Tag: chat bots

06 Apr 2017
holistic digital self-service solution for customer satisfaction

5 Ways to Take Action and Impress Tomorrow’s Consumers, Today

Broadly speaking, we know that people are more heavily reliant on technology than ever before, both in their personal lives and in how they shop. But which technology is relevant and successful, and what is simply window dressing?

A recent study by Apadmi has given retailers and business owners a glimpse into what consumers really want. Take a look at the following five elements of technology which the study revealed your customers consider essential.

Holistic Solution

Computer weekly reports from the results of the study that “almost half of shoppers want retailers to implement technology that will make it easier for them to use their mobile devices in-store.” From click -and -collect to mobile checkout and order ahead, having a solution that works across all devices for both consumers and staff and makes the most of each is essential.

Your intelligent self-service can and should include touch-points for the Web, mobile devices and messaging channels, and include knowledge management for both customers and employees to get answers at a moment’s interaction. Because comprehensive analytics are used, it can be self-learning, including escalation to live agents when the context calls for it, and best-in-class NLI (Natural Language Interactions).

Broad Analytics

“As shoppers continue to embrace mobile e-commerce and retail apps, the in-store experience needs to remain relevant and incorporate the benefits that can be achieved through shopping online,” ascertains the study.
Relevance is something which is coming up time and time again in what customers want to see. It’s no surprise that it was reflected here too. In fact, 75% of customers continue to participate in loyalty programs and affiliate themselves with your brand due to the relevance of offers and rewards. In order to provide relevance, you need to know what your customers want. And the only sure-fire way to get inside the mind of the customer is with analytics.

Analytics can track your self-service adoption to make sure you’re getting the results you need. Additionally, they can measure the quality of responses that your agents and AI are giving as well as building a picture of the visitor intent behind the questions. The business can see at a glance the voice of the customer, putting them in a perfect place to understand and optimize accordingly.

Unique White Box AI Technology

The study also uncovered that “one in five consumers wants retailers to implement technologies that will make their shopping experience more personal.” But personal doesn’t necessarily mean personnel.
The personal touch is much more than simply speaking to a human staff member. In fact, in a world where Gartner are predicting 85% of interaction with an enterprise will be without human contact by 2020,it is not a pre-requisite at all.

AI technology has come so far that when you choose Nanorep you are choosing proprietary technologies which include Contextual Answers™ and Natural Language Understanding. Customers talking to your AI enjoy personalized conversations with all the information about their order history at their fingertips. Accurate answers and in-context guidance give the personal touch with an added side of efficiency and ease.

User control

But the way customers shop has only changed so far. “It is important to consumers that this technology is used alongside a traditional store experience as opposed to replacing it, with many consumers still preferring to check-out with a person.”

For businesses, this can be a complicated balance to find. Deployed successfully, your intelligent self-service should complement your human staff, making their lives easier and allowing them to leave repetitive or low level tasks considered as done.

Nanorep makes this seamless, with a second-to-none guided, visual User Experience. Your customer service or customer experience departments can control, maintain and optimize the solution alone, with all the tools they need to manage their own unique business and staff needs, and no IT support necessary.

Fast Deployment

Apadmi realize they are not asking for any small feat from today’s businesses, but the consequences seem steep if a company chooses to ignore these new realities. “While it will be challenging for retailers to meet the demands of tech-savvy shoppers, it’s important that they get on-board to retain customer loyalty.”

The clock is ticking, and customers aren’t interested in waiting for a complicated system to be put in place. Not when your competitors are already there and waiting.

In order to succeed at intelligent self-service, you need to choose a company with a proven track-record of deploying solutions in weeks rather than months. A solution which minimizes the Professional Services needed, providing immediate results.

70% of customers expect a company website to have an effective self-service solution for their needs. Finding that balance between AI and human staff, creating opportunities for growth with broad analytics, and ensuring a fully holistic solution with fast deployment should be top of your list of requirements when choosing your own.

