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2018 Chatbot Adoption Report: Widespread adoption of chatbots to deliver product information, technical documentation, and customer support content

We surveyed content professionals at 300 organizations around the globe to find out if — and how — they plan to use chatbots to deliver product and technical support content to prospects and customers. This is what we learned.

95% of content management professionals surveyed by The Content Wrangler and Precision Content Authoring Solutions say they are planning to adopt chatbots sometime before 2019.

50% of survey respondents said those plans will result in a chatbot launch in the next 6 months, while 32% say they will launch in the next 12 months. 13% said they expect a chatbot to deliver content to their customers by mid-2019.

While respondents claim the companies for which they work will implement chatbots to deliver a wide variety of content, 65% say they will use chatbots to deliver customer support and technical documentation content to those who need it.

Similarly, 30% of respondents say they plan to use chatbots to deliver guided customer journeys designed specifically to help customers navigate a set of content to achieve a goal.

35% of respondents also said they believe their companies will leverage chatbots to deliver both marketing and sales content.

Among those respondents who say their employers do not plan to adopt chatbots, the top reason for this belief — “because chatbots cannot replace human support agents” — appears to indicate that there is widespread misunderstanding of what chatbots can — and should — do, and the value they may provide those who deploy them.

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Photo: Photocreo Bednarek via Adobe Stock

What content professionals think about using chatbots to deliver content

  • Chatbots should be used on a limited basis to deliver “some types of content.” At least, that’s the consensus of 57% of survey respondents. Interestingly, 31% of respondents said they believed that “chatbots should be deployed widely to deliver as many types of content as practical.”

This pragmatic view is supported by anecdotes that indicate some content professionals recognize the value of chatbots as human helpers; assisting knowledge workers, not replacing them.

Chatbot content usefulness

Survey respondents are fairly confident that their chatbot content is well-written and useful to both prospective and existing customers alike.

  • On average, respondents rated the usefulness of their current chatbot content to existing customers — folks looking for answers to questions about products and services they have already purchased — a 6 on a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the highest rating).
  • On a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the highest rating), respondents rated the usefulness of their current chatbot content to prospective customers — folks looking for answers to questions about products and services they are considering for purchase — a 5.
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Photo: Peshkova via Adobe Stock

Who should write chatbot content?

74% of respondents say they believe that technical communication pros should write chatbot content, despite the fact that few technical writers have experience crafting conversational content.

Note: This number may not be representative of all business sectors, given the disproportionate number of technical communicators that responded to the survey.

  • 52% of survey respondents said they believed the customer support team should author chatbot content, while 37% said the marketing department should be in charge.

Feeding chatbots conversational and structured content

73% of those companies that have implemented chatbots say their content is written in a conversational style. 10% said that their content was not written conversationally, but said that it should be, while 16% said they were unsure if their content was designed as a conversation.

43% of respondents say they create structured, semantically rich, format-free, modular intelligent content and deliver it through chatbots.

20% admitted that they have not invested in creating intelligent content to feed their chatbots, but they know that they should.

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Photo: Amazon Echo via Adobe Stock

Technical support is the most common type of chatbot content

Content designed to build understanding and help users perform specific tasks — most often referred to as technical support, user assistance, or customer support — is the most common content provided by chatbots, according to survey respondents.

Chatbots provide a bridge between technical documentation teams and customer support call centers. Respondents often said chatbot content is derived from call center logs in which questions from customers are recorded. 62% of those firms that say they use chatbots to deliver technical support content — in the form of frequently asked questions — collected by customer call center staff.

Big opportunities exist to leverage chatbots as a single point of content delivery for all types of product content, from customer support, technical documentation, e-commerce, marketing, and training content, anecdotal comments from respondents suggest.

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Photo: AlaphaSpirit via Adobe Stock

Success isn’t guaranteed; Creating intelligent conversational content is a big part of getting it right

Chatbots — and their voice-enabled cousins — are conversational interfaces. They require conversational content — information designed to be served up in discreet conversational units, sometimes called question/answer pairs or thread-title/replies.

When thoughtfully implemented, conversational interfaces can answer questions — and respond to commands — from consumers.

In most cases, chatbots interact in a conversational manner with consumers, often playing the role of a digital content tour guide, helping to direct us toward the content we need. Poorly implemented, they frustrate, confuse, and bore consumers.

Done well, conversational content experiences can drive engagement and satisfy prospective (and existing) customers by making it easy for them to discover useful, relevant content using natural language queries, instead of unnatural commands conjured up by software developers.

Done exceedingly well, chatbots can be useful in not only guiding us toward answers we seek, they also can be instructed to do work on our behalf, like the chatbot that can setup a website for you (like this one; in less than 2 minutes. That’s useful.

There are caveats — and dangers — to moving to conversational content, but the benefits are likely to outweigh the drawbacks in the long run.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our content is not ready for conversational prime time. In short, our written words were not designed to be delivered conversationally.

We never envisioned that the information we craft would be delivered in chunks by an automated system or that the content we create to serve existing customers would end up being read aloud to prospective customers by a voice-enabled content delivery device.

Today, our content must be available—and accessible—to a wide variety of devices and distribution channels, each with their own requirements, best practices, and content standards. Creating content that can be easily-, quickly-, and dynamically-adapted to fit the needs of consumers is the goal.

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