IKEA’s Contact Center Agents Become Interior Design Advisors

Contact center agents are key to company growth, while AI bot Billie takes charge of voice

Contact CentreWFOLatest News

Published: June 15, 2023

James Stephen

IKEA is expanding its services by teaching its contact center agents to act as interior design advisors.

It has also introduced an AI bot called ‘Billie’ to help answer everyday customer queries.

Reuters revealed the behind-the-scenes goings on at the multinational home furnishing provider, which is looking to bring its home improvement services to the UK and the United States.

Starting in 2021, IKEA has now trained 8,500 call center workers as interior design advisors, according to Ingka Group, the largest of 12 IKEA franchises.

AI bot Billie, whose name was inspired by IKEA’s ‘Billy’ range of bookcases, was also launched in 2021 and has reportedly answered 47 percent of customer queries since its introduction.

Ulrika Biesert, Global People and Culture Manager at Ingka Group (an IKEA franchise), told Reuters:

We’re committed to strengthening co-workers’ employability in Ingka, through lifelong learning and development and reskilling, and to accelerate the creation of new jobs.

Biesert was also asked if ‘Billie’ was likely to cause job redundancies at the company, to which she replied: “That’s not what we’re seeing right now.”

Moreover, Ingka Group revealed that its sales by phone or video of products and services via Ingka’s remote interior design channel drew 1.3 billion euros of revenue in 2022, which represents 3.3 percent of its total revenue.

It is now aiming to increase that share to ten percent by 2028 as part of a drive to grow its Generation Z customer base.

Ingka also owns the IKEA website, whose online sales of products totaled roughly 9.9 billion euros, which is 25 percent of Ingka’s total sales for the financial year ending August 31st, 2022.

IKEA has earmarked two billion euros for its expansion within the United States.

It has a key rival in the US, Wayfair, which has recently launched its ‘Digital Design Studio’, a kiosk through which shoppers can view different furniture layouts and designs in a digital simulation of a room.

IKEA’s large investment into interior design services is not out of step with competitors and is undoubtedly influenced by major competitors like Wayfair.

Jocelyn Paulley, Co-Head of the Retail Sector (UK) and Partner at Gowling WLG, commented:

It’s not surprising that IKEA is now focusing on virtual sales channels – if anything the surprise is that it’s later than it could have been.

Keeping Up with AI

The combination of AI bot Billie and reskilling its contact center agents may, therefore, be less of a step ahead of the competition and more of a stride to keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape and increasing customer expectations.

AI chatbots are becoming commonplace in the retail industry, with the major advancement of ChatGPT, which arrived earlier in the year.

According to Gartner, 45 percent of business execs believe the current ChatGPT hype has been a major influence behind their own enterprise AI adoption.

Reskilling its workers at the same time appears to achieve two real positives:

  1. The company can compete against rivals offering a similar service and scoop up some of the younger demographic of shoppers in the process.
  2. It is providing useful and applicable training for workers whose jobs may not be under threat as of now, but as AI progresses it may ease their workload a little too far.

Earlier this month, Anthony Perez, Marketing Manager at MiaRec, spoke about ways in which companies can improve agent retention with AI.



Artificial IntelligenceChatbotsWorkforce Optimization

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