23 Mar 2017
success factors for bots to add value to customer service

Key Success Factors for Bots that Add Value to your Customer Service

What are the Key Success Factors of a Messaging Bot?

The Age of the Customer is upon us, and with it, the sources of power for businesses have changed. Your own power as a company now comes from engaging with empowered customers, making the key contenders in this decade businesses like Facebook and Apple who have always encompassed the connection to customer experience within their brand. Moving out of the Age of Information, previous leaders such as Amazon and Google are left to diversify and create business transformation to stay relevant and competitive. The advances that we see in technology and the projections for the future are all focused on making a better customer experience, and creating the ideal environment for engagement.

The journey of mobile apps has been quick and impressive, with apps taking mobile from web browsers through to an entirely mobile-native experience. Mobile apps now truly make the most of smartphones capabilities, including elements such as real time notifications, click-to-call functionality or GPS tracking. There’s hardly a situation where a consumer can’t make use of Apple’s well known tagline, “There’s an App for that!”

But across platforms, the app stores are crowded, and each app has varied success with providing a user experience and an interface which makes sense universally and creates satisfied customers. Apps take time and sometimes money to download, they take up valuable space on your mobile phone, and crucially-are often only relevant once a month or even less.

Enter Bots. Messaging Bots are accessed via our favorite messaging platform which we are comfortable chatting on and used to using. They need no additional download, and we don’t need to get used to a new interface to benefit from them. They take up no more room on our devices, and can be interacted with in the same way we might chat with our friends. At first glance, they certainly sound like the perfect solution. But if you’re thinking about integrating them into your customer service strategy in the Age of the Customer, here’s what you need to know:

Simplicity is Key

Using a bot needs to be simpler than any other channels available to satisfy the customer’s need. If you can simply send off a line of text and get the answer you’re looking for about opening hours or product price, that’s efficient and likely to encourage customer engagement. But if your Bot relies on scripted answers and can’t use context to fill in gaps or get the query answered the first time around, your consumers might well wish they had simply picked up the phone.

While intelligent Bots are fantastic for answering short questions (How much is next day shipping?) or ordering a repeat purchase (My usual order of 10 sleeves of Nespresso pods, please), longer text conversations exemplifying more convoluted needs might be better supported by other channels. Consider encouraging your customers to engage via Bot and then complete the more complex elements of their queries or transactions via app, phone, or web browser. This way Bots fit seamlessly into your omni-channel strategy.

The sophistication of Nanorep’s virtual customer assistant enables the bot to have continuous conversations and understand natural language, but even so sometimes the system realizes that the customer is better served by being rerouted to another channel. In these cases, our solution is able to transfer the customer to a human-assisted channel or another touchpoint, even to act as a meta-bot and task other bots with a specific function, like transferring funds or completing a purchase.

While the future will likely see us self-serving completely through full-service Bots with astonishing capabilities, the current landscape requires smart use of a rules engine with which businesses can determine how to route which kinds of queries and customer needs to which channel.

It’s Essential to go Across Messaging Platforms and Connect all Touchpoints

Messaging platforms have now surpassed social media in terms of monthly active usage. The vast majority of smartphone users chat via messaging platforms daily, and most of those use more than one. If Bots are really going to make customers lives easier, the business and developers need to utilize cross-messaging platform tools so that the user can find the answers they need without feeling frustrated or elongating how long the process takes.

A single centralized database means that all interactions can be found quickly and easily, no matter what channel they were initiated on originally. Customers don’t need to try to figure out whether they had a conversation via email, on Facebook or Whatsapp or Slack, or from their mobile, whatever the content they’re remembering, it can be accessed by both customers and staff alike from any channel and across all messaging platforms.

Think about how much extra time is spent managing and maintaining apps for multiple platforms such as iOS and Android. The last thing you need is to be doing the same thing for your Bots across messaging platforms. You need to ensure that all channels can access one centralized database.

