Remember the days when, if you wanted to complain to a company, you were required to spend an age on the phone listening to the rage-inducing hold music (seriously, that music is business suicide) before unleashing to a customer service rep who a) really didn’t give a damn and b) weren’t in the position to do anything even if they did care.
Side note: I actually WAS one of these customer services representatives once, and due to my ability to feel EVERYTHING for EVERYONE, I did care – but no, I couldn’t hand you over to a manager or do anything else but listen to you rant at me until I got REALLY angry and told you that if you continue to swear at me I will terminate the call. Yeah, behold the power and glory, I had a mouse and I wasn’t afraid to click the ‘end call’ button without updating your notes.
Or maybe we took to pen and paper to voice a strongly worded letter, or in more recent times – an email, that was responded to a month later when even YOU didn’t care anymore.
Basically, what I’m saying is, remember the days when we spent a lot of time feeling frustrated. We all know how frustrating these experiences can be, especially for the poor sap in customer services, jeeezzz, so how lucky are we that now we have artificial intelligence to guide us through this process?
I’m talking about chatbots of course. Advancements in technology and natural language processing have led us to computer programs that engage in conversation using artificial intelligence, and boy, does modern society have a hankering for chatbots – a survey by Oracle last year reported that of the 800 decision makers that included chief marketing officer, strategy officers, senior marketers and sales executives from the UK, South Africa, France and the Netherlands, 80% said that had already implemented, or were planning to implement chatbots by 2020.
Automation is now being thought of as ‘the’ way businesses can streamline their offerings and reduce costs and for customer service, chatbots is the technology providing the automation. Chatbots magazine stated earlier this year that technology has the potential to automate 30% more of the tasks done by customer service staff, reducing waiting time and giving the business a way to respond immediately, securing repeat business.
In this age where we expect instant gratification, it seems that chatbots are the answer. In truth, we have been using chatbots for far longer than we probably realise – those annoying ‘if you no longer want to receive these texts reply STOP’ – early chatbot, while Siri and Alexa aren’t chatbots, given they respond to voice rather than text, they are an example of the technology, and companies have been using chatbots on Facebook Messenger for over a year now. And of course, we are all aware of the little windows that pop up in the corner of a website
The way in which chatbots are changing is that they are beginning to be used more creatively; rather than solely being used in a way for customers to contact your customer service team, they are becoming a part of their operations, enabling businesses to improve their entire customer experience.
Some great examples include, ‘DoNotPay’ chatbot that has turned over more than 150,000 parking tickets in London and New York. The bot asks users a series of questions so that it can determine if the ticket was issued unfairly and has a 64% success rate.
Dominoes was an early adopter of chatbots in Facebook Messenger and allows users to order by ‘talking to a bot rather than filling out an online order form.
The financial sector has also seen several chatbots emerge; Matter, a consultancy firm have built a chatbot that acts as a pensions advisor, that has the ability to have ‘natural language’ conversation as well as having a wealth of knowledge on pensions.
Children’s toys are using chatbots to enable two-way interaction for richer experiences (creepy much?). Hello Barbie and Thomas & friends talk to you are to current examples.
You may be thinking that chatbots are too niche for your business, and for now, that may be the case, but with market predictions pointing to chatbots shifting the way that we interact with businesses, but avoiding the notion altogether could see your business become outdated and eventually, obsolete.
While chatbots are normally used to answer simple questions, like retrieving company contact information, basic product information useful information such as weather forecasts – they have the ability to sift through large volumes of data, meaning you could streamline your services and make yourself more accessible to your customers in the timeframe they prefer – instant.
Trivia is great, but the novelty wears off quickly – your chatbot has to be purposeful, and as an SME, the automation should be applied to the aspects that the business struggles that with whether that’s internal or external. For instance, Nikabot has been developed to collect timesheet info by message all staff at a pre-set time before gathering it centrally and processing invoices.
Chatbots also have a place within marketing, monitoring habits and patterns and analysing habits, enabling you to personalise information and increasing engagement and qualify leads.
The great thing about chatbots is that they can go beyond basic questions, understanding user language, acronyms and emoticons. This means that they can forecast a user’s intent and learn from each interaction, meaning it gets smarter.
Without a doubt, within the next two years, your business should introduce chatbots. The why and how is up to you – perhaps start with areas that are proving difficult, or known to be challenging or areas that can be easily automated. To conclude, your bot should be purposeful, accessible and valuable.