2016 has been quite the year. Some, like Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, would portray 2016 as the worst year ever thanks to high profile celebrity deaths, Zika, the Syrian refugee crisis, Brexit, and the results of the recent presidential election in the United States. Others, that choose to be more optimistic may focus on positive events such as Pakistan making strides toward outlawing honor killings, new chemotherapy breakthroughs that have increased the 5-year survival for pancreatic cancer from 16% to 27%, and the rate of Americans that die by heart disease has decreased by 70%.
Yes, this year has certainly had its ups and downs. But even 2016 couldn’t effect the continuous advancement of technological innovation and breakthroughs. We are now discussing robots that teach each other, the DNA app store, and perhaps the hottest topic, Slack. I know what you’re thinking, “Slack wasn’t introduced in 2016” and of course you are correct. Slack was introduced to the market in 2013. and since its initial launch, has seen INSANE growth.
Fast forward to 2016, and people can’t stop talking about Slack. As of April 1st, 2016, Slack recorded 2.7 million daily active users, and 800,000 paid users. We use Slack every day at Youredi, and quite frankly, we love it. Perhaps our favorite Slack feature is Slackbot. We are fascinated by bots at Youredi, so much so, that we decided to create our very own chatbot.
Early in 2016, we saw the introduction of the first wave of artificial intelligence technology in the form of chatbots for messenger. Facebook launched a messenger platform which allows developers to create bots that can interact with FB users. The result? Companies can make life easier for their customers by allowing them to interact with their brand or service, while carrying out their daily activities, from within their messaging platform.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Hmm, interaction with a chatbot that is supposed to help me find things or get things done. Why does this sound so familiar?” Oh, that's right...
But chatbots have truly come along way from Microsoft's pop-up paperclip. Just look at the infographic below from Futurism on the history of chatbots:
We now know that the future of chatbot potential is endless in both B2B and B2C. We have already discussed how chatbots are going to set the new standard in supply chain visibility. When some of us think of "supply chain visibility" our minds (at least mine sure does) goes right to B2B. But what about B2C? What does the consumer want?
In 2013, UPS listed 5 tips for providing outstanding customer service that, I personally feel, still remain relevant to this day. In the article, UPS stresses the importance of communication, and putting the customer in control of their package. It is simple concept. Customers want to know where their packages are, at all times. This is not breaking news or a revelation; we have known this for years.
The traditional way for consumers to track shipments is through a tracking code and a web form. The consumer orders something, is given a tracking code and a web form where the tracking code and be entered, and upon entering the code, the tracking information is retrieved. This is all fine and dandy, and has worked nicely for years, but remember, it's about the CUSTOMER. To make our customers happy we have to make the tracking process as seamless and convenient as possible for them. The first step in doing this is identifying where our customers are spending their time.
People are spending twice as much time online compared to 10 years ago.
This is a trend that we will see continue in years to come. In fact, the chart below from eMarketer shows that time spent on digital (In the US) is already greater than time spent on TV, and will continue as such through 2018.
Now that we know consumers are spending more and more time online, the next step is determine where they are spending their time online.
According to a recent study from comScore, Social networking accounts for almost 1 in every 5 minutes spent online.
So what does this all mean? How does this all relate back to international parcel tracking? To cut to the chase, if companies want to provide an end-to-end shopping experience that is seamless, convenient, and aligned with the needs/wants/expecations of their consumers, then their method for tracking shipments must correspond with the everyday life of the consumer. Where is the everyday life of the consumer? Online and on social.
Don't think that tracking shipments is important to the consumer? In a 2012 (unfortunately the most recent data I could find) fact sheet, UPS suggested that consumers attempt to track their parcel 2.42 times per shipment.
Chatbots For Parcel Tracking
Chatbots are not just the future of international parcel tracking, they are the now. With chatbots, after a shipment is registered to a customer, the same information can be used through the authorized messaging platform to automatically retrieve tracking information. Even when using a tracking code, it is only necessary for a consumer to enter the code once. Chatbots store tracking code information for future use. Gone are the days where you have to sift through your email in order to find a lenghty tracking code every time you want to know where your package is.
Modern social messaging platforms also support a variety of multimedia content. In other words, instead of receiving traditional text based tracking information, chatbots allow customers to receive their tracking information on a visual map. The customer can even see images of the actual package and/or its contents so that they can be certain they are receiving exactly what they ordered.
International Parcel Tracking
When it comes to international parcel tracking, one word stands out... INTERNATIONAL.
Often times communication between customer service (and all its components), and the end customer, is challenging. Chatbots not only support a broad range of conversation channels (Skype, Facebook Messenger, Kik Messenger, Slack, GroupMe, Telegram, web portal plug-in, email, SMS/text, etc.) but they support a broad range of languages. Chatbots integrate with automated translation tools that typically support over 50 natural languages, ensuring global reach and accessibility to all over the world.
This is truly just the beginning of Chatbot technology in supply chain, and certainly in customer service as a whole.