Expectations Must be Met

Consider what service you’re trying to provide with your Bot. Is your bot single-action, like a Bot which provides opening hours for a store, or can schedule a meeting? While these are useful, they need to be marketed correctly so that users know what to expect. If a Bot asked “Can I help you with anything?” and its ability is limited to one or two tasks or key pieces of information, the customer is likely to end up disappointed. Consider using language like “Would you like to schedule a meeting?” which manages expectations from the outset. A disappointed customer is not likely to try again.

You need to strike a balance between providing a full-service Bot which meets the customers’ expectations (perhaps from using your app or website in the past) and the time it will take you to market, create and manage your offering. Your Bot can and should represent your business, so take the time to think about what that means. Rather than a Bot that does one thing, for example tells customers their order status, aim to offer a good-sized portion of the ideal, (everything your business does) and plan to implement more in the future.

One good way to manage user expectations is to create ways to measure and track user intent at every stage of their journey with your business. As VentureBeat advise, “This may take more than the simple automated responses that a lower-tech bot can provide and may require a messaging platform that is integrated with customer records and leverages powerful automation, analytics, and integrations.”

Routing You to the Right Channel to meet your Needs Has Inherent Value

Bots continue to solve many of the most frustrating customer problems, such as lengthy wait times, or providing quick answers to simple questions on a familiar and omni-channel platform. But they can’t solve everything, and they aren’t meant to.

While businesses should be making the most of Bots to engage with customers and find success in the Age of the Customer, this also includes knowing when to channel consumers elsewhere. Perhaps you’re being faced with customer frustration or anger, or a complex issue which needs human support or clearance. At first glance it might feel like the Bot has failed. On the contrary. Using Bots here can be another type of win for this kind of digital support. Imagine your Bot seamlessly inviting a human member of staff into the conversation who has all the information on hand to solve the issue, or getting the customer on the phone with the right agent who has the perfect skills for this situation. You’re creating a happy and satisfied customer.

When Intelligently Planned and Executed, Bots are Key to Successful Self-Service

Bots are an exciting new way to engage and chat with your customers and solve many of the problems which apps have fallen prey to in recent years. Knowing what you want to create, managing customer expectations, and ensuring you provide a simple cross-messaging, omni-channel experience are the key elements to consider for success.

22 Dec 2016
conversational chat bot experience

What I learned about Conversational Bots from 1 question by my 13-year-old daughter

(that I did not realize during a 3-month intensive project)

Recently, I have been leading a highly sophisticated Conversational Bot project. This sophisticated bot has very robust speech analytics capabilities, yet remains very simple for the customer to maintain, enhance, and optimize, and provide full visibility for real-time insight into what people are asking.

The bot was nearing the go-live date, and I was so proud of what we achieved, that I decided to show it to my 13-year-old daughter.

I proudly gave her a brief background and gave her my phone with the bot page already opened, and asked her to start a conversation.

Her first question for the bot was “When was Eliad Nahum born?” (because he is her favorite singer).  As this was outside the list of topics for our customer, the bot feedback was  “I apologize, but I did not understand your question, can you try asking me in a different way?”

My daughter immediately lost interest and put the phone away.
Looking for information and not finding it, she did not find the value she was looking for. But had the experience been engaging, the bot might have found a way to draw her in nonetheless.

We obviously planned ahead for situations where those rare situations in which the bot would not understand the intent, and provided a couple opportunities for the user to rephrase. If the user’s intent does not become clear after multiple phrasings, the bot offers the option of escalation.
What I realized is that although we built a “conversational” bot, for my daughter that type of feedback was not really conversational, and was not encouraging her to continue the interaction.

There are some situations where it is important to understand the differences between a human interaction and a digital one:

In that specific situation – the bot would not look in your eyes and wait for an answer, would not get offended if you do not answer or continue the conversation (hint: unless you teach it to…), and would not be mad at you the next time you want to converse with it because you were rude to it the last time… so there was no real incentive in that wording of “I did not understand…” to convince my daughter it was worthwhile to continue the conversation.

