Are you hot for chatbots? They're certainly heating up the conversation among customer engagement executives these days. Chatbots have been around since 1994 and have matured to the point that they (maybe) can be used effectively for real business applications. And now thanks to Facebook announcements and a demo of chatbots the topic is top of mind. So how do chatbots impact your digital engagement strategy?
What's a chatbot and why should I care?
A chatterbot (AKA a talkbot, chatbot, Bot, chatterbox, Artificial Conversational Entity) is software which conducts an “intelligent” conversation with you using text or speech. Chatbots can, for example, provide intelligent answers to free form questions instead of your having to look up the FAQs on your own.
Chatbots may also perform tasks on your behalf. For example, 1-800-FLOWERS has a new Facebook chatbot that can order flowers for you. Bots are used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer assistance during a buying process or customer service.
Kind of like an IVR…maybe. Or an "IVR with better buzzwords."
We are in the early stages of the chatbot market with lots of experiments going on. We’ve been working with chatbots for the past couple years and we can tell you that some things will work and others won't. But either way, you'll want to pay attention to this technology as it evolves.
Ask these 7 questions to get a better handle on how chatbots could impact you digital engagement strategy:
1. What problem do they solve?
Chatbots can provide an intelligent conversational agent for a customer to “talk” with. The Chatbot can provide a dynamic and flexible behavior that helps the customer get a job done and to reduce the friction and struggle. But are chatbots going to create a meaningful connection or just provide a scalable interaction (back the IVR comparison)? What experience are you trying to create?
2. Chatbots and the Digital Context
The digital context describes the consumer journey is now fractured into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Consumer behaviors in this digital context necessitate an engagement strategy that gives the consumer what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. This is the future that we see unfolding.
In the digital context consumers expect to reduce the gap between thinking and doing. Consumers are essentially skipping their to-do lists, jumping directly from thinking about a task to simply doing it.
We believe chatbots have the potential to fit well into the digital context framework. Chatbots can function to provide deep context, quick resolution of struggle and need (reducing the gap from thinking to doing), and support the way consumers like to interact, namely through messaging and getting things done by themselves (self-service).
3. What happens when the chatbot breaks?
There are two important functional areas to consider for chatbots:
The Chatbot must be able to process the chat input—the customer’s question, info, instruction, request etc. How does it make out the often messy text message? This is not an easy task.
The Chatbot also must be able to map that customer input into a solution set and provide the right response.
So, how likely is it that the users can ask something that breaks it? How badly? How narrow is the domain of questions that they might ask, and how can you define the users' expectations such that they understand the domain? Perhaps more importantly, can you get people to accept the domain?
All of this means that for now, it seems that a bot or conversational UI might work best for something very specific - where the user knows what they can ask, and where those are the only things that they will ask. (From Benedict Evans’ must-read blog post)
Chatbot is a very complex and computationally intensive technology. We need to understand the best use cases for this technology and its limitations.
4. What’s your digital strategy?
To reach and engage a mobile customer you can use a native mobile app, mobile web, hybrid approaches, SMS and now chatbots. How will chatbots fit into my overall mobile-digital-CX strategy? Can I use chatbots to eliminate the app download problem?
5. Where will the Chabot live?
Chatbots need a channel to call home. A Chatbot can live and work in SMS, Facebook Messenger, My:Time, Slack, Kik, inside a native mobile app, on the mobile web, Twitter, and more. You will need to choose which channel your Chatbot will use to interact with your customer. There are pros and cons to each. For example, some chat solutions are closed, cannot support data payloads, and will not support a chatbot.
6. Complexity of the solution
Chabots today are pretty simple. To gain true utility and business benefit, you will likely need to deal with complexities inherent in solutions for contact centers. For example,
- Can you gain real utility without a ton of customer development?
- Once built, how complex is the Chatbot solution admin tool?
- Will I need a data scientist to tune the chatbot?
7. What is your agent engagement model?
Chatbots and mobile will likely change your agent engagement model strategy. When and how do agents engage in the digital context when chatbots are present? When do you use self-service and when to use live agent support? How do you deal with failures on the automation system? Does the customer have seamless access to an agent, or is it necessary to hop into another channel?
Chatbots are an exciting new technology with potential to add real value on both sides of the customer interaction. Experiment, test, and consider how it will impact your engagement strategy. And while you’re doing that, think about you will engage your customer in the digital context.
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