Chatbots are transforming the customer experience and quickly moving into new sectors, like real estate and healthcare, but before marketers can expect conversation mimicking software and artificial intelligence to replace live customer service representatives and salespeople, they’ll need to find ways to overcome some of the obstacles preventing widespread consumer adoption.
Although nearly 60% of millennials say they’ve used chatbots, nearly a quarter (21%) say they’ve had negative experiences with the technology, according to a recent survey by Retale.
“Chatbots are still incredibly nascent, and with that, there are still some technological limitations that inhibit true understanding of consumer questions and demands by bots,” says Retale CTO Dan Cripe.
To better understand what enterprise brands should be doing to make their chatbots more attractive, and functional, we asked executives at top technology firms. Here’s what they said.
1. Choose tasks best suited for bots. “First and foremost, chatbots should solve a business problem. People want to book a flight, return an item, play a song. No one says, ‘I am going to book a flight using a bot.’ Chatbots that can get a task done with less resistance than traditional ways will have much higher engagement. Certain tasks are best suited for chatbots; for instance, it is easier to chat with Siri while driving, when the user’s hands are busy.” (Dickey Singh, Pyze)
2. Use machine learning to interpret nonverbal signals. “When we interact with others in the physical world, we are continuously processing wordless signals such as facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body language, eye contact, and physical distance. If we do not have a way to interpret these nonverbal signals, it is impossible to understand the true meaning of an interaction. With machine learning, it is possible to develop models that can interpret and classify the mindset of each customer coming to the site. Leveraging data gathered in real-time, per shopper session, such algorithms could integrate actions, attributes, and contexts to generate a real-time classification of an individual visitor’s intent. Then, based on such knowledge, brands can automatically adapt their offerings. And here’s where chatbots come into the picture. Because if we can quantify mindset and respond to it with page personalization or offer customization—we can teach chatbots to do the same.” (Liraz Margalit, Clicktale)
3. Find out what consumers want, and go there. “There are clear areas that customers enjoy using chatbots for, including finding out more about deals, similar products and more. Brands need to continue to focus in on these success areas in order to meet customer expectations, while also ideating about ways to revolutionize the customer-chatbot experience. This can mean anything from investing in AI to making conversations more fluid to introducing burgeoning technologies such as voice assistants to ease user-experience.” (Dan Cripe, Retale)
4. Focus on the mobile experience. “Remember to be mobile-first and apply chatbots for consumers using mobile devices. With chatbots being a new technology, use a communications medium that is already familiar with consumers and preferably, loved. By using a mobile messaging channel that is engrained in consumers’ daily lives, such as SMS, adoption will be virtually seamless. We’re already seeing successful implementations of chatbots using SMS in many scenarios today like hotel concierge services.” (Tim Fujita-Yuhas, OpenMarket)
5. Give chatbots a clear focus. “Many chatbots are designed as know-it-all with no clear focus, and users become frustrated when dealing with such chatbots. Chatbots that have trouble connecting derived context from current and previous conversations, search, and purchase history cannot be engaging, personal or helpful.” (Dickey Singh, Pyze)
6. Find ways to improve the accuracy. “Based on our survey results, accuracy was the number one limitation to using bots, so I would say that further investing in AI would be the number one thing [every brand should be doing]. And then secondarily, they can be integrating deals, similar products, etc., since we know consumers want to see more of that.” (Dan Cripe, Retale)
7. Alter chatbot language to reflect the company brand. “The ultimate goal with chatbots for business is for the bot to match a company’s brand. For example, a bank is traditionally more conservative in tone and its bot should reflect this when engaging with consumers about the serious subject of financial transactions. Alternatively, a brand in the restaurant or retail industry has the opportunity to communicate to their customer in a more hip, casual conversational tone for booking a reservation. Altering chatbot language to reflect the company brand allows for the consumer to feel more connected via a personalized experience—a necessary step in creating long-term brand loyalty.” (Tim Fujita-Yuhas, OpenMarket)
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.