Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), and the resultant advent of mobile messaging apps powered by bots is driving more personalised and interactive engagements between brands and their consumers. However, is the true potential of this marketing technology being realised, or what use cases are hindering adoption?

Chat bots offer brands immeasurable opportunity to create a more personal and meaningful engagement with customers, based on tailored conversations between the brand and their customer. Chat bots provide immediate potential to impact customer service; but this is just the beginning, the technology could be the driver behind new user experiences of the future.

Chat bots, delivering customer service, have the distinct opportunity to provide a thrilling experience to customers, helping them resolve their issues in real time. Bots can be used throughout the customer life cycle to generate interest and awareness, enable purchases and nurture brand loyalty. Loyalty programmes, in particular, can be enhanced through the use of bots by helping the customer select more personalised redemptions, thereby deepening their relationship with the brand.

In addition to the valuable opportunity that chat bots provide brands in creating more personalised engagements with customers, there is also significant potential to drive down the cost of customer servicing. Chat bots facilitate interaction with customers at scale and can alleviate the need of a customer service representative to handle the query.

However, as much as the temptation to use chat bots for customer service is great, careful consideration needs to be given to how chat bots are used and deployed, to avoid doing more harm than good to customer relations. As customer service interfaces, chat bots will have to answer a wide variety of different questions, so considerable time and investment needs to be made into how they are programmed to answer them. The language customers will use, along with volume and variance of their queries, makes the task of determining the various permutations and scenarios a bot may have to respond to very complex.

As with any technology, careful consideration needs to be given to when a chat bot should be used to provide a customer engagement. While it would be more cost effective to hand off all customer interactions to bots, there are obvious risks to doing this. Every customer engagement is a precious opportunity for a brand, so decisions need to be made on the most appropriate and effective way to engage with customers in different contexts.  

Access to information will also be a crucial decider in the successful implementation of chat bots. Bots have to be integrated into brands’ existing CRMs and backend systems to be able to access the information necessary to provide valuable engagement with consumers.

While chat bots can offer brands a contextually aware platform to engage with consumers, the emotional connection between brand and consumer risks being lost. If chat bots are being used to offer customer service, for instance, lack of understanding of a problem or not showing empathy will only cause frustration. We have all suffered through automated messaging options when trying to speak to a company to resolve a customer service issue and brands simply cannot afford to provide a similar experience using bots.

While chat bots may intelligently address the voice recognition steps, it is really understanding the customer which is fundamentally important in any interaction and where the real challenge lies. As AI technology progresses, the sophistication of the engagement bots can provide will improve significantly; but until that point, it is important to set user expectations and carefully consider the user experience. Can brands control the conversation better if chat bots lead the conversation, for example? In any event, creating an experience that requires minimal input from the customer will be essential. Brands have to consider the most intuitive and contextually relevant way to engage with the customer. These interactions should be simple, quick and help the customer reach their objective as quickly as possible; and, where the bot does not have an answer, it should gracefully direct the user to the best place or person to get it.

Unleashing the potential of chat bots is sure to help drive innovation in the way brands engage with their customers. Particularly, in the age of the consumer, where there is the expectation that brands will adapt to consumer preferences and engage on their terms.  However, leveraging this marketing technology to enable meaningful, valuable interactions will involve thinking about customer experience and how to use this experience to overcome some of the limitations of the technology. With consumers already engaged with chat and messaging tools the logical step is for them to communicate in this manner to brands. Whether it is to find out information, complain, or purchase something, chat bots present a unique opportunity that brands cannot afford to ignore

To read more on our series on chat bots click here.

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