Get Started with Chatbots – No Omelet Without Breaking an Egg
Chatbots have had their up and downs this last year, their initial performance caused understandable disappointment compared to the Hype. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on them. In fact you might want to consider the opposite.
Gartner predicts that “By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” while a recent accenture study concludes that “Comfort with computer-generated support is growing, bolstered by lower costs, increased consistency and high reliability. Automated servicing can be the sole source of data for some customers, even when making more complex decisions around products.”
If you’ve yet to engage in a conversation with a companion bot it’s a worthwhile experiment for your free time. If you speak chinese you can try xiaoice, in english you can try mitzuku or cleverbot. Have a chat and see for yourself what it feels like. It will possibly entertain you and it will most likely reveal some surprising qualities in the conversation as chatbots skills are continuously improving.
Chatbots are still limited, that is true, but they already are starting to make a dent in how consumers interact with companies. Business leaders, consumers, and Technologists are learning together what works, what doesn’t and are constantly changing and improving things. Bots are overwhelmingly superior to humans at certain type tasks and combined with their evolving conversational skills they are bound to change the way we interact with the world around us. As rough of a beginning chatbots have had this past year they have the wind of the market at their back and there are a couple very practical reasons for it.
Chatbots show a very significant ROI potential for companies
And in a market that is driven by profit and loss this potential drives investment and commitment by companies to making the solution work. A survey conducted by Personetics this year found that all but 13% of bankers say they plan to do something with chatbots within the next two years. Once companies are committed chatbots are here to stay and massive resources will continue to be put into developing and improving them. When brands take a turn of that sort and invest in a “young” technology they understand it comes with some collateral damage so don’t expect the occasional failure to get in the way.
Chat is fast becoming the preferred communication method for consumers
And if you add to it the fact that chatbots are available to consumers on their schedule, all on the same platforms they frequent anyway, the proposition becomes very attractive to consumers. More and more, consumers are willing to pay the price of learning what chatbots can and cannot do, and endure some communication challenges to get the task done on their own schedule in their preferred interface. Specifically Millennialswho are tech friendly to begin with are quickly learning when and how they can use chatbots for their benefit, they also have the depth of understanding that by engaging with bots they help make them better and that will eventually work for them.
What does all this means practically?
Making a choice about putting a task related to your business in the virtual hands of a chatbot has consequences, somewhat similar to hiring a human (or hundreds of them). At the end of the day the chatbot will represent your company to your customer. If the chatbot fails to leave good impression no one will look to the chatbot designer, they will look at your brand as the one who failed them. On the other hand if put up for the right task bots can be extremely efficient and save time and money for your customers and you.
Chatbots are not currently ready for unstructured conversations, but they are extremely efficient when it comes to structured conversations. By structured conversation we refer to a clear flow of conversation, the simplest example would be taking an online form and giving it to a chatbot. Online forms are often long and scary for consumers, they can look overwhelming, chatbots make those easy. Take this legal bot, for example: donotpay.co.uk, it has been successfully helping consumers make Small Claims court easier than ever before.
Chatbots are also very efficient with researching, scanning and arranging data. Once they can get over the challenge of understanding what to look for and where they will get the task done much faster than by a human. Take a look at another bot designed by a 14 year old https://www.christopherbot.co/ it helps you arrange your homework for you.
These two bots (both designed by entrepreneurs under 20) are examples for effective use of current capabilities by bot technology. They have one more thing in common – both are vertical bots. They don’t try to do everything but rather they focus on doing one thing great. In the short term this is the approach that will produce reliable bots. Horizontal bots which have a great depth of knowledge in everything… are still lagging behind when it comes to reliability. Sometimes they will get the task right, but more often than not the chat will end in disappointment.
All this means that Chatbots are ready to start helping customers in certain areas and tasks, and if deployed properly they can bring value to both consumers and companies.
So what should customer service leaders do about it?
1 Acknowledge there is a very good chance Chatbots is where things are heading and get on board.
2 Research – what are the bot solutions offered to your type business and need.
3 Get specific – identify what specific tasks would make the most sense in your organization. You will not find a chatbot to solve all of your support needs, so start with best balance between simplicity and volume. Find a problem in an area that currently requires a lot of attention but the solution is fairly simple. (Remember: Clear intent, clear structure and available data)
4 Jump in the water. You can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg.