Nearly six years have passed since Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson portrayed a lonesome and ultimately unrequited romance in the movie “Her.” While we haven’t become a culture of love affairs between humans and operating systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning have forged human-technology relationships that are always evolving.
Which brings me to chatbots, or conversational artificial intelligence, which some businesses use for customer support. Are chatbots a smart tool for streamlining high-volume customer service requests while saving labor costs, or they are overhyped and inauthentic? You decide.
What could chatbots do for you? In addition to customer service support, they can provide insight about your brand that could prove useful for marketing/ad campaigns. And, since AI needn’t sleep, eat or adhere to federal labor regulations, customers can engage with bots after business hours, all-year ‘round. AI also can help with some proactive social media campaigns.
Here are five things to keep in mind to deliver the most value to your organization while keeping the consumer at the forefront.
1. Know your consumer.
Take a thorough look at audience behavior across all channels. If a large portion of your potential customer base browses products on your website without buying, a chatbot could help advance them to complete purchases. On the other hand, if your customers typically message or @ your brand on Instagram or Twitter, chatbots won’t move the needle.
2. Give your chatbot a specific task.
The best bots simplify interactions between people and services. Be sure to set explicit goals for what success will look like, with measurable key performance indicators. Otherwise, you won’t know if your website conversion rates or social media campaigns are better off with a bot.
3. Don’t pose bots as human — consumers will know.
It should be evident when customers interact with the bot that they are not interacting with another person. Some companies choose to give bots quirky names, but industry leaders like Google say that isn’t a best practice. Though machine learning has given bots the capability to interact naturally, customers trust companies that are forthright about them.
4. Only looking to increase your conversion rate? Reconsider.
Increasing sales is a crucial business goal, especially in ecommerce. But chatbots that try to sell a service or product the second visitors arrive on your homepage are annoying and a barrier to purchase. Monitor website analytics against established goals. It could be better to program a bot to introduce itself after two or three page clicks, rather than on the homepage.
5. Know which issues require human judgment.
What if the chatbot can’t respond to a request? It’s critical that consumers can easily be connected to a human customer service representative; be sure to have a protocol in place. Additionally, implement user satisfaction metrics to monitor and adjust bots and inform escalation processes. If customers are unhappy with the interface or how the bot resolves (or fails to resolve) issues, it’s a waste of resources at best and can cost business and customer loyalty at worst. For more guidance around responsible chatbot design and implementation, Microsoft offers helpful guidelines.
Bots can be a valuable addition to marketing programs, but before you scrap a conventional customer service model for the pursuit of AI trendiness and upward metrics, do your research to discern if a chatbot will provide real value.