The impact of conversational bots in the customer experience

05 · 09 · 2016



Several factors are driving the evolution of bots in instant messaging apps (Chat Bots) towards a new hype of developing services and apps. As a consequence, more channels aimed at connecting consumers and companies are sprouting up by the day.

Phones and mobile devices have already become the first screen; the main hardware that young people use to access the world around them. It’s most evident on the rise of apps where messaging is the new predetermined interface for social communication, and with it, we can see some factors emerging. They’re the improvement in mobile connectivity, cheaper data plans, the rise of conversational applications versus social channels, advances in artificial intelligence technology, or the decline in downloads and use of mobile applications.

Source: Business Insider

Big messaging and instant communication apps like Facebook, Telegram, Slack, Twitter, Line or Skype, have their APIs on offer to integrate Chat Bots in their systems, and with that creating a new ecosystem of available apps and services for use advertised in their bot stores.

Ordering tacos from Taco Bell on Slack, picking out a bouquet of flowers from 1-800-Flowers.com, getting an Uber, or grabbing a burger from Burger King on Facebook Messenger are some of the services companies already incorporating bot technology into their social communication channels.

What’s a Chat Bot?

It’s a software program that automatically interacts with users, thanks to an artificial intelligence motor, that processes the information it receives and answers once it analyzes the request since it’s able to maintain a dialogue using text messages.

Truth be told, the use of Bots in messaging systems isn’t something new; we have seen its use for better or worse in past services like IRC, IM services, or SMS (text messages). The main different relates to the application of the latest technological advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) so that the technology is capable of interacting with the user in a more human fashion like understanding the intention, context, emotions, sound or image recognition, and learning over time.

The motivation for this sharp increase in demand from companies looking to exploit these new instant messaging channels with their Chat Bot service comes from the arrival of new SaaS platforms that allow this innovation without having to make massive technological investments. That’s how we find solutions applicable for e-commerce sites like msg.ai, letsclap.io, mrchatbot.com, digitalgenius.com, botcommerce.io, or kitcrm.com recently acquired by Shopify. On the other hand, we also find companies offering AI and NLP as services that facilitate the hard part of giving the Bot the required intelligence viv.ai, chatfuel.com, api.ai , or wit.ai.

The main limitation of Conversational Bots: Over-expectation

The Chat Bot revolution is something at a close glimpse; while being well-known it is a new space, and the primary barrier confronting it is its adoption by both corporations and users, a process that undoubtedly is going to require time until their use reaches ubiquity.

Besides that, in spite of the constant advances in artificial intelligence, the finality of Chat Bots, shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all answer to any problem that arises; the lack of an adequate response could make the customer experience a frustrating one. Who hasn’t played around with SIRI by asking a compromising question and get an evasive joke in return?

Many companies are gravitating towards the total exploitation of this technology, leaving real consumer’s needs behind, that need to see their needs addressed in a quick and personalized way, while still not being invasive. For instant messaging services to be efficient, they must be enclosed and offer simple answer options.

The notion that an intelligent robot can tackle every customer service need without any human intervention is a great value proposition. Nonetheless, and above all at this primitive stage of AI, it’s unrealistic to think in leaving human intervention out of the customer service cycle. Instead of merely thinking about a Chat Bot as a way of replacing people, we need to see this technology as a way of improving personnel efficiency and the flows of interaction with the customer.

The Chat Bot experience should be based on solving typical problems, the ones that customers leave us in their emails, calls, or chat sessions. Afterward, we should select the most common ones and create an automate service to resolve those issues.

Recommendations

A Chat Bot must do something other than providing content or information since a user could already just go to the website for that. Instead, we should look at their use as a means of improving engagement and sales.

Chat Bots are great tools for compiling information and guiding the user on an automated path leading to purchase or hiring services. In the beginning, it’s recommended that the flow should be short with simple interactions that quickly lead the user to what they’re looking to do. As time passes and consumers become more used to the Bot, you can add more functionality and more intelligence to host even more services.

Like with other channels, it’s important to analyze user behavior when they interact with the Bot. Continuously reviewing and improving the Churn is crucial in developing conversational interfaces, so a constant KPI analysis will help you do things well. The continual modification of the Bot’s workflows and the user experience, by analyzing the generated conversations, will increase the possibilities of converting and retaining future users.

Lastly, integrating both with other systems that your company users like your CRM, ERP, and marketing automation tools, will let us send personalized messages in line with the knowledge we have about the consumer, notably improving the experiencing and offering services of greater value. Besides that, by establishing a bi-directional path, we can enrich our databases using the Chat Bot to gain more information about our clients.

What will come next

The future of the customer experience is going to go through the use of Chat Bots: hailing a cab, finding a new bar, asking about a particular product or booking flights, these are some of the services that could be beneficiaries of the use of this technology. The possibilities it offers to improve communication and interactions with the consumer seem nearly limitless.

Nonetheless, there are still many things to take care and one of them, in the short terms, will be to place Bots where the user is at that given moment, regardless of the messaging app the user has open. Now, some startups like message.io allows for the distribution and conversion of a Chat Bot to any platform without needing to make changes in the source code, and similar services are sure to come onto the market imminently. Let’s trust that a young developer creates a similar solution that’s totally open and universal for another of the most frequently used components of mobile devices: the web browser.

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