Although they are trending now, bots have been around for a long time. You’ve probably used one to subscribe to a service via SMS or to connect with a call center using interactive voice system. Bots are used to automate processes, whether the users know that they are interacting with a system or not. It can be a “chatbot”, i.e.a conversational interface, or a simple bot, which connects systems. The interactions with bots are rising fast. Gartner for example predicts that by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse !
So why the hype about bots these days?
- Technology has changed dramatically: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) change the game and create new use cases.
- Adoption by end-users is now made easy thanks to the integration of chatbots into all social network platforms such as Facebook, Skype or Slack.
Here are a few examples of interesting use cases for improved customer experience and sales:
Customer support & virtual assistants:
According to Gartner’s predictions, by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human. Customer support is indeed a great use case for even more automation. Bots reduce the need for human staff and optimize maintenance and infrastructure costs. Most of the times, human support is combined with bots, to cover what bots can’t do – yet.
What is more surprising is that bots can also provide personalized experience : identify users, profile them and learn on each new interaction, optimizing the process and offering updated information in real time.
Powered by IBM Watson, Macy’s On Call is one of the clearest examples in this area, where customers are able to input questions in natural language to locate products, departments, and brands in the stores.
Customer Engagement and Retention:
Bots are also able to proactively send communications to users, without having them to initiate the conversation. This opens up a wide range of new subscription and notification models. Applying AI to push notifications, emailling campaigns, social media creates a new capacity to personalize the message for more relevance and more impact. And when users responses feeds the bot, it gets even more personalized the next time, tailoring the message depending on how users interacted with the content. The next step will be for bots to automate content creation and distribution on the social platforms.
One of the most popular examples was during the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. The New York Times created a bot called Sam (on behalf of Sam Manchester, deputy sports editor) to text readers with the latest personalized updates of the games, including snapshots, gifs, and videos.
Increase and improve sales:
Bots are exceptional sellers, capable of taking into account thousands of contextual variables when proposing products or services to customers: demograhics, purchase history, time of the year and even the wheather ! The real-time processing can be enjoyed both by end-users or by a sales forces, as a recommendation engine. After the purchase, bots act as companions to track orders, claim returns or to report incidents.
WeChat or Facebook have become powerful e-commerce tools for brands : retailers or pure-players can use the integrated chatbot to support their e-shops and even promote and sell products directly through chat conversations (users just have to say “I want it” to buy). Brands can easily use the chatbots by integrating the relevant API from WeChat or Facebook.
Feed your customer knowledge:
Of course, surveys, website analytics, campaign analysis, and datamining of the customer base all provide useful pieces of informations on client profile and behaviour. Bots with Natural Language Processing can collect complementary data through the conversations, by asking questions in a natural, non-invasive way. Combined with the right machine-learning technologies, the collected verbatims can be a useful tool when modeling marketing and sales strategies, focusing on the real customer interests.
With the great use cases and with the numerous Saas tools on the market that simplify bots implementation, it’s no wonder that marketing and sales teams increasingly consider bots as another powerful string to their bow !
And it’s just the beginning…