In order to keep the conversation flowing, we sometimes need to overcome the gap between a real human conversation and a digital one.
What we could do is create encouragement to keep the conversation going in various other ways.
One example could be –
• First try – “My bad, I did not catch that… but, if you try that again with different wording and I still don’t get it – I will predict your future…”
• Second try – “Well… seems I still have some catchup to do, but as promised – here goes: In the next 30 seconds, you will either put your phone away (I hope not!), or ask me another question in one of the other topic areas that I am so good at (and list what those are)….Please let me make it up to you and save my dignity a bit and choose the second option”
Still not bulletproof, but a little bit more encouraging and engaging, and more likely to keep the conversation flowing than a “did not understand” phrasing.

It took less than a minute with my daughter to remind me about the importance of balance among content, value, and customer experience to ensure that people find the information they are seeking and stick around long enough to use it.

People always try and test bots with questions outside of their designated content areas – and we planned for many of those (example: Question: “what is the weather now?” Bot: “I have no clue, I work under any weather conditions  :)”)

What’s the bottom line?
It’s important to realize that people are engaging with bots not just for the content they are seeking, but also for the experience itself.  So, if the conversation is dull and missing a ‘human-like’ touch or any type of encouragement to keep the conversation going – people may lose interest, and your bot loses friends. Nobody wants a lonely bot.

Understanding the mentality of your audience, you can position your bot better for engagements and continuous conversations.

– The magic sometimes lies in the little things

30 Nov 2016

The Definitive Guide to Chat Bot Strategy

If you’ve spent any time on the web reading the latest insights on customer service and marketing, you’ve likely heard a lot of chatter about chat bots. They’re the latest and greatest thing in the world of marketing and customer support automation, and they’re providing a tremendous opportunity for companies to better engage and support both prospects and customers throughout the buying journey and post-purchase.

If you realize the value chat bots could offer your business but aren’t sure how to go about developing a strategy, this guide is for you. We’ve outlined how to sift through the features and determine the specific functionality you really need, how to analyze costs and returns, determining the best platform for implementation, and more to guide you through the process of refining your bot strategy and executing on it, and ensuring that your initiative is producing results.

Chat Bots

Chat bots, for those of you who have heard the term and have a general idea of what it means but don’t yet have an in-depth understanding, can be described as a mini-app or a program that runs within another messaging system used by a company to interact with customers on the web. Chat bots can be used with large-scale messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or Slack as well as apps (either proprietary or third-party) integrated into a company’s website.

Chat bots, often referred to simply as “bots,” are designed to mimic interaction with an actual human – without, of course, an actual human participating in the interaction from the other side. In other words, a customer or prospect may ask a question about a product via the company’s built-in chat function on its website or through third-party platforms like Facebook and Slack, where consumers are increasingly engaging brands.

Instead of having real, live humans manning the messaging systems to respond to these inquiries, some of this communication can be automated with chat bots – particularly when a chat bot uses advanced functionality such as contextual cues and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to create a more human-like response that’s in line with the customer’s query. More on those features later.

Chat bots, in their most basic form, aren’t really new in terms of technology, but chat bots are suddenly becoming massively popular thanks to massive adoption of messaging services like Facebook Messenger, and brands aren’t wasting the opportunity to get in on the action. In fact, Facebook reports that more than 10,000 developers are already building bots on its platform alone.

Instant messaging services

Screenshot via UptoDown.com

Now that we’ve covered the basics of chat bots, let’s talk about why your company needs a chat bot strategy and how to go about formulating one.

Why You Need a Chat Bot Strategy

Aside from chat bots being all the rage, they’re incredibly useful tools for businesses that need to keep pace with the latest advancements in customer support. Most consumers now expect that companies have a multitude of contact methods, allowing them to engage in any way they choose, ranging from Facebook to Twitter, email, telephone, self-help knowledge bases, and instant messaging or chat.

With Facebook Messenger reaching 800 million users in January 2016, growing to one billion monthly active users as of July 2016, the opportunity is ripe for brands to tap into the massive reach of Messenger and other growing platforms like Slack to cultivate customer relationships. Engaging these millions of users requires more than a standard information blast; today’s consumers demand personalized attention.


