Chatbots are playing an increasingly important role in marketing and customer engagement, with more and more businesses exploring the use of this technology. Indeed, we are witnessing explosive growth in its popularity, with 80% of companies either already using chatbots or planning to implement their use within the next two years.
It’s no wonder that the chatbot market is seeing such an impressive growth in value (according to some reports, it will grow in value from $703 million to $3,172 million in 2021 – that’s a compound annual growth rate of 35.2% between 2016 and 2021!) because chatbot technology plays an important role for companies seeking to optimise their engagements with millennials, as they place a much greater value on technology in their interactions with brands than their older counterparts.
The benefits of chatbot technology are far reaching. Companies gain a valuable insight into customer behaviour, to enable targeted communications, and customers can benefit from a better level of service – when the technology is used correctly. So, what are some of the key things that businesses need to consider if they want their chatbots to work for them?
To begin with, the positioning is critical. This means that tasks given to a chatbot must have clearly-defined parameters – that is, a set of rules that they can work within – which allow a chatbot to enhance value for the customer as well as for the brand. If rules are too ambiguous or complex, then the chatbot will not be able to respond to customers appropriately, which could frustrate users – and impact negatively on a brand’s reputation.
Transparency is a critical consideration for firms looking to use chatbot technology. Customers absolutely need to know whether they are talking to a bot or a human when they interact with a brand. This was clearly highlighted by research conducted earlier this year, which showed that 77% of British consumers would want to know when they were talking to a human or bot online. As well as understanding when they are talking to a bot, customers also need to see that there is a clear advantage to this choice of communication – from 24/7 access to customer service, to guidance towards the information or products they’re looking for.
It’s essential that companies recognise chatbot technology for what it is – this may seem like an obvious point to make, but it’s a common misconception that “robots are taking over”, so it’s worth emphasising that chatbots are a support to human interaction, not a replacement for it! Onboarding chatbots should never come at the expense of the human touch – this is something that customers value deeply, so should not be sacrificed when adopting chatbots.
Instead, they should be used to help human operatives do their job even more effectively, to further drive satisfaction. However, it is crucial that issues can be escalated faultlessly to human operatives if a chatbot is unable to resolve a customer issue. Before onboarding chatbots, it is therefore important for employees to understand which decisions are delegated to bots, and how this power can be swiftly transferred to a human operative.
The need for seamless handovers from bots to humans is part of a wider consideration that firms need to take into account, specifically, the integration of chatbots into entire customer engagement systems. The whole experience should be smooth, which requires the communication strategy to be designed very carefully. The responses that a chatbot uses when interacting with customers should fit flawlessly into the rest of a company’s communication strategy, in terms of tone and style, for instance.
As well as communicating in a way that is representative of the brand, chatbots need to demonstrate empathy and engage authentically with customers. Interactions should be carried out in the same way that a real human would. The ability of a chatbot to respond authentically is determined to a great extent by the decision strategies it is guided by. These strategies need to be carefully thought out, to make sure that they represent the brand accurately and provide the best customer experience.
Overall, in order to successfully integrate chatbots into a business, companies need to keep in mind that this technology must enhance the customer experience and help to drive a brand’s reputation for excellence. Chatbots must be properly configured to deliver appropriate responses and fit seamlessly into the rest of the company’s systems. In an era where online security and transparency of data use is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s also critical to ensure transparency if customers are ever to put their trust in the hands of chatbots.