All aboard the chatbot! Well actually wait and take a step back. Where are you really aiming to reach? Let’s dwell on that before we jump aboard, mainly because in today’s economy all the promises of lower cost, consistent performance, slashed training fees, multi-lingual capabilities, seamless lead nurturing, Artificial Intelligence, effective customer conversation, etc. are really attractive! As that should be. And yes an artificial intelligence chatbot will help you get all of the above and probably a lot more.
So what is the problem? There isn’t a problem if in the world of very lonely and time-starved consumers a bot represents the friendly assistant who can help you find the answers they are looking for. People have no time, and little patience; this is why voice search is growing at breakneck speed, and social platforms are striving to cut the clutter.
The Bots are here to stay even if they haven’t taken over marketing, yet. The Battle of the Bots is not Front line marketing humans VS the Bots. The war is between badly made Bots vs the Bots which are trained to do the job you want them to do. The Bad bots are winning.
Bots (the good ones) provide us with the opportunity to create relevant conversations with consumers at scale. This is great news for marketers because when a person pressed for time has a problem, they want to follow the path of least resistance to get a solution. Heaps of emails, long wait times, and 1000 word blogs do not cut it. A Bot can talk to them in a messaging platform they already use to provide the required solution.
All good marketers know they must meet their consumers where they are. Consumers are on messaging apps (WhatsApp, Slack, Messenger), and there is no need to download new apps. Bots can be present within these platforms to ensure seamless solutions in quick time. Bots are simple and complex at the same time, at the very least, a bot should provide an answer to a specific query. Like I want to know my flight time, and I should be able to enter my PNR on my airline bot which can provide me with the flight status, delays gate number etc. Bots can also be evolved and here is where more in-depth consumer insight and a human touch is needed. We need not just to know what queries the consumer is likely to make but also the flow of conversation in a more meaningful way. This makes a bot useful for the brand and the consumer. It is even more likely to result in a happy customer. Happy customers are far more likely to buy more and recommend the brand to friends.
This means we need to understand the customer and human behaviour, conversational flow is where all the magic happens, and unfortunately, it is also where bad bots are born. Bad bots are energy suckers riddled with inconsequential answers, incomplete information, confusing information flow and most cases a flawed understanding of natural language processing. It makes the entire experience feel like interacting with an idiotic robot. It’s the exact opposite of what a bot is supposed to do – make the internet human. The error is grave, but the prevention is simple. Bots are the business of professionals, a professional marketer, a professional development partner and a professional communication agency with experience in training a bot. Where we go wrong is when there is not enough emphasis on language flow and communication, followed by the hurry to launch without extensive experience testing. A Bad bot fails at communication. In Marketing that is hara-kiri. In our Mar-tech world it’s called burning a good thing to the ground so no one else can use it, a miffed consumer will shy away from bots, and bad bots are fast ensuring an exodus of miffed consumers.
A Bot is expected to help reduce time spent on a task with preferably a better solution that one which previously existed. What it must not do is regurgitate out non-customized information even if from an owned source. Bots are a good tool to help marketing achieve its goals, all the great things promised with lowered costs, standardization, improved customer intelligence, multilingual communication, reduced training costs, 24X7 support and a lot more is what good bots do. A Bot is not a necessity, yet. If it cannot be done right due to lack of time or resources, let it wait till the resources are in place.
The article was originally published in Adgully on January 30, 2020.
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Ambika Sharma - Chief Strategist at Pulp Strategy
Chief strategist @pulpstrategy, entrepreneur, consumer engagement designer, writer, adventure traveller, diver, HOG, SuperBiker and speed buff