Image via Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg)

Even back in 2012, it was clear that personalization was a worthy investment: MarketingSherpa reports that Edmunds.com achieved an 18 percent lift in conversions by providing personalized, targeted marketing, and Data Mentors reports that 40 percent of shoppers in one survey say they spend more with retailers who personalize their experience across channels. This benefit isn’t news, but achieving real personalization across increasingly diverse platforms is no simple feat without automation.

Of course, the manpower required to effectively manage and maintain these various communication systems is substantial, and it often doesn’t make sense for companies to invest the overhead required for such an all-encompassing initiative. What’s more, failing to get it right has detrimental effects on the customer experience. Sprinklr points out several compelling statistics that illustrate just how damaging ineffective customer support processes are:

  • 74% of consumers are frustrated when they have to contact companies multiple times for the same reason.
  • 66% are frustrated by having to repeat the same information to several employees or through multiple channels.
  • 64% are annoyed by employees or self-help services that fail to answer their questions.

From the evolution that created the demand for cross-channel communications – the rise of digital media and mobile tech, such as social media and messaging services – emerges the technology that enables businesses to meet those demands with the same (or better) efficiency they require to keep up with the many customer touch points that exist today.

But beyond streamlining customer service functions, chat bots can also boost sales, enabling customers to place orders via messaging systems much in the same way they’d tell an employee in a brick-and-mortar location what they’re looking for. So, not only do chat bots facilitate customer service, but they also create revenue opportunities.

In fact, there are dozens of potential use cases for chat bots limited only by a company’s ability to innovate – but with myriad possibilities, it’s easy to get lost in the trees and fail to fine-tune your mission. The result can be a messy outcome with bots that your customers find more cumbersome – or even annoying – than useful. And that’s precisely why you need a clearly defined chat bot strategy that determines exactly what features and functionality your bots require to meet your specified business objectives.

Key Considerations in Developing Your Chat Bot Strategy: What Functionality Do You Need?

The functionality you need from your chat bot largely hinges on the type of business you operate, or in some cases, the specific department the bot will serve. A retailer, for example, will likely benefit substantially from a bot designed to help customers purchase products, while a software company may benefit from a bot facilitating customer support services. Depending on your goals, you might want a chat bot capable of:

  • Scheduling appointments or meetings
  • Placing orders and recommending products
  • Responding to customer inquiries about orders or shipments
  • Responding to frequently asked questions
  • Providing information and updates about service outages
  • Issuing notifications on news, weather alerts, company news, or other important information

Businesses developing a chat bot strategy should ask several key questions including:

  • Are you aiming to facilitate in-house communication or customer-facing interactions?
  • How will a chat bot impact the customer interaction?
  • How will it influence the overall customer experience?
  • What functions will it serve?
  • What existing processes can be replaced or streamlined (without negative impact on customer interactions or experience)?
  • What existing processes can be replaced?
  • What resources will a chat bot require? Where will it get information? What other services and data does it need to interact with in order to ensure seamless access to the up-to-date information for users?

The answers to these questions will help you determine what functionality your chat bot requires to meet business goals. For instance, if your chat bot strategy involves a bot answering customer questions, it will require access to information databases such as your existing knowledge base, help center, or FAQ.

Examining Usability and Customer-Facing vs. In-House Objectives

Depending on whether your chat bot is in-house – serving your team – or customer-facing, you might also want it to have functionality such as the ability to retrieve content and media from the internet. HelloSign’s Nicholas Whittier explains, “If you’re going to have a chat bot around, your co-workers should probably be able to use it to retrieve memes, gifs, images, or whatever from the internet. It’s only fair, and it often sparks interesting discussion.” He suggests having your team communicate only in images for a day – which, while it may be a light-hearted approach, has merit in illustrating the many ways chat bots can transform communication between co-workers as well as between brands and consumers.

