Chatbots are not new technology.
You have Alan Turing (a cognitive psychologist) to thank for the conceptualisation of computing intelligence, and that dates back to the 1950s. Early Chatbots were rolled out in the late 1960s when it appeared that humankind was ready to interpret computational output as a legitimate source of information.
With the recent boom of interest surrounding this piece of technology and how it contributes to branding and marketing strategies, what exactly do you need to know?
A Chatbot is Part of Your Value Proposition
Before you jump eagerly into Chatbots, consider how this function will fit into your space, brand and value proposition. Many companies make the mistake of incorporating a (poorly designed) Chatbot into their sites simply because they observed a trend. Instead of enhancing your customers’ expectations, you could risk including the Chatbot as part of the UX even though it makes no sense.
However, when the Chatbot aligns with the brand – the tool can fit in seamlessly into your brand proposition. For example, AMEX has developed a concierge service Chatbot that provides recommendations for things to do in a destination, based on your purchase of fight tickets. This ties in nicely with the AMEX brand of providing you with the daily essentials that you cant leave home without.
A Chatbot Brings Benefits
This piece of technology would not exist or expand if it brought no benefits to the businesses that own them. When executed well, the Chatbot can raise awareness of a business, raise engagement levels or serve as a call to action.
Some companies have created bots to focus on a single benefit, while others aim to create an outcome that incorporates a combination of them. As an example of a call-to-action bot, Burberry launched its bot to showcase its runway pieces from London Fashion Week. Within the chat, users are able to navigate through guided replies to find pieces in a collection that can eventually lead to sales opportunities.
On the contrary, a company like Trolli launched a bot purely for the purpose of engagement, and to create a fun experience for its users. Users were able to take care of a virtual pet ‘for a daily blast of weirdness’, in which the engagement propagates some aspects of the company’s branding.
A Chatbot Can Have Human Qualities
Even as an automated interface, a Chatbot can still possess human traits or qualities that make the experience interactive for your users. When a Chatbot lacks empathy or fails to connect with the customer (through no fault on either end), you could create the perception of indifference and disregard for individual customers.
This perception could also arise when your Chatbot seems to lack the personality that your customers associate your brand with – whether it’s the grace of luxury brands or the familiarity of home grown brands. These traits, such as empathy and personality, can be programmed into your Chatbots to give an added dimension to an otherwise robotic function. Tech companies like Kiko are heavily investing in creating machines who can respond with compassion and sensitivity
But a Chatbot Is Not Human
You can easily programme a bot to give your customers answers to the ‘what’ questions – frequently asked questions with standard, factual answers. But for the ‘why’ questions, single sentence answers may not suffice.
In such cases, especially when a customer is aggrieved, customers are more likely to want to speak to a customer service agent to understand why things went wrong. The customer may also seek further clarification on policies depending on the context of his/her enquiry. Somehow, talking to an automated system just wouldn’t cut it for these types of situations.
One way to manage this is to seamlessly transition from Chatbot to human during the interaction, with this switch triggered by a threshold. As the Chatbot’s purpose could be to address simple queries and redirect complex ones, including a seamless transition to a customer service agent can give you the human touch just when you need it.
A Chatbot May Not Be Your Thing
Many companies have retracted their newly launched Chatbots on the basis that they were not useful, or did not achieve the intended outcome. Indeed, these companies incorporated the new technology simply because it was new and promising, without thinking through the utility of such technology.
Despite the pop up of a range of start-ups focusing on building bots, business owners (including big names like Facebook) have now become more apprehensive. Unless you have a specific use case in which the Chatbot is the clear solution, don’t be too quick to jump into the venture or you’ll spend months building something that will become irrelevant very quickly.
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