Chatbots — Bringing Customer Interaction Back To Business in 2017

Chatbot investment is set to triple in 2017. Why are businesses looking to chatbots to increase customer interaction by them speaking directly to faceless machines?

Amazon and Google are aggressively seeking new ways to increase customer interaction. With their launches of their connected home devices — Echo and Home — they are demonstrating their belief in the emerging power of voice to order services online, and set personalised alerts based on their users’ previous behaviour.

Thus the rise of the ‘zero user interface’, whereby people reduce their interactions via touch screens is set to redefine how brands communicate with consumers.

But why chatbots? Blame smartphones

Bots have been around for ages but why is it trending now? Well, because the advancement of AI (artificial intelligence) seen on products like Google Assistant and Siri that have gone beyond a trendy eye-catching feature to become a useful product with real impact on the masses. Smartphones and mobile apps are where brands are looking to gain exposure for their services and products. With increased competition to gain your attention, brands are searching for new and innovative ways to catch our eye.

Based on a statistic provided by Statista, we use around 5 apps per day, and one of those apps is a messaging app. For brands, why not provide their services where their audience are the most active? And for us consumers? The easier the brands make it for us to buy, the more likely we are to do it — no need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out!

Businesses looking for increased customer interaction

Tens of thousands of chatbots were born in 2016. They pose as cocktail coaches and help ship gifts. There are airline travel chatbots that will book flights, hungry and hospitable chatbots that will even order you a pizza, vote-garnering political chatbots and even savings chatbots like Plum. Pretty cool, right?

Chatbots are a one-to-one conversation providing research (product recommendations, prices, promotions, availability) and post-purchase customer service (delivery, exchange/return, usage). Because the customer opts in, enabling the business to access a variety of useful data; the bot or the sales associate can provide valuable advice and recommendations and build a personalised and meaningful relationship with the customer.

Increasingly with more businesses looking to place customer experience at the centre of their strategies, combined with the need to remain competitive and differentiate themselves in a saturated market; the time of the chatbots is now.

How will chatbots increase customer interaction?

Chatbots aid brands to become even more closely integrated into the shopper journey especially as consumers become more and more tech savvy.

Typically, people use their mobile devices to research straightforward facts like the number of people who live in London. Yet now, they could ask Siri or Google Now to help them find a specific item from a retail store. Then with just a few clicks they could order the item via Apple Pay — which will already store their shipping preferences — without ever having to visit the website where the item is being sold. You could call it magic. Chatbots, combined with individualised product recommendations by the users customer behaviour, will result in more ‘intelligent engagement’ with shoppers.

But despite the opportunity to use chatbots to conduct personalised interactions with consumers, only 2% of brands have a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. So while the rate of adoption is still slow, more companies are considering the benefits of a chatbot implementation.

Savings chatbots like Plum for example assesses users saving and spending behaviour — regular income, rent, bills and daily spend. This is known as your “unique saver profile”. Because of your specific interactions Plum offers recommendations and savings support based on your behaviour, unique only to you. Very personal indeed!

How does this impact users?

Chatbots provide a unique personalised experience that a brand’s website, retail store or support channels can only dream of. Rather than brands trying to ‘guess’ your behaviour, the chatbot already has this unique information stored — because you have agreed to submit it when using the chatbot. Brands then have the power to offer you a more personalised interaction. Even better, you’re not targeted with products and services that could be irrelevant. We call it win-win.

Chatbots streamline customer interaction because they provide information to you faster and more efficiently than a customer service representative, whether for purchasing items or saving for a rainy day. They are online every hour of the day, increasing cost efficiency and today’s on-demand requirements of you, the busy consumer. Fancy being on hold for 30+ minutes to customer service? Nah, thought not.

So, is your business considering chatbots yet?


David is the CEO of Blu Mint Digital & a Board Member of the British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce; and writes about Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship. This article was originally written for the Blu Mint Digital blog.

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