Additionally, a bot can perform valuable tasks that streamline processes for your team, such as administrative tasks (scheduling meetings, ordering lunch) or even initiating its own updates. Whittier’s rule of thumb is: “Anything that happens 3 or more times fits my requirements for a thing the chat bot should do (scheduling these as a priority is more complicated, of course).”

As Martin Bryant points out in an article for The Next Web, the key factor in the usefulness of any chat bot is usability. He writes about TARA, a chat bot designed to walk users through the process of finding a qualified contractor for freelance work and connects them with an actual freelancer at the end of the discussion. “That’s the type of case where chat bots and conversational UIs can really shine – when they make life easier for a user by making something easier and more human,” Bryant says. “Otherwise they’re just a chore to use. In most cases you’ll be able to get just as much done, and quicker, by tapping a few buttons on your phone.” So, before you delve too deep into your strategy, you must first pinpoint a use case that will realistically benefit your customers or users but also makes sense for your business objectives.

chat bot

A chat bot doesn’t have to run entirely on artificial intelligence, either. A creation from the team behind the the Y-Combinator alumni Gradberry, TARA consists of approximately 55 percent automation and 45 percent actual human assistance, the company’s Co-founder and CEO, Iba Masood tells Bryant. Thus, some level of human engagement is an important consideration when developing a chat bot strategy and, sometimes, a critical factor in the utility of a bot. While today’s consumers demand instantaneous attention, adequate resolutions to their issues, and thorough responses to questions, they may also balk at being tended to by a non-human. In some cases, a bit of human touch makes all the difference.

With wide-open opportunities to innovate with chat bots, it’s critical for any company to carefully evaluate potential use cases and determine precisely where chat bots fit into the business and where they hold the most promise for streamlining processes.

Evaluating Costs and Returns

Chat bots vary widely in terms of costs, depending on the platform you use to build your bot, the amount of ongoing support you may need, and the number of messenger services where the bot is deployed. Pricing may also be based on the number of interactions. Chat bot technology has been around for decades, though the early iterations were quite robotic and lacked the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities brands take advantage of today.

Still, because the core technology is well-established, it’s already possible for individuals to create their own personal chat bots serving as everything from a personal assistant to a financial data analyst/advisor like Digit, or even a friendly companion, starting at around $25 monthly. These bots, of course, are far more basic than the advanced, intelligent bots required to power customer support chat for a large enterprise.

Like any business investment, weighing the costs against the benefits and possible returns will drive the smartest decision-making. In the recruitment field, for example, bots have been used for over a decade, offering customized responses to inquiries based on context. While a chat bot capable of providing contextual responses in multiple languages, 24/7, communicating with applicants on any device, recruitment firms realize a number of valuable benefits in return. Most importantly, chat bots reduce the need to have recruiting agents man the messaging system 24/7 – plus they often provide faster and more accurate responses, reducing the time it takes for applicants to make decisions.

Costs are also dependent on the number of features bundled in the overall package, which may include:

  • Hosting
  • Conversation logs – complete history of actual conversations
  • Customizable appearance/avatars – customizing the look and feel of the chat interface itself as well as the avatar or bot identity
  • Detailed reports and analytics – insights on outcomes from conversations, conversions, and other data
  • Multiple platform availability – ability to run chat bots on Facebook messenger, Slack, your website, and other platforms
  • Knowledge Management System (KMS) – enabling team members to manage bots
  • Missing knowledge reports or feedback – letting you know when your bot is unable to answer questions or provide accurate responses due to lack of accessible knowledge
  • Database access – ability to instantly access and retrieve real-time data on shipping, product availability, and other evolving knowledge
  • Other custom requirements

It’s not the development of the bot itself that dictates the true cost – the basic code and user interface for a basic bot is readily available. It’s the other specifications that increase the cost of implementation and ongoing management. It’s also these factors, though, that give your bot real usefulness like conducting transactions, carrying out actions, and streamlining workflows.

