A peek under the hood of James Allen’s new customer support chatbot


Demoing a recent retail ChatGPT plugin and learning from the company how consumer-facing AI projects come about – and how well they work.

Companies across industries are rolling out AI customer support. But, what does that process look like? Online jewelry retailer James Allen is experimenting with a ChatGPT plugin for a new AI customer service assistant and Chief Marketing Officer Shannon Delany-Ron let us in on the process to see what it looks like when a company first dips its toes into a new technology.

Let’s Build an AI Assistant

Right now, there are two main reasons that a company might start exploring AI: because it’s the shiny new thing, and because they believe that it can help them offer products and services to potential clients and customers. These aren’t mutually exclusive reasons. For most companies exploring AI, the motives are a combination of both.

“We are always looking for ways to advance our shopping experience and to incorporate the most cutting-edge technology into what we do. We are the first jewelry retailer to offer a ChatGPT plugin that incorporates AI into the shopping experience,” Delany-Ron told THE DECODER. “The goal is to empower our customers to make the most educated and informed buying decision.”



According to Delany-Ron, a team of three developers worked for three weeks to develop and optimize the plugin, with much of that time being ensuring that everything was within OpenAI’s guidelines for development.

A Step From the Current Systems?

As of this writing, the ChatGPT plugin has been available to the public for just over a month and it’s still not the standard search system in part because visitors need to have a ChatGPT account to use the plugin. So, what are the default alternatives? I went hunting for a turquoise engagement ring – ideally like the one that I used to propose to my real-life wife.

Navigating the James Allen jewelry inventory through online menus.
The current James Allen website navigation tools are comprehensive. Is AI better? Image: Jon Jaehnig | THE DECODER

Navigating the site using just menus, most searches involve nine different search parameters including the type of diamond or gemstone, the material of the band, and cost ranges. Perfectly acceptable products can slip through the cracks if all the parameters aren’t just so. While I thought that setting all the fields was fun, it wasn’t the most convenient way to find what I was looking for.

The James Allen search feature.
The James Allen website already supports search and live customer support. Image: Jon Jaehnig | THE DECODER

Just searching for basic terms generated more results – including more of the kind of thing that I was looking for – but didn’t let me easily search for items within a price range, for example.

What about actually chatting with an expert? It works – the human experts are friendly and knowledgeable if they can take a bit longer to respond. They’re good at troubleshooting the site but I have a feeling that the chatbot might be better at helping me find something that fills my strange request.


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