Freshpet scouts for enhanced customer engagement via AI-powered chatbots

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels October 17, 2023
The pet food supplier has implemented Emplifi Service Cloud and delivered a 97% match-rate for enquiries answered by AI-powered chatbot technology.


Pet food supplier Freshpet believes building trust with customers is the key to long-term business success. As part of this strategy, the company needed a customer engagement solution that would allow its service team to provide clear communications across all channels.  

When Lisa Diehl, Director of Consumer Care at Freshpet joined Freshpet 18 months ago and analysed the technology the company was using. She discovered the retailer was reliant on traditional communication channels, such as phone, email and website contact forms, to interact with its customers – or as Diehl refers to them, “pet parents”:

I told my team to buckle up for a bumpy ride because we’re going to implement a lot of technology in a short amount of time. The aim was to meet our pet parents in the channel of their choice, and certainly not forcing them down ours. We're increasingly catering to a younger generation and the digital space was where we needed to be.

Diehl implemented the Emplifi Service Cloud customer care platform. As part of this process, she also introduced Emplifi’s AI-powered chatbot technology, which Freshpet calls Scout:

His name is Scout because he fetches and retrieves information that our pet parents are asking for. It's all about self-service, which is where I want it to be. And again, if you start looking at the younger generations, this is technology they want to use, too.

Delivering digital transformation

The chatbot deals with customer enquiries that Diehl dubs“low-hanging fruit”, such as ‘where can I buy your product?’ or ‘can I freeze your product?’ Scout gives quick answers and handle a big chunk of call volume, which means staff can deal with more challenging concerns. Diehl explains:

Automation means my agents can handle more complex issues. They can focus on the types of issues that a bot can't, such as when somebody’s dog is sick, or when they’ve got a new puppy and they’re excited and they’ve got some tricky questions.

As so many customer enquiries are now handled by Emplifi’s chatbot technology, Freshpet has seen a 39% drop in the number of calls that consumer care agents have to respond to. Agents are alerted when new messages are sent and they respond accordingly. Today, as many as 97% of customer enquiries that come through the automated chat function are answered correctly in real time without input from the consumer care team. If and when a conversation becomes challenging and human interaction is required, an agent will call the consumer. Consumers also have the option to bypass the bot and go straight to a conversation with a team member.

While the system is working effectively, Diehl says it’s important to not just sit back and reap the rewards. She says making the most of an AI-enabled technology is a continual learning process and Scout is like a puppy that needs to be constantly trained:

We're understanding the types of questions that our pet parents are asking us. And if we don't get it right the first time, we're going back into our knowledge database and we're making sure Scout gets it right the next time.

Freshpet has also introduced Emplifi’s Social Marketing Cloud, which is an end-to-end social-marketing management platform that is helping the firm to engage more effectively with its pet parents across a range of channels, such as TikTok. Diehl says:

That’s allowed us to be present in those social channels. Knowing that we're out there and responding to our pet parents is an important part of our digital transformation.

In fact, Diehl will be working with Emplifi during the next few weeks to introduce a customer satisfaction survey, so her team can track the effectiveness of its advice more effectively:

The stats from those surveys will mean we’re able to say, out of everything that we're doing, how are we viewed by our pet parents and are we getting to a point of resolution where they’re happy? That's the last piece of my puzzle.

Boosting business performance

As to the future, Diehl keeps one eye on her company’s long-term business strategy and is looking to deploy technologies that have a positive impact on business performance:

I need to make sure that I have the right technology in place to pivot quickly and service our customers. I am constantly looking at questions like, ‘Is our technology working, how can we improve its performance, and what's the next shiny thing we should be looking at?’

It’s always challenging to try and sell new technology ideas to other areas of the business, she adds. She cites the example of Freshpet’s marketing team, who were concerned about how much website and mobile real estate would be required to support the AI-enabled chatbot. However, people across Freshpet have now seen the benefits of Emplifi and are keen to do more. She advises other business and digital leaders to explore the technology if they’ve looking for an easy-to-integrate platform:

My biggest thing is integration. I just need technology that works.

Diehl concludes by suggesting Emplifi’s AI-enabled technology is helping her business to work faster and smarter on behalf of Freshpet’s growing customer base – and she’s eager to explore further innovation during the next few years:

The technology has made a huge difference for us in the way we service our pet parents. It’s making it easier to self-serve and that’s creating opportunities within my workforce, so my team can deal with complex challenges. The bulk of our customer enquiries are now coming through our digital channels…and where we're going over the next couple of years, our use of the technology will continue to grow.

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