Chatbots are sprouting up

Chatbots – Perennials or weeds?

Customer engagement has changed dramatically with modern technology. In our 2016 whitepaper we talked about the adoption of mobile e-commerce, and the changes required for businesses to engage with their customers. Technology has moved on, now companies worldwide are developing chatbots and they are beginning to sprout up across the web at the moment.

The idea of employing technology for customer service is nothing new; many bots aren’t too detracted from IVR technology found in telephony. The supporting technology behind chatbots is what sets them apart. Where a digital receptionist has a defined structure of what it can and can’t understand, can or can’t do for the customer; chatbots can leverage powerful data to push these boundaries. This is where we are seeing some powerful chatbot deployments. On the other hand we also see some instances where bots were deployed purely to make headlines in tech blogs.

As a provider of chatbot solutions, our clients are beginning to deploy this feature as a solution.  Some see it as a silver bullet for support, whilst others want to be disruptive in their markets. Chatbots are clearly a cool and desirable tool, however they also require investment.

I must admit that I have a toolbox in my shed with more than one tool which was bought with good intentions but never used, and I’d be surprised if I’m alone. To benefit from chatbot technology, you first have to identify real uses and benefits.

Chatbots are a cool tool – Does everyone need one though?

Is a chatbot the right tool for you?

When deploying any tool, we must first scope requirement. If the solution doesn’t scratch the itch we will never see a quantifiable benefit. Before we even consider developing a chatbot, we need to understand the need. What is the itch? What is the problem? Is the problem real or perceived?

Once we understand the problem we can begin to think intelligently about the most suitable solution. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and digital solutions are a minefield of solutions, often for problems you never knew you had! This is where the best solution often becomes clouded by over-keen salesmen, adamant that their product will solve all of your pains. As part of my job in success management, I’d be very upset with my sales team if they’d promised the world and I couldn’t deliver. That’s a story for another day though.

A bazooka to kill a fly – When is a chatbot overkill?

A chatbot can by design, handle most types of conversation and you’d be forgiven for thinking that is an adequate use. If the problem is answering repetitive questions, FAQs and self-service can do that. If the problem is within support channels, omni-channel solutions can help there. When is a chatbot the right solution?

The very best chatbot deployments of late have all had one thing in common; they help a customer to achieve a goal. WIRED published an article last month with their take on the best chatbots of 2017. In this article you can see that goal completion is the resounding feature that they share. Our CEO, Mark Kirby spoke at great length about how chatbots were heralded as the doom bringers for customer service advisors here. With the complexities within most businesses, the likelihood of a chatbot undertaking an entire agent skill set are currently slim. That said, chatbots were on few people’s radars this time last year, so who knows what next year will bring?

There are, as I mentioned at the outset, companies deploying bots that lack a requirement – and that devalues a solution of such power. Arguably you’ll always get gimmicky tech. Many companies are beginning to see chatbots as less of a gimmick, and that is encouraging. I hope the development lasts and this doesn’t become an abandoned technology, I’m sure we can all think of examples of technology that had great potential, but was let down by a lack of vision.

The Goldilocks chatbot – When is a chatbot just right?

The answer to the burning question is also a fluid one, it depends entirely on your specific use case. In my opinion, there are only two criteria that need to be met to consider a chatbot as a solution. Firstly, if the chatbot serves a purpose that can’t be effectively filled by another solution. Secondly, if the chatbot solution is more user friendly. Sounds logical, right?

A bit like Colonel Sanders, I’m not about to reveal our secret ingredients. Well, not here anyway. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss your chatbot strategy.

Richard Larby

Richard is an experienced web designer, specialising in usability and customer journey aspects of interface design. Through understanding customer expectations, a finger on the pulse of next generation technology, Richard works to bring about the demise of poor CX.