Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 | 5 min read
This article originally ran in Entrepreneur Magazine
Chatbots are set to transform marketing, customer care, and commerce, but there is a bump in the road that many are missing.
According to Digitas, 59% of Americans have communicated with chatbots or would be willing to do so. After all, customers can use them to receive quick and personalized assistance right on their mobile devices.
Brands, on the other hand, can use chatbots to automate customer service, be available 24/7, and collect data about their consumers. In fact, chatbots could help reduce business costs by more than $8 billion per year by 2022. That’s why major companies such as NBC, Sephora, and Uber have already built their own bots.
Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, and Twitter DM also contribute to the rise of chatbots and automation. According to eMarketer, more than a quarter of the world will use mobile messaging apps by 2019. And brands continue to launch their own chatbots on these apps.
Despite this excitement, however, chatbots are still failing your customers. Without the proper approach to this new technology, companies will only end up wasting money and frustrating their audiences.
That’s why it’s important for companies to understand the complexities of chatbots, and be prepared for the challenges that they pose.
Here’s what you need to know.
Chatbots aren’t being used to their full potential. Companies are forcing them to perform traditional functions and, as a result, cutting themselves short. For example, they plug simple, automated responses into their messaging services instead of taking the opportunity to reimagine the entire customer experience around this new tool.
As Katie Lamkin wrote for Prophet, “Many companies think they are innovating, when they are simply iterating … Rather than re-imagining the moment and overall experience, initial solutions for chatbots mimic modern-day call centers.”
You wouldn’t use a fork to do the job of knife, right? Then don’t use a chatbot to perform the functions of a call center. Think about it: If you apply an old strategy to a new platform, you still have an old strategy.
The takeaway here is that chatbots are more than just squawk boxes that parlay messages between parties. They’re powerful tools that can deliver personalized experiences to individual consumers on demand. They can be used to follow up with each consumer along their journey, provide optimized services, complete transactions, drive adoption throughout the customer and product lifecycle and facilitate care – but only if companies deploy them strategically.
Two major issues prevent companies from making the most of chatbots: siloed departments and ineffective technology.
Let’s start with the first one. Chatbot interactions don’t exist in a vacuum. A customer might see your email newsletter, for example, then check out your Facebook page, and then open up Facebook Messenger to ask a question to your chatbot. In order to deliver the best experience possible, you need to be able to see every step of that journey. That’s why your departments – from social media and customer service to sales and IT – need to work together to develop a unified view of the customer.
The solution is to adopt the right technology for the job. Specifically, marketers need to connect their bots to a system of intelligence that contains data from every customer touchpoint. They need one platform where they can view and collect information from email responses, social channels, customer relationship management software, and sales calls.
For example, when a customer messages a company via Twitter DM, this data can be processed and aligned with the Twitter user’s profile, any previous engagements with any of the company’s brands, and potentially with any CRM entry. Machine learning can then be applied to that data. This helps companies understand exactly what the customer wants, and then route their message to the appropriate customer care agent.
By integrating departments and acquiring the right technology, companies can enable a seamless handoff between bots and customer service representatives – leaving that traditional call center strategy behind.
Chatbots and automation aren’t going anywhere. They offer new and efficient ways for companies to reach individual customers at scale. And with the growth of messaging apps, they fit right into customers’ mobile habits.
Still, hype alone won’t help them succeed. To harness the full potential of these tools, companies must take the right approach. They have to connect their chatbots to an intelligence platform that combines data from every touchpoint. This way, the chatbot can fall right into line with other outreach channels, and customers can enjoy the most intuitive and personalized experiences possible.
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