The future of retail contact centers includes live messaging & chatbots

Summary: There will always be a need for human agents answering phones, emails and chats. But retailers can save costs and increase revenue by leveraging live messaging and chatbots.

Early in my career, I worked in a call center answering phones for a large e-tailer. I recall the stress of my manager reviewing call wait times at the end of a long day, asking us to resolve calls faster and explaining the benefit of getting customers off the phone quickly—both to the customers as well as the company.

That sentiment still holds true with retail leaders today. We ask ourselves; how can we increase agent productivity and satisfy our customers at a high level?

Woman using headset in office

Consumers are contacting customer service at a higher rate and digital support is trending up

The last six months have been a wild ride for retail contact centers. Zendesk reported a 43.4% increase in service-related inquiries from the end of the last week in February to the last week in April.1 But not all channels are created equal to handle the growth in ticket volume. Zendesk also reports that companies who experience at least a 10% increase in ticket volume see phone calls decrease by 24% on average.1 Contact centers have a limited number of agents, and when more requests like emails or phone calls come in than a contact center can handle and wait times increase, customers utilize other channels, like live messaging and chatbots, to get answers. Live messaging and chatbots have been the heroes of the pandemic, as they allow for agents to handle more tickets and increase the speed to resolution time for retailers.

Retailers can increase their revenue by utilizing live messaging capabilities

Live messaging and chatbots give retailers the capability to be agile and handle an influx of service requests without dramatically increasing cost or sacrificing customer satisfaction. But what really excites a retailer is the prospect of generating additional revenue. Not only does retaining a customer cost less than marketing to prospects, but increasing the service level and keeping existing customers happy can also boost revenue. According to Statista, customer satisfaction rates from the use of live chat was found to be consistently over 75%—in approximately 14 different industries ranging from technology, manufacturing, healthcare, education and more.2

There will always be a need for human agents to answer phones, emails and chats. But retailers can save costs by leveraging the most cost-effective support channels, like live messaging and chatbots. The advent of live messaging through WeChat, Facebook and other social platforms allows retailers to meet a customer in the same places they chat with their friends and provide a highly comfortable experience. Technology leaders look to balance customer satisfaction, reduce friction and cost. Live messaging and chatbot capabilities make that balance easier. 

Retailers will focus their investment on efficient ways to handle increased ticket volume now and for the future

Zendesk found that agile companies solve 32% more tickets using live channels and have 16% more agents staffed to live channels.3 Retailers are using live messaging and chatbots to handle the growth in support requests and empower customers to find answers themselves by adding content to their help center and staffing more live agents. Today, chatbots are mostly used as a first line of response for simple requests. When a request exceeds a chatbot’s abilities, it is taken over by a live agent. As intelligence grows with chatbots, many retailers say that artificial intelligence (AI) will play a role in the future of their investment decision for their contact centers. Specifically, 56% of service professionals say their organizations need to invest in new technology and 59% say their teams need to adopt automation for efficiency.1

Higher productivity, lower friction, happier customers

The adoption of live chat and the growth of AI capabilities in customer service is sure to result in faster service for customers with fewer errors. Consumers calling into support want their experience to be easy, efficient and professional. Chat and chatbot functionality supports these goals and can help retailers achieve high productivity and low friction.

Check out this Fact Sheet on Office Suite UC® CCS from Windstream Enterprise and discover a robust, 100% cloud-based set of call center features purpose-built for small offices and retail environments.


1. Evans, Katie. “On hold: Retailers encounter customer service strains amid coronavirus.” Digital Commerce 360, May 13, 2020. Accessed 2 Oct 2020.

2. “Live Chat Benchmark Report 2020.” Comm100. Jan. 15, 2020. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

3. Smith, Ted. “Benchmark Snapshot: Tracking the impacts of COVID-19 on CX.” Zendesk, Sept. 10 2020. Accessed 2 Oct 2020.

Key takeaway: The adoption of live chat and the growth of AI capabilities in retail call centers will drive faster service for customers with fewer errors—enabling higher productivity and lower friction.


About the Author

Grant Harland

Grant has more than 11 years of experience in the retail, contributing to his deep knowledge around business development, technology, product development, sales and merchandising.

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