Let’s chat about chatbots.
We like Siri, Alexa has taken over our homes and workspaces, and there’s no way you don’t secretly want Furbo, the dog camera that allows you to keep an eye on your pet and feed it treats while at work.
Today our phones rarely leave our grasp and messaging apps are part of daily communications. As such, chatbots are naturally being integrated into apps like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Whatsapp, and retailers are experimenting with bots to enhance their customer service and grow sales. The advantages of incorporation are notable: you can reach more customers, enhance the customer experience, and lower your operational costs.
But let’s get practical.
Before leaping off the deep end into the pool of conversational commerce, ask yourself two key questions: 1) will this enhance the user experience, and 2) does it fit with your brand? Going back to the idea of innovation, if implementing chatbots is just going to add friction into the customer journey instead of removing it, then maybe –regardless of how exciting they may seem– these bots aren’t for your brand. Likewise, if you have built a brand identity around luxurious, personalised service, then perhaps an automated chatbot is not the way to go.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering using chatbots is planning how easy it will be to turn the conversation over to a human if a) if the consumer wants to, or b) if the situation escalates.
Even if a user has a wonderful experience with a bot and all their queries are answered, they should still know that it’s a bot they are communicating with. Proponents of this technology are excited about how much more ‘intelligent’ bots are becoming, and proclaim they will eventually become so human-like that the user cannot tell the difference. But empathy cannot be simulated, and users need to be informed. Furthermore, some people just want to speak to another human. Think about all the times you have tried to contact a company, and were forced to go through all the steps and jump through hoops when all you wanted was to speak to a real person who could understand and empathise with your issue.
Similarly, it is crucial that the conversation be quickly and efficiently passed over to a human contact if the situation escalates. No one likes a frustrated customer, and lasting damage can be done if they decide to take their aggravations to social media.
To bot or not to bot?
Essentially, it all boils down to the target audience and user experience. If you are considering using bots to help get necessary customer information, reach a certain demographic, or relay basic information, then a branded chatbot like Sephora did with Kik may be just the ticket. However, if your customer interactions are often nuanced or their use doesn’t fit with your brand, then you may want to take a pause before jumping in.