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11 July 2016

Should marketers embrace the chatterbot revolution (Part 2)?

Some days ago, we looked at what a chatbot was all about, and how they will change the way customers interact with companies. Let’s deepen our understanding of the subject and address two other questions. What is the added value they create for marketers and will they ever replace a human being?

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What is the added value they bring for marketers and their companies and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Your CFO should also be happy, because chatbots will allow efficiency gains via a standardized way of connecting and automating tasks currently done by humans such as call center operators, personal assistants or service staff. Some bot builders believe it will be far cheaper for businesses to create bots than mobile apps.

If you are interested in developing a chatbot for your company, there are a few important elements to take into account in selecting the right providers. Chatbots exhibit behavior that is partially a function of the intentions that a programmer builds into them, and partially a function of algorithms and machine learning abilities that respond to a plenitude of inputs. Thinking about bots as semi-automated actors makes them a challenge in terms of design. It also makes them unusual in an ethical sense.

The generational differences in messaging app behavior must also be taken into account. The bots will need to adapt the tone and content of a discussion to with the target audience: generation X, Y, Z or a baby boomer.

You should also not forget the risks of disappointment and responsibility that must be considered when discussing both the construction and functionality of chatbots. You should be prepared to deal with the fallout when your chatbot does something that you yourself would not choose to say to your clients or prospects. Ensure that you have clearly laid out the responsibilities with your developers. Who will be responsible for the output and the actions if your chatterbot is offensive to some of your prospects and clients and you lose them or… if they sue you? There is a long way to go towards building trust in these intelligent machines.

Thousands of chatbots are emerging and are still at the experimentation phase, with different levels of customer experience that could have negative effects on usage. This is why Facebook is considering different ways to protect users from bot spam. Your provider should follow and thoroughly understand these methods.

Despite the early challenges and the potential pitfalls, chatterbots will allow richer customer experiences, and marketers should be ready for them. Those marketers who have thoroughly understood the impact of chatterbots on their brands and their businesses will have a competitive advantage.

 

Can they ever replace a human being (or: how far away are we from these bots being able to replace a human being)?

Well, that is a tough question with a kind of “it depends” answer. In the short term, we believe that humans will always be necessary to program and manage chatterbots that interact with customers. In the long term, according to the singularity theory from Ray Kurzweil, machines will surpass humans and eventually be able to program other machines. But human intelligence and intervention could still be necessary to escalate problems a customer might encounter with a chatterbot interaction.

In more complex transactions and negotiations, humans will remain necessary, as they have a better comprehension of the other party’s feelings and the appropriate response to give to it, to ultimately create win-win deals.

But in less complex transactions and interactions, chatterbots will be increasingly used, and who knows, one day they may completely replace humans within customer care centers, fast food chains or hotel receptions.

After all, for the moment, the interactions people have with the services of brands or companies are not really human. Going through websites, forms and FAQ pages is anything but human and personal. Introducing a more personalized dialogue, even with a chatterbot, will be an improvement on what companies offer at the moment.

The only unknown factor that remains is what the customer thinks about it. Is he willing to interact with a non-human employee from a brand or company he usually enjoys interacting with? Only the future will tell and it’s worth a try; after all, if a chatterbot doesn’t live up to customer expectations, it can always be replaced by a human available to help. It will be a trial and error process, as the one-size-fits-all option is not the right option in a more and more interconnected and highly personalized world.

To further fuel your thoughts on the subject of chatterbots, and to see some real life examples, take a look at the useful resources we’ve provided.

 

Examples of bots assisting you in your professional life

  • Will bots replace LinkedIn?
    Discover Esther Crawford, product marketer, her personal resume by chatting with her bot - EstherBot -http://www.estherbot.com/
  • X
    Meet Amy, your personal assistant, who plans meetings for you when it suits you most. A personal assistant bot www.X.ai
  • Troops
    Discover Troops, a bot for sales teams that integrates with Salesforce https://troops.ai/
  • Twyla
    Twyla is a customer care and support chatbot in beta mode – see http://www.twylahelps.com/
     

Some useful links for creating your own chatterbot 

  

Authors:

Thierry Hubert (Freelance Marketing Consultant from The House of Marketing)

Kenneth De Maeyer (Senior Marketing Consultant from The House of Marketing)

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