This blog explores if brands are ready for bots from two perspectives:
- Looking at the various ways bots will be changing how brands interact and communicate with their customers.
- Identifying how brands could play an active role in this new instant-request and instant-delivery landscape.
We know that both brands and bots like to talk to their users! With the rise of social media and instant messaging, brands became so much more accessible, closer to their audiences and ready for interaction. At first, this was primarily driven by the fear of not having a presence where their people were conversing. Later on, this presence empowered brands to gain access to their customers interests and data through advanced analytics, and as a result, to have better conversations with their audiences. Those brands that succeeded to deliver engaging conversations and personalised experiences have now a clear competitive advantage. However, brands still have a big challenge – to grow their client base, while providing efficient communication and customer engagement. This challenge could also be a great opportunity for bots-minded companies. If intelligent enough, bots could play a key role, not just in customer service, but also in driving brand awareness, advocacy and advertising.
There are many dynamic elements that will impact the way companies put bots to work, and this will mostly be driven by their in-house strategy. A few potential challenges that brands might encounter when crafting this strategy are highlighted below:
- Long term strategy and ownership
It’s still early stages to know if brands will be using bots as a channel (similar to email, social, video) or as an ecosystem (similar to mobile). Either way, it’s a big risk investing into a bot without a long-term strategy. The question is who should own this responsibility and who would be best placed to make decisions on it’s use cases and future improvements, is it Marketing (brand, content, design teams) or customer service or IT teams?
- Automating communication, humanising the bot
Communicating the brand identity within each (automated) customer interaction might be a big challenge for the content and brand teams: deciding on using a specific tone of voice, copy-writing and visuals to ensure the alignment between brand’s identity and bot’s personality.
- Bots and emotions
As humans, we make buying decisions based on our needs, but more often based on our emotions. Naturally, we look for help and ask for guidance from trustworthy sources. Building trust and incorporating the trust signals into the bot experience might be another challenge brands could have. Is trust build only using thought leadership, rich and in depth conversations? A good alternative would be to provide value, real value, repeating the experience many, many times. This might be the strategy for building trustworthy relationships with bots. By delivering a great experience and providing value with each interaction, customers might feel at ease and happy to trial the new platform (or robot) instead of demanding the human interaction. In this context the strategy needs to make it clear, is the intention to position the bot as a humanised storyteller/ good listener or rather as an AA (action agent) focused on executing and delivering value with every single interaction?
- Bots and analytics
It’s important that the new bot becomes an integrated part of the martech architecture or the company’s technology stack, being able to allow data transfer and flow between systems. Another challenge companies would have is collecting the relevant user data through bots and converting this big data into knowledge and actionable insights. This knowledge will help to refine the type of data collected, understand the common user paths/journeys, increase bot’s intelligence, and ultimately deliver even more personalised user experiences.
I think that bots and brands relationships is going to be a game changer for customer communication and interaction. Brands should not make the mistake of using bots just as another channel to spam users about their offerings, but rather focus on building an intelligent machine that can ultimately deliver genuine, valuable, fast and personalised interactions in real time, to thousands of people at the same time. I believe there won’t be long until bots will be used not just as data collectors, but as super agents, intelligent enough, so that in addition to capturing the implicit, explicit data, they could also get a good understanding of their users emotions and sentiments!