10 must-ask questions before you bring in the bots | DMA

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10 must-ask questions before you bring in the bots


Razor-sharp wit, an in-depth understanding of current affairs and vast intelligence are attributes we’d all find flattering, if they were used to describe us. How about if they referred to a virtual assistant? Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa have transformed the virtual personal assistant experience. They’ve shifted the bot experience up a gear, from a responsive, service-answering chatbot to an AI bot which can manage complex queries by understanding vocal interactions.

Where previously automated responses have been criticised for sounding too well, robotic, the new wave of bots fulfil search requests as well as displaying sarcasm and humour. Take these recent dialogues: “Siri, what is 3 divided by 0?” I asked. “Please don’t make me divide by zero,” Siri responded. “That would be like me asking you to grow a third arm”. “Siri, what cellphone is the best?” I asked. “Wait…there are other phones?” Siri responded drily. Siri is even capable of detecting, and responding to, human emotion. Take this exchange I read about recently, “Siri, I’m sad,” confided the user. “It’s ok to cry if you want to,” said Siri understandingly, “My aluminosilicate glass surface is tear resistant”.

The rise of the robots

Businesses are increasingly looking to intelligent automation, AI bots and chatbots to play a crucial role in the customer journey, from answering service-related queries to providing deeper conversational interactions. 80% of business leaders in an Oracle study either already use or plan to use chatbots by 20201. Data from Accenture reveal that 70% of business leaders are making significantly more investments in AI than in 20132. Gartner forecasts that by 2020, intelligent automation will manage 85% of businesses’ customer relationships. They predict an increase in the share of mobile search queries initiated through virtual personal assistants will reach over 50%3.

Consumer sentiment regarding AI and chatbots is generally positive, particularly as the channels fit well with the popularity of mobile text-based communications such as instant messaging and SMS. In a recent study, 68% liked the fact that chatbots could provide a 24-hour service and would provide fast answers to simple questions4. Consumers are still at the early adoption stage of the bot journey, but appreciate the idea of the simplicity and convenience of bot platforms. Research amongst 2000 US adults found that 60% say they would comfortable talking with a chatbot, although only 22 percent have actually done so5.

Ignore them at your peril

Brands are still refining the experience. The recent failure of 70% of Facebook chatbot interactions, for example – when AI platforms couldn’t understand what humans were saying, so humans had to interact - sent developers scurrying back to their drawing boards. When bots go wrong, it’s an expensive, and embarrassing, brand fail. But brands ignore them at their peril. Consumers are changing the way they prefer to interact with businesses, and businesses must respond. We’ve put together a list of questions to ask your business before you bring in the bots:

  1. What are you looking to achieve for your business from bots? Are you looking to drive down costs and redirect queries away from call centres? Where there was ‘an app for that’, soon there will be a ‘bot for that’ – perhaps you’re planning on replacing your app with a bot, because it’s more responsive? Mobile users are now downloading zero apps each month, and regularly use only three according to research from ComScore6.
  2. What kind of customer experience are you trying to deliver? Think about how you want your customer to feel: cared about? Listened to? Wowed by your innovation? Do you want to provide them with a chat, information or ecommerce bot – are you giving them news and weather updates, 24/7 customer service or the ability to place orders?
  3. Is this a one-off bot integration or are you likely to bring in bots to other parts of the business? Don’t think of it as a one-off: think about the multiple touchpoints your customers have with your business, and whether bots could help refine the experience at these touchpoints.
  4. Why are you specifically looking at bots? Is it because everyone else is? Make sure you choose the right bot for your business – customer service, lead gen or payment services such as those provided by China’s WeChat or PayPal’s bot, available on the Slack platform for person-to-person payments. If you have a busy site with high traffic volumes, operate across multiple time zones, or want to embrace the customer interaction of the future, chatbots could be your answer!
  5. How does this channel integrate within your overall customer contact strategy? A bot is another engagement channel. Physical or digital, channels must integrate effectively with the same brand feel and tone of voice. If you’re a B2B financial services company, for example, you might want to make sure your bot avoids calling your customers ‘bro’ or ‘dude’…
  6. Have you refined your mobile strategy? As more and more consumers prefer to engage with businesses via their mobiles, chatbots are a great fit in a mobile strategy.

7. How are you going to support your bots? Facebook recently admitted that 70% of chatbot interactions on its site needed some kind of human intervention. Consider who within your business you should train to ensure your bots deliver their best service experience – and to step in when they need to.

  1. Have you set deliverables you want your bot to achieve? Better CSAT scores and retention rates, for example? It might not be human but you can still set performance measures!
  2. How are you going to capture the data these interactions generate, and integrate it into the customer journey? The deep level of insight you’ll capture from bot interactions could be invaluable in the delivery of a tailored customer experience. Chatbots can create triggers to generate reactions – on new products or stores, for example – and this data can be captured and analysed.
  3. Who is going to build this for you – and how well do they know your business? It could be something you manage within the business. Facebook has around 100,000 bots and around the same number of developers. Microsoft’s Bot Framework helps developers build their own chatbots, and other open source platforms are available to help them do the same. Alternatively, outsourcing can give you access to end-to-end bot services if you don’t have the skills in-house.

1 Source: Oracle survey quoted in Business Insider

2 Source: Accenture – Intelligent Automation: the essential new co-worker in the digital age

3 Source: http://www.gartner.com/binaries/content/assets/events/keywords/digital-marketing/gml3/gartner-2017-marketing-predicts.pdf

4 Source: Survey quoted in Global Marketing Alliance

5 Source: Vibes’ 2017 Mobile Consumer Report quoted in Information Age

6 Source: ComScore’s US Mobile app Report

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