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.
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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.