to the tune of $15 billion in annual sales, 75 percent of which is B2B.
It was one of the first companies to introduce live chat to its customer support division 15 years ago, eventually expanding this capability to the sales department.
Around five years later, the software engineers introduced a “proactive chat” mediated by a chatbot affectionately known as AVA (automatic virtual assistant). By providing a simultaneous self-service and support function, “she” has been key to converting web traffic.
“If you’re in a retail store you’ve got the salesperson coming to tap you on the shoulder asking if you need help,” Robert Elzner, director of global e-commerce at Dell, said at Verint Engage 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
“And that’s what proactive [chat] was doing for us – letting our customers know that if they were having any challenges on the website we are there for them to help answer any questions they have.”
Like Microsoft, Dell started in consumer technologies and subsequently diversified into enterprise software when, in 2013, demand for PCs stalled as tablets and smartphones gained popularity.
With a renewed focus on B2B, Dell has invested heavily in its e-commerce platform for business, including PremierConnect, a web-based procurement system used by over 1500 Dell customers to customize orders, shop a catalog with pre-negotiated pricing, generate invoices and more.
The portal also connects to users’ enterprise resource planning software to automatically update inventory and financial records.
On the consumer side, investing in e-commerce is equally vital as brands increasingly seek to sell direct-to-consumer instead of relying on legacy retailers with declining foot traffic.
Live chats on Dell are automatically routed, where customers select a different chat URL if they’re inquiring for a personal-use product like a home PC, for work, technical support or order support.
Even so, Dell makes it very clear that you’re chatting with an AI-powered machine and offers numerous opportunities to contact a live rep instead on both the homepage and within the chat function.
Honoring customer channel preference by providing access to live agents in addition to the bot prevents customers from feeling like they’re being short-changed on “real” customer support.
According to Elzner, the company grew live chat on its website by over 20 percent in the last two years, effectively increasing online conversions sevenfold. Today, he wants to replicate this engagement model across Dell’s global consumer divisions and B2B vertical.
“We also want to take AVA off Dell.com and introduce it to engagement models like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp – even potentially embed it in our PCs so customers can engage with that knowledge base there.”
According to CITI Research, Facebook Messenger bots are developing 70 percent faster than iOS apps were at this same stage of their life cycle.
“We also want to take AVA and modernize it even further, looking at things like voice engagement or even conversational AI,” said Elzner. “We envision a world where you can come to Dell.com and talk to your PC the way that [characters in] the old sci-fi movies talked to their computers, or the way that all of us do with Alexa, Google or Siri.”
Creating voice assistants equipped with conversational AI that are capable of technical troubleshooting is the next frontier, where the voice interface can provide the same level of support as a live agent guiding the customer through a step-by-step process for fixing a computer glitch.