If you're a business that usually sells to other businesses, you might not have significant interaction with your product's end users, or consumers. In fact, the only time you might even hear from an actual consumer is when one calls, emails, or messages you to complain about your product! No company relishes consumer complaints, but they're often manageable and have little impact on brand if a business is far enough removed from the end user. However, if your company sells both to businesses and consumers, or wants to begin selling to consumers, then engaging customers before they register a complaint is critical to customer satisfaction, customer retention, and brand perception.
One might think that Bajaj Electricals Ltd., featured in a new Forbes article, is simply a large electrical utility based in Mumbai, India, but the company has many divisions that directly touch consumers. In fact, 50% of the company's business is made up of selling consumer products, which include commercial and home lighting products, as well as home appliances. When the power goes out, people often grumble, but an electricity provider's brand (and revenue) often doesn't take a hit due to limited competition in the industry. However, when a light bulb burns out well before its expected life, or when a fan or microwave breaks, you can bet that a company like Bajaj Electricals is going to hear directly from dissatisfied customers, who may even threaten to turn to a competitor for their next purchase. This is why Bajaj Electricals decided that it needed to strengthen its consumer presence and engagement as part of a larger digital transformation that is currently taking place at the company.
Many in India receive electricity from the government, but according to the Forbes article, an estimated 500 million consumers either have never purchased a household appliance, or are purchasing an appliance for the first time. What's more, there is a culture of repairing things as opposed to throwing them out and buying new ones. "At any given time we have 20 million products under warranty... and nearly 2 billion products in use," says Anant Bajaj, Joint Managing Director for Bajaj Electricals. When a first-time purchaser buys a new appliance, or when a customer wants to repair a fan, they need an easy way to schedule product demos and service/repair calls, or find out more about the product in question. That's where Bajaj Electricals believes intelligent chatbots can play a crucial role.
The company has built a pilot chatbot using Oracle Intelligent Bots, a part of Oracle Mobile Cloud Enterprise. Automating, scaling, and personalizing consumer engagement, Bajaj Electricals' customer service chatbot reportedly will let users report broken appliances, schedule installation appointments, and request demos from service technicians to learn how to use new products. "We need more user-friendly ways to engage consumers. For the first time, we began reacting to the happy customer, not just the customer in pain," says Bajaj. The chatbot is currently available through SMS text message, and eventually there are plans to roll it out on popular social messaging platforms. Thanks to the AI capabilities within the Oracle Intelligent Bots platform, this chatbot has the ability to continuously learn from consumer questions and interactions, which could eventually lead to an expansion in functionality, from controlling appliances, to interacting with voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, to assisting Bajaj Electricals employees in everyday tasks.
There's also hope that the chatbot will help to reduce costs. Pratap Gharge, Executive President and CIO, elaborates: "“We are trying to train our chatbot to be as intelligent as possible so that it can also help to reduce our call center load. If the chatbot is able to understand customer problems using natural language processing and machine learning without help from a human, some consumer questions can be resolved by the bot itself. This will allow our call center agents to focus on more pressing customer issues.”
You can read the full Bajaj Electricals story in Forbes here, and you can learn more about chatbots here.