Human E-commerce

Today, I walked the Expo Hall at #CallCenterWeek in Las Vegas. (Today, I also spent 6 hours in airports and 10 hours flying. But those are just details.)

At the show, I discovered an 18-month-old "embedded communications" company called Kandy. It lives in the cloud and its functionality is built on top of the existing enterprise software that powers call center operations.

Embedded communications is natural, contextual, and quite seamless.

Imagine being logged into a site and initiating live chat via text. You don't have to provide further identifying details. Maybe you're signed into your wireless carrier and you're browsing international data plans when you get stuck. Maybe you're on a retailer's product page and you're zooming in on a dress to determine its weave. The agent chatting with you can see where you are in the process and doesn't ask you to repeat steps you've already taken.

Now imagine having your live chat picked up not by a catch-all agent, but by someone at the call center who's seen the steps you've already taken. A person actually familiar with the product you're evaluating and isn't going to ask you irrelevant questions or provide unhelpful information.

But maybe talking to the dress expert in the retailer's call center isn't enough for you. Kandy can connect you, via video, with a personal shopper in one of that retailer's stores. Then, you can see the dress draped in front of you and described by a person who's holding it and who's well-positioned to pull complementary items.

Baublebar talks a lot about doing video chat from its jewelry showroom. That's not even embedded communications, which I also can see working well for both beauty and home improvement. Toy Genius, a small chain in New Jersey, uses toy store staff in white lab coats to make "ingenious" toy recommendations to customers in front of them. Through Kandy, the same brand story is activated through e-commerce when stores are open.

Sounds like an optimal customer experience. I particularly appreciate how it leverages people. People who are likely trained, passionate and should be enabled - not replaced - by technology. They're also people who may have extra time if store traffic has dropped more than labor hours should be cut. So this is a productivity add and maybe even a call center payroll savings.

I learned about what Kandy's doing with Toy Genius after the toy stores were closed for the day so I haven't yet seen it in action. The Kandy sales rep couldn't share other clients employing a similar strategy but tells me there will be more publicly announced in the next 12 months. If anyone has seen this type of service in action, please comment and let everyone know your observations. 

One question I didn't get a chance to ask: Does all this work on mobile and through messaging? I hope so. From what I've seen, embedded communications is natural, contextual, and quite likely the future.

Whether it's through Kandy or someone else, I think and hope we'll once again talk about human intelligence as much as artificial intelligence and thoughtful recommendations as much as algorithmic ones.