Jun 2019

Over 2.5 billion people across the world (that is one-third of the world’s population) use some messaging app or the other. It would be a sin to waste such an opportunity by not leveraging chatbots. In my previous blog, I discussed how chatbots automate redundant jobs and activities that save cost and time whilst ensuring the customer experience is not affected.

Whether you adopt them or not, they are here to stay. It is very likely that 50% of us have spoken to a bot by now, maybe even without realising it. It is also possible that in the near future you would have had more conversations with a chatbot than you would have with your significant other and it will also be seamless in the days to come.

What should brands do to leverage this technology?

Well, there is no one-size fits all solution here. Every brand will have a different story to tell and will need to figure out how they can fit chatbots into their existing scenarios. But here are 3 things that one should essentially keep in mind to make sure they are approaching the situation right.

  • Identify where the costs are high and can be reduced with the help of chatbots by looking through your current business structure.

You may be looking to increase your sales capacity or free up resources from customer service or enhance marketing to be more targeted or to automate order placement. Your need could be anything BUT identifying which one to address is the first step that should be taken.

Research shows that Natural language processing (NLP) could lead to 85% of all customer interactions being handled without a human. A Forbes article talks about how Vodafone cut costs by automating a lot of back end jobs and how today only 1% of its customers talk to a bot but by 2021 it is looking at increasing this to 60%.

  • Design your Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on the need identified above and consider the possibility of being able to incorporate integrations in order to make your bot accessible and capture the right data.

It is important to know right from the start, what you want your bot to do. Should it simply answer questions? Should it capture data for later usage? Should it profile people and make suggestions accordingly? What level of conversation should it support?

Answering all these questions allows you to manage the flow of data. Ensuring that the data flows from sales to marketing to product teams to customer service reps and then around is essential to understanding a customer’s journey.

If you are a firm that caters to a B2B marketplace, you would benefit most from placing your bot on the Slack environment. Similarly, if you are more B2C focussed then messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Telegram could be viable options.

  • Lastly, it all comes down to the conversations. Train your AI to understand and humanize conversations as much as possible. Even in the age of voice assistants and bots, customers will still look for the personalised human touch which is very important to ensure your bots are trained that way.

Engage with a storyteller to design your chatbot conversations so that they are interactive. Chatbots may not totally replace complex human conversations but if designed right, they will ensure the customers will not realise they are talking to a bot and will pass the conversation to an actual human whenever needed. However, if your bot stops at just giving the information and does not make it conversational, then the battle has been lost.

In conclusion

In today’s world of apps and app upgrades, AI is forcing firms to re-think their approach towards sales, marketing & customer service. The number of apps on one’s mobile device has gone up so much that it is leading to app fatigue. In such a scenario, chatbots would be a pleasant change. They offer similar data capturing capabilities and all without having to sacrifice the storage space on your mobile device.

Though not very complicated, chatbot implementation could turn out to be expensive and therefore it may remain a playing ground for the bigger firms to start with. However, over time, it has the potential to evolve into a tool that no firm can afford to ignore or do without. As a technology, it is still in its infancy, but it has immense potential to solve user experience,  customer engagement and sales & marketing challenges.

Today chatbots are an addendum to the existing customer experience. You can actually tell that you are talking to a bot because it’s not a conversation, it’s merely an answer to a question. The key is to train your bot the art of conversing as opposed to answering a question. The timing is ripe and if done right, the human touch will not be missed.

You should try out some of the bots like the ones Sephora & H&M have. They are actually fun to use but mind you, you may end up spending more than you intended to because as a personal shopper, it shows you what you are looking for and once you have seen their amazing options, you can’t unsee them.

Hima Bindu