The messenger is now the primary way businesses and customers want to connect
We have already witnessed the rise of the messenger in human communication. The messenger is now the dominant way we talk to our family and friends as it uniquely allows people who are not sharing the same physical space to interact in very human ways. With things like emoji and video, the messenger is personal and friendly, approachable, rich in emotion, real-time and expressive. It’s no surprise that it has taken over our personal communication so fast.
The same is starting to happen in business.
True story: A few days ago I called a restaurant — on the phone — to make a dinner reservation (call me old fashioned). The restaurant messaged me to confirm the reservation.
This is the world we live in now. Messaging has become a convenient, inexpensive form of communication for billions of people around the world.
So why are so many companies still relying solely on phone and email? And why are they still putting up forms and telling leads “we’ll get back to you when we feel like it” when they could be using messaging to talk to those leads in real-time?
All of this is astounding given that Chatbots aren’t even half as smart as we could make them. Short of passing the industry standard Turing Test, most bots on the market don’t even possess a functioning emotional intelligence aspect to them.
“The over-all point is that new technology will not necessarily replace old technology, but it will date it. By definition. Eventually, it will replace it. But it’s like people who had black-and-white TVs when color came out. They eventually decided whether or not the new technology was worth the investment.” Steve Jobs
Chatbots: What are they all about?
As the forerunners of the newly introduced conversational interfaces, Chatbots are automated platforms that talk, message and interact with users.
A chatbot is a software program that an end user interacts with via a conversational interface such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc.
The most advanced bots are powered by artificial intelligence, helping it to understand complex requests, personalise responses, and improve interactions over time. This technology is still in its infancy, so most bots follow a set of rules programmed by a human via a bot-building platform. It’s as simple as ordering a list of if-then statements and writing canned responses, often without needing to know a line of code.
The user interface is real simple, ask a question, voice your need and voila you get the best solution available. This is what a conversational interface essentially does.
Having been initially developed as a medium to cater to the odd customer requests, Chatbots are now increasingly being used everywhere from various messaging platforms like Facebook messenger, to providing customised shopping experiences such as those employed in fast food giants like Dominos, to personalised business advisors like BRiN, at your beck and call.
These automated conversational interfaces are betting on man’s biggest trait of conversing with others and primarily focusing on utilising it to change the way computers influence and impact our lives.
Why should we care?
Great, another shiny new technology. But what about the effect on the bottom line? Well let me share some case studies.
- 1–800-Flowers: reported that more than 70% of its Messenger orders derived from new customers!
- Sephora: increased their makeover appointments by 11% via their Facebook Messenger Chatbot.
- Nitro Café: increased sales by 20 percent with their Messenger chatbot which was designed for easy ordering, direct payments and instant two-way communication.
- RossIntelligence: Ross is an AI Research Assistant who can perform legal research for law firms. ROSS users reduced their research time by 30%.
- Sun’s Soccer: Chatbots drove nearly 50% of its users back to their site throughout specific soccer coverage; 43 percent of chatbot subscribers clicked through during their best period.
- JPMorgan has numerous bots! COIN, has saved over 360,000 hours of manpower and its simple bots work by parsing emails for employees, grant access to software systems, and handle common IT requests like resetting passwords and more. Bots are expected to handle 1.7 million access requests this year, doing the work of 140 people.
- Asos: increased orders by 300% using Messenger Chatbots and got a 250% return on Spend while reaching 3.5x more people.
How you use chatbots to deliver value
- Chatbots own the repetitive work: Chatbots can easily take over the mundane, repetitive, time consuming work your sales team do today, for example manually qualifying people or manually scheduling meetings. This gives your sales team much more time to talk to people and close deals with those high quality leads. Your team focuses on what people can do best and your business sees huge efficiency gains.
- Chatbots work 24/7: They collect qualified leads and book meetings while you sleep. Rather than your sales team having to come in in the morning and do all that manual work, your chatbot was busy all night, so your team arrives to a set of highly qualified leads with meetings already booked.
- Chatbots reply immediately: Unlike people who are sometimes unavailable, chatbots are always available. They reply immediately and they get answers faster, providing a great customer experience and moving leads down the funnel much faster than ever before.
- Chatbots are always consistent: They are dependable, consistent and always on script. Because you wrote them and they never deviate (they’re just a simple computer program after all), you can predict what’s going to happen with a chatbot!
- Chatbots easily scale: Chatbots can deal with many customers at once, thousands if you wish, so you never have to worry about scale. All those concerns about putting live chat or a messenger on your site and having to deal with volume have gone away. With chatbots you can have many more of your website visitors interacting with the messenger and getting qualified without having to worry about scaling up your sales team.
The challenge of building a bot isn’t a technical one.
It’s conversational. Your job is to understand the interactions your audience is already having with your brand. Then, harness the chat interface in a way that yields maximum impact with minimal fluff.
Yes, witty banter is a plus. But, the ultimate mission of a bot is to provide a service people actually want to use. As long as you think of your bot as just another communication channel, your focus will be misguided. The best bots harness the micro-decisions consumers experience on a daily basis and see them as an opportunity to help. Whether it’s adjusting a reservation, updating the shipping info for an order, or giving medical advice, bots provide a solution when people need it most.
Although technology is an essential part of providing customer service–whether that’s today’s latest technology like AI, machine learning, and chatbots; or, as was the case for decades, plain old telephone service and not much else–it’s not what customer service, customer support, or the customer experience is about.
Customer service is about serving customers.
So… What does it all amount to?
Whether the future of chatbots and AI will eventually lead humanity into an automated paradise or our own demise (thanks for the nightmares Hollywood) is yet to be determined.
But what we do know is that the chatbot market is on the upswing and it seems to be for real. Business Insider reported that 67% of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for customer support in the past year, and Gartner predicts that 85% of all customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots by 2020. Impressive numbers considering the industry’s adolescence and that best practices are yet to be established. This lack of best practices may feel daunting to some but is, in fact, an opportunity: the market is still up for grabs. To stay ahead of the curve people and organisation need to get involved sooner rather than later to experiment and explore the potential of chatbots. The market may be there for the taking today but eventually, someone somewhere will lay the path which others shall follow, so why not chuck your hat into the ring and give chatbots a go?