In the simplest terms, think of advanced bots as capable in some way of conducting two-way interactions rather than a one-way information feed. This is the functionality that will offer a real return on investment. To project potential ROI, tie your business objectives to the necessary functionality to estimate the cost of implementation and ongoing management. Tie those same business objectives to the benefits or KPIs you’re aiming for, such as a reduction in customer support staff or increased sales. Many businesses find that by narrowing chat bot functionality to their true business requirements, it’s possible to realize substantial ROI from chat bot implementation.

How to Choose a Chat Bot Platform: Evaluating Tools, Messaging Services, and Other Bot Essentials

Like cost, the right chat bot platform hinges on your business requirements. You’ll need a platform capable of delivering on your needs and able scale with your business as well. There are multiple platforms for developers to build their own bots, like Wit.ai, Motion.ai, or Chatfuel, as well as platforms offering chat bot integration as a component of self-service software or customer support solutions. A few other tools for building chat bots include:

Some bot-building tools are designed to create platform-specific bots. Facebook Messenger Platform, obviously, is meant to aid developers in creating bots for Facebook Messenger, which many companies are already utilizing. Others are aimed at building bots for Slack or other services like Telegram. Developers who want to take the from-scratch approach can turn to open-source resources like Pandorabot’s Rosie, an Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) framework. Some companies will have more confidence in a bot developed in-house, while others will turn to established platforms for ease of implementation.

If you require a bot to run solely on Facebook Messenger, for instance, one platform may meet your needs today – but what happens when your customers want to interact with your business on Slack? While it’s fine to work with a platform that doesn’t yet have all the capabilities you might require in the future, you should examine the platform’s history, growth patterns, and pace of adoption in terms of keeping up with the latest and emerging trends in the space. Your choice of messaging platform can make all the difference in reach and engagement, which are key to producing ROI.

Security, of course, is always a top concern for companies implementing new technology, particularly when that technology is meant to function on third-party platforms where you don’t always have the same level of control over your data. But chat bots pose a unique challenge when it comes to security, as evidenced by the now-infamous Microsoft chat bot snafu. While that particular incident was influenced by a third-party outsider, the fear exists that bots could eventually become so intelligent that they could go rogue – even deactivating their own kill switches (cue creepy futuristic robot film). This is a potential concern Google is tackling, with research in the works to develop a panic button that capable of killing a rogue AI agent.

While it’s pretty unlikely that your chat bot will literally develop a mind of its own and go rogue on you today, it’s a viable concern for the future and one that should make any business carefully evaluate potential platform partners. Choose a platform that’s up-to-speed on security issues and has systems and procedures in place to mitigate any potential risks.

When you carefully devise a chat bot strategy based on a thorough evaluation of your business requirements and map those needs to chat bot functionality and the right KPIs that indicate whether your bot is streamlining the proper target processes, you can reap the benefits of ROI driven by innovation while meeting your customers where they want to engage with you: in the messaging services they’re using every day.

Can’t get enough bots? Check out these other valuable resources for more insights on AI, conversational agents, and chat bots:

16 Nov 2016
Customer Service Bots- 6 Months Later

Customer Service Bots- 6 Months Later

Facebook made big news around six months ago with the release of their chat-bot feature and their agreement to let companies and brands build their own within the platform. Living inside their Messenger platform, M (Facebook Messenger’s virtual assistant) was billed as the next generation of how people connect and interact with the internet. Over 18,000 companies have created their own branded chat bots with the help of Facebook’s platform in the last six months and according to estimates, there are over 10,000 more currently in development. Brands as diverse as American Express to 1800-Flowers to Domino’s Pizza have all deployed their own bots, showing just how versatile bots can be when done right.

Chat bots fit in perfectly with today’s “on demand” consumer. Also called “support bots” when used in customer service, they offer instant answers and intuitive connectivity. Bots help customers move seamlessly from point A on their journey to point B, while providing easy ways to escalate to humans if need be and the best among them remember and “understand” interactions, to create a truly customized experience. Another major perk; they allow brands to field many more requests for information than they ever could via traditional means of customer service.

