should we get a chatbot?

Should you invest in a Messenger chatbot?

In Social Media, Technology by Emm McAndrewLeave a Comment

what are chatbots and do I need one?
Well, that’s simple, can the business afford one? There are so many benefits to implementing a chatbot that, unless your line of business offers absolutely no information to its customer base at all, there’s no reason not to develop one.

Is this just a fad?

Chatbot technology has been around far longer than some articles give it credit for: IKEA has been using its scripted customer service AI assistant, Ask Anna, across the company websites for almost 12 years. Crikey, I was even programming my own web chatbot before that, in 2002. It goes without saying that national security agencies and governments will have been using such AI for a lot longer and to a much deeper degree.

Ask Anna wasn’t too well received at initial launch, with feedback indicating she was ‘retarded’ (another, unfortunate, sign of the times). Despite suffering from the same problems chatbots today do such as not knowing the answer to badly phrased or bespoke questions, I think the reason she got such bad press was because the world just wasn’t ready for her. IKEA has always embraced innovative technology and just when Messenger chatbot implementation was about to explode onto the scene, Ask Anna was retired. How’s that for leading the way?

Furthermore, people are increasingly using messaging platforms to contact brands and businesses over traditional methods such as email and telephone. This is consistent with the shift towards an omniscient customer experience we’ve been seeing over the last two years (the experience being uniform across all used channels, both online and offline). In plain English, it’s coming and you need to be playing in that space if you want to keep up.

What could we use it for?

The obvious initial use for a chatbot is to automate customer service conversations, but chatbots can instantly deliver personalised content so why not think bigger? Build a bot to take online bookings, support PR campaigns, to encourage awareness and conversion at product launch, for general brand-building, you can even use a chatbot to collected user-generated content.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Automates frequently asked customer questions – providing 24/7 support with an immediate turnaround
  • Can handle the entire customer journey from awareness to conversion – customers can browse, order, and pay from the platform
  • Great for delivering creative campaigns – see here and here
  • There’s still room to be innovative

Cons

  • Initial expense – although I can put you in touch with a dev company who have created a FAQs bot for as little as £2k
  • Planning time – you will need a lot of in-house or agency resource in order to plan the script/customer journey possibilities
  • Ongoing support – you can’t just build a chatbot and leave it. It will need regular updates as you tweak the scripted responses, based on the data output

Anything else you can tell me?

If you’re going to go down the route of emulating a human, be sure to allow lots of resource for the development of user personas and the chatbot personality script – according to IKEA, 50% of the questions posed to Ask Anna were sex-related and many others were an attack on her IQ level.

If you want to discuss ideas or develop a chatbot to meet a specific objective, drop me a line.

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