One nice thing about living in 2017 is that a lot of the science-fiction we grew up with was proven off the mark. We have smart phones and nice, not killer, robots. Actually, killer robots are where most sci-fi has been proven wrong. There’s been no Hal from 2001 deciding to jettison people into space. Animatronic Itchies and Scratchies haven’t run wild in theme parks. And, most happily, there was no Stuxnet that went aware in 1997 and started the apocalypse. So that’s pretty nice.
But just because we don’t have evil robots doesn’t mean there are no robots, period. In truth, robots, aided by machine learning, are becoming an increasingly important part of all our lives. This is especially true in marketing. The use of chatbots for sales, marketing, and customer service are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and can be a key part of your digital customer care.
Chatbots, using machine learning, are beginning to enter their prime. They are perfectly matched for how we interact with our technology, and can provide the customized and personalized services that consumers increasingly expect. In doing so, they can help to generate customer loyalty.
Bots can both gather and give information, help customers make decisions, and guide them along the buyer’s journey. They can also help with basic customer service issues. All of these things can help the people in your organization by freeing them up to do the tougher tasks, solve the harder problems, and make the final sales.
And all this without being evil! As a matter of fact, with being good. It’s really the best of both worlds, and it’s an aspect of digital customer care that businesses need to embrace.
Messenger and The Interactive Experience
Late last year marked a dramatic, and largely unremarked-upon, shift in how people communicate. The use of messaging apps, like in Facebook, surpassed the use of social networks for communication. The top 4 messaging apps have had a “hockey stick” growth curve since 2013, and now have over 3 billion users (as opposed to merely around 2.5 billion for the top four social network apps).
Image from Business Insider
It’s easy to see why they have gotten so popular: as technology has improved, they can be used to send videos, GIFs, addresses, invites, and more. It isn’t just about asking where someone is or if you can borrow a drill; messaging apps have become their own communication ecosystem.
Odds are, even if you didn’t know they surpassed social networks, you noticed that messenger applications were beginning to be pushed more. I know that Facebook started insistently asking me if I wanted Messenger to be my default chat on my phone.
That was more than jumping on a trend. Facebook was among the first to really recognize the monetary potential in this, which is why, at f8 last year, Mark Zuckerberg introduced a chatbot service for their business Messenger application, allowing it’s 50 million users a chance to automatically talk to and service customers. It is a chance automate interactivity in the most dominant form of online and mobile communication.
But what, exactly, is it? And how can it be used?
Understanding AI and Chatbots
The chatbots he was referring are artificial intelligence communication programs designed to recognize questions and interact with users. In short, they are designed to mimic a customer service representative and help users achieve their primary purpose, whether that is buying some tacos or troubleshooting a software problem.
They accomplish this by being programmed to recognize questions and concerns and to guide a person through an issue. They have sophisticated language skills. Or, as Mat Schlicht, founder of Chatbots Magazine, said:
“A chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).”
“Powered by rules” is the key here, and not just because the rules are what prevents them from turning evil. The rules are the code that guide every interaction. You know your business the best. You know what your customers are looking for. You can create an experience that matches their needs.
Chatbots are also designed to incorporate learning, so that they recognize language better, and can use prior experiences to best serve a customer. It’s sort of like how a toddler recognizes language. The first time you tell a kid that their behavior is reprehensible, they won’t understand, the little dummies. But soon, not only will they recognize it, they’ll be able to start using it. That’s the sort of learning a smart enough algorithm can employ.
Chatbots can be used for sales, marketing, and customer service. Let’s look at a few examples.
Chatbots for helping with sales
There are several different styles to chatbots used for sales. Some guide people through a basic sales on retail items process much like a person at a store would. “What would you like, and would you like fries with that?” They can then place the order, whether for food or groceries or clothes.
Some use a “phone tree” system, figuring out what the user wants by narrowing it down. Spring, a clothing line, uses this option on Facebook, asking users is they looking for Men’s or Women’s, then Shoes, Clothing, Accessories, and moving down until they find a belt, or whatever.
It’s funny, because people tend not to like phone trees on the actual phone (“Press 1 for savings accounts, Press 2 for mortgages, Press 3 for questions about parking”). The options seem jumbled, and if you have to speak you are often misunderstood. But these avoid that problem by having clear options and the ability to type exactly what you need.
It’s not just the sale, it is the marketing as well. Inbound marketing is about delivering information, and that’s what chatbots can excel at.
Right now, most of what information looks like is Amazon Echo, where you can ask Alexa what the weather is like (“Nice”), how traffic is (“Good”) or if the Bears won (“No”). But businesses can use this as well to guide buyers through the sales and marketing funnel. Imagine if someone goes to your Messenger and asks about the best ways to use 3D software. Your chatbots can direct them to a whitepaper or e-book, or your blog. Send them the link. That moves them toward your inbound marketing plan, while providing a useful service. It recognizes needs.
Chatbots for Customer Service
It’s not just for sales and marketing, of course. When customers have a problem with your product or service, they’d probably rather not call. That’s just human nature. They’d rather figure out a fix themselves. So they go on your website looking for info, or they google the questions. But what if they went to your website and opened up a chat box and just asked? Or did so on Facebook?
The bot could answer the question, or send them the right information immediately. It would be responsive and automatic, understanding their issue and working nearly at the speed of light to match the question with the closest match to the answer. It can be an extremely quick process.
Of course, that might not help with difficult, multi-part questions. And that’s where your people come in.
How Chatbots Help Your People Perform
There’s a saying you hear from every President: “easy decisions don’t make it to my desk.” No President decides if a certain federal highway should be repaved, but they might have to make a decision about allocating infrastructure funds. That’s what chatbots can do: they can handle the paving questions, leaving the big issues to your highly-trained staff.
That’s just the half of it. What makes chatbots incredibly helpful to your people is that they can gather information at every stage of the way, so that when a customer does interact with one of your salespeople or a CSR, that employee already has the relevant information. They already know the customer’s needs and pain points.
They can provide immediate, personalized service without frustrating the customers with redundant questions that they’ve already answered. There doesn’t need to be double questions, re-explaining, or starting over. Customers hate that. And a bad experience can create a customer who doesn’t want to come back (over 90% of the time!).
That’s the goal of bots, though: to seem like people. They are a point of entry, and if handled well, can make customers believe they have been talking to one person the whole time. Chatbots can smooth the process, make sales smoother, handle the easy problems quickly, and make it easier for your people to handle the hard ones.
Despite what the movies say, there aren’t any conflicts between robots and humans. They work together to provide the best possible customer service at all stages of the buyer’s journey.
At RDI-Connect, we combine technological solutions, extensive training, and the best people to make sure every prospect and customer is treated to the most meaningful experience across all channels so that your business attracts sales and retains positive promoters. For more information, please download our white paper Digital Customer Care in 2017: Many Channels, One Focus. Connect with us today to learn more about the services we can provide your business.
RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.