Ready to jump on the chatbot bandwagon? Here are 3 things to consider

Chatbots are taking the customer engagement world by storm. We love the idea of talking to our devices to get answers to our questions, order goods, keep us organised, play music – it’s the closest most of us will ever get to a personal assistant.

Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now have become part and parcel of the mobile experience. The hours spent asking Siri funny questions or what’s on your calendar in the morning is just the beginning -- businesses are also using chatbots to enhance their customer experience.

A recent report from Ovum suggested that 65 per cent of customers want easier access to representatives as they are frustrated with time taken to reach a representative and achieve a resolution to their question. 84 per cent of consumers in that same survey said they have stopped doing business with a brand following a bad customer service experience.

Chatbots are emerging as one way to help mitigate these issues and help decrease time to resolution for customers. Facebook recently opened up its messenger app to advertisers who can build AI chatbots that will allow its 900 million users to interact with a brand about products and services without having to sit on the dreaded hold queue.

Chatbots may seem like a lifesaver for call centres, but before you invest in a chatbot to help run your business it’s important to take a step back, assess the business needs driving this era of ‘botification’ and think carefully about how to appropriately apply chatbots to best support an omni-channel customer engagement strategy. Here are the top 3 considerations to look at before jumping on the chatbot bandwagon.

  1. Not all customers are chatbot friendly. While there is a growing demographic of customers who prefer to communicate this way, there are others who will always prefer to rely on human to human interactions. Most millennials, for example, prefer to engage with brands via apps or chat, while older customers who are less technically savvy or those who don’t have strong internet connections may prefer to communicate using more traditional methods.
  2. Not all interfaces are chatbot friendly either. Bots might be the latest trend but that doesn’t necessarily mean the death of ‘appification’. Apps and bots fulfil different purposes in the business process and often complement one another. If a process can be performed more efficiently through an app, you may want to stick with that medium.
  3. Finally, not all issues are chatbot friendly. Some experts have classified our current level of advancement in artificial intelligence as Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). ANI implies that bots powered by current technology are good at following narrow, tightly defined instructions. The more open-ended the instruction, the more complicated the process of performing the function will be. With the current technology, today’s chatbots will be ideal for straightforward, easily explained issues, but not every issue will meet these criteria. Just as driverless cars have a lot of functionality that takes us out of the driver seat, there are still functions that require human interaction – like fuel replenishment, for example. This is the same with chatbots. Customer engagement specialists will still be needed to help customers with high touch or technical conversations.

It is undeniable that chatbots are on the rise and they will play an increasingly pivotal role in the way we communicate and develop relationships with customers, but the technology is not yet ubiquitous. There are still many situations where humans are better placed to deliver a superior performance and we should not lose sight of this on our journey towards botification.

Instead we should let our understanding of these nuances guide our journey which will lead to better interactions and greater efficiency.

Akhil Talwar, Senior Product Manager, BoldChat by LogMeIn

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