But more than a few of the early players in the bot space wound up failing, casualties of too little planning and too much excitement. The weather-bot Hello Poncho, for example, provided users with incoherent and incomplete answers. Others were slow to respond and didn’t interact in the casual conversational manner in which they were built to interact. It’s not hard to see why experiences such as these might dissuade users from embracing the bot-olution.

But when done right, customer service bots have the ability to become an integrated key player in your customer experience strategy. Let’s look at the characteristics that make a great bot so when you do decide to join the bot revolution, you’ll know exactly how to start.

Tips to Creating Service Bots Your Customers Will Love:

Determine if you really do need a service bot:

It’s time to take a long, hard look at your business model and processes, and see if it would better served with a bot than it’s being served now by your app. In some cases, like when it comes to ordering pizza, building a bot will create a more streamlined and more intuitive customer experience, one in which the user doesn’t need to leave the platform he or she is already in. No logging in and no learning the interface equals much less friction for the end user.

But as Sar Haribhakti points out in Venturebeat “From a customer’s perspective, it only makes sense to adopt a new solution if it is significantly better than the alternatives — it’s not enough that it’s a trendy thing to do.’’ In other words, if you have an app that works well and is loved by your users, to pull any traction, your bot will have to be a whole lot better than that app. The take home here? If you’re going to build a bot, make sure there is a need for it, and make sure it’s going to be a lot better than your app already is.

Involve humans in the process:

Bots have a lot to learn from their human counterparts — and the cool part is that as continuously-learning AI, they really do learn, thanks to some really amazing computer magic called deep learning. The more service bots “learn”, the more they are able to provide quality experiences. Here are some things that upon deployment, bots need a human role model for:

Accuracy – Bots will ace most of the questions customers are looking for answers to most of the time. But there is still room for error. Humans need to be readily-available as backups whenever feasible to keep frustration levels hovering around zero.

Understanding user language – Bots were built to work with natural language processing, but that doesn’t mean that they will grasp the meaning of all the nuanced things customers might say. Think about how immensely deep a chat bots’ knowledge must be in order to perceive the meaning behind “Hey weatherbot, would I be better off with a coat or a jacket today?” But as we mentioned above, because they are built with the capability for deep learning, by watching their human counterparts, they begin to understand the way we people-folk talk.

Create with customer experience in mind:

When it comes to building your bot, follow the “design thinking” rule – that is to create the bot with the design, and ergo, your users in mind. From the first moment your brand begins to contemplate deploying a bot, you’ll need to consider every possible interaction your customers might have with it and make sure your bot has a learned answer for each scenario. Yes, it’s true that it would be completely impossible to account for each and every scenario, but do your best to look at your bot from the user’s point of view to cover as much ground as you can.

And while you’re at it, why not infuse your support bot with some brand personality to tie the experience in with your greater customer experience strategy? For example, if your business centers around selling fresh roasted gourmet coffee beans, adding a bit of a “hipster” flair to your bots’ answers essentially ties it in as another branded touch point, enhancing your customer’s experience. Whatever your vertical, determine your voice and brand your bot to your voice.

Here are some extras, to make sure your support bot becomes a valued element in your customer experience strategy:

Embrace simplicity when it comes to customer service bots -

Follow the famed KISS (keep it simple, stupid) rule of thumb. Don’t try to get your bot to do too much at first; if it’s overwhelming, your users will drop it like a two week old burrito that’s been left out on a hot day. Try to use simple, concise language and stay far, far away from jargon wherever possible. Strip away any and all extras to deliver a straightforward experience.

Iterate, iterate, iterate! -

Nothing in life, especially not bots, should ever stop evolving or become too complacent with status quo. Make sure to keep testing and retesting your ideas. Don’t be afraid to tweak a good thing in search of a great thing!

Bringing it all together

Your goal for building your customer service bot should be all about solving users’ problems in a straightforward and engaging way. If your bot can do this, it will be well on its way to becoming a valued key player in your customer experience strategy.