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How NLP helps direct selling businesses achieve better customer support management

artificial intelligence
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek)

As we know, the growth of an industry relies largely on the management of its customers. A better understanding of the customers’ priorities helps in the generation of effective strategies for marketing. Proper communication is a priority for the customers. Addressing the customers’ queries and concerns, otherwise known as Customer Service, is important in the process of marketing. Industries like direct selling, which are fundamentally aimed at customer acquisition and retention, benefit largely from efficient customer support and communication systems. 

Boosting customer engagement in direct selling

Digital customer service platforms are empowered by Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence. It is used by software systems to understand human language and generate natural responses. These auto-response systems possess a higher level of understanding of the customer’s behavior across the business platforms.  

Mankind is growing more comfortable in using digital systems to interact with fellow humans and meet their day-to-day needs and requirements. Times have changed; the key events in one’s life are announced over social media platforms. This bond between us humans and digital technology has set the bar higher for natural language response systems.

Customers are easily bored with unnatural mechanical suggestions and responses. Machine-learning technology can interact with customers on an empathetic level. NLP is one of the oldest developed forms of artificial intelligence. A part of Linguistics, the scientific study of language, later evolved into NLP with the rise of computers. Machine learning systems that can generate responses at a more ‘human’ level were developed later. 

With the digitalization of commerce across the world, the need for intelligent natural language generation systems has increased in the direct selling industry as well. 

“We will take Natural Language Processing — or NLP for short –in a wide sense to cover any kind of computer manipulation of natural language. At one extreme, it could be as simple as counting word frequencies to compare different writing styles. At the other extreme, NLP involves “understanding” complete human utterances, at least to the extent of being able to give useful responses to them” - Natural Language Processing with Python, 2009.

NLP can perform various tasks such as:

  • Speech recognition
  • Text-to-speech
  • Voice recognition
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD)
  • Translation
  • Pattern recognition
  • Personalization

Direct selling e-platforms can make use of many of these tasks for better customer engagement. These tasks have their own importance at the various levels of marketing.

Importance of NLP in the days to come

Business websites have chatbots that can guide users based on their queries or concerns. Chatbots can analyze user inputs and respond to them with the relevant information or redirect them to human agents for advanced support. This helps faster resolution to simple queries and concerns enabling the customer service team to focus on serious issues regarding products and services. Chatbots can track customer interactions to understand the emerging issues. Knowledge of emerging issues is important to devise new features and updates across e-commerce platforms.

NLP is the future of the direct selling industry. It is a lot more crucial than it sounds. Software systems that can interact on an empathetic level, can leave a long-lasting impression in the customers’ minds. Sentiment analysis can assess the customers’ emotional state to an extent and generate responses accordingly. We all have, at some point, come across chatbots that literally didn’t make any sense. You don’t wanna chat with that bot again, do you? Users feel misunderstood by such underdeveloped systems and it is not a good feeling.  

NLP helps industries like direct selling to make their marketing channels capable of interacting with their users in a more humane way. Voice searches, translations, etc are used more prominently by users to navigate across e-platforms. Search and auto-fill suggestion tools incorporated with e-commerce platforms help to reduce the customers’ time and effort involved. A customer’s e-shopping journey begins with finding the right product and ends with customer service. NLP tools help in a comfortable transition between these stages. 

Social media is a great platform to interact with customers and prospects. It is a window for direct selling businesses to spread the word about their products and services. Customers share reviews and insights about products on these public platforms. These activities can make or break a brand’s goodwill in the consumer base. We are no strangers to the numerous social media influencers whose words have a direct impact on the consumers’ decisions. Product feedbacks across marketing channels can be tracked with artificial intelligence powered by NLP.

Current influence in the global market

Artificial intelligence (AI) has turned into one of the topmost technological priorities of businesses. Following are some of the statistics that show its relevance:

  • 40 percent of the businesses rely on artificial intelligence as they consider consumer experience as a priority.
  • 71 percent of marketers find AI useful in personalizing the customer experience.
  • In 2020, 80 percent of the marketers have already included chatbots in their customer service loop.
  • 48 percent of the top marketers have agreed to the positive impact of AI in the interactions of customers and prospects.
  • 51 percent of the e-commerce contenders aim for a customer experience by implementing AI systems across their sales, marketing, and customer service platforms. 
  • 85 percent of the customer service interactions were responded to by chatbots in 2020.

Final thoughts 

Clearly, e-commerce is moving in a direction where customer interactions will be handled mostly by automated systems. Being a key component of artificial intelligence, NLP has a long journey ahead of it in helping industries like direct selling to provide the best user experience for their customers. The recent pandemic has prompted direct selling businesses to adapt to an e-commerce environment. Naturally, this has given rise to many challenges; one of the most important ones among them being customer service. 

NLP has proved its importance in sustaining customer relations and will continue to be an integral part of the technological side of direct selling. As Jay Baer once said, “Customer service is the new marketing, it's what differentiates one business from another,” effective use of NLP will make a difference for the customer experience management in direct selling.

Dhanesh Haridas, CTA, Epixel MLM Software

Dhanesh Haridas has 10+ years of experience in management, design, and deployment of enterprise technology solutions. He is the CTA at Epixel MLM Software, a leading software development company.