Ryan Gialames, director of product design at Robots & Pencils, joined a COSE WebEd Series webinar and provided a thorough discussion of chatbots, including a step-by-step process for getting your business started using this newer tool.
What is it and why should you use it?
So what is a chatbot? A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, primarily over the internet. Chatbots are often powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because of the popularity of messaging platforms, like Facebook Messenger, chatbots are becoming even more effective and accessible. Adoption of chatbots is rising and, according to Gialames, billions is predicted in annual saving thanks to the creation of chatbots.
The average employee spends 1.8 hours per day searching for information. Bots can help solve that problem by making the information more readily available for your employees.
Examples of bots
Gialames gave several examples of industries that are using bots. While most industries are implementing bots within the area of customer support, many are thinking outside the box and using bots in more creative ways.
Bot example no. 1: Retail. A bot can be used in the retail industry to provide a consumer with a virtual stylist, which is something the company Levi’s has implemented recently. This is a great way for a user to find out about products and for companies to find out about their customers. The carousel feature with revolving images makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and have it all at their fingertips.
Bot example no. 2: Travel. R&P Airlines is using chatbots to help their consumers easily find flights and book on the spot. Hotels are using bots to help fill guests’ needs, such as asking housekeeping for extra towels or the concierge for advice.
Bot example no. 3: Banking. Varo is a non-brick-and-mortar bank that targets millennials by featuring bots that live inside their app. These bots help consumers manage spending habits and set goals, and provide the opportunity for the company to help engineer its customers’ behaviors.
Bot example no. 4: Education. Schools can use bots to welcome each and every student, and can feature animated gifs or videos to engage students. Bots can be implemented to reach out to students and nudge them along in the necessary processes, navigate financial aid and more.
Bot example no. 5: Customer service. According to Gialames, 67% of consumers worldwide have used a bot for support. The options in this capacity are endless and can range from answering quick questions to more complex information sharing and troubleshooting. Instead of having customer service agents constantly answer the same question over and over again, bots can be used to make time with customers more valuable and pass off questions to the appropriate support person when necessary.
Gialames presented the following 10 principles of chatbots that should be present in order to make your bot appear friendlier and personable, and less, well, robotic. According to Gialames, a personal chatbot should always be:
Polite – if it doesn’t know the answer, the bot should be apologetic and should never make the consumer feel dumb;
Intuitive – conversations shouldn’t feel confusing and messaging should always be structured;
Empowering – give the user the ability to communicate preferences and choices whenever possible.
Flatter the user by saying things like “that’s a great choice,” etc;
On my team – chatbot should convey how they are in alliance with the consumer’s goals;
Reflective – the chatbot should reflect on the consumer’s current state, emphasizing how their feelings are understood and matched;
Cultivating curiosity – the bot should be interested in the consumer, and should have a way of bribing the consumer to move forward in the process or with the company;
Humorous – chatbots should be playful and pleasant, conveying a personal voice. If the bot has to place the consumer “on hold” while searching for information, program the bot to make a joke while waiting;
Actionable – a chatbot should make it obvious what job it’s designed to handle; and
Trustworthy – when the chatbot reliably delivers what a consumer wants, not only does the consumer’s trust in the chatbot grow but in the company itself.
So, what’s the best way to go about getting started in implementing chatbots? Gialames suggests starting off with an experiment. Limit the scope of your experiment so that it’s not overwhelming, but make sure that it’s still meaningful. If you do want to dive right in and create an actual bot with real outcomes, start off by using just a couple of features relative to your consumers before moving forward with an implementation of a more extensive bot.
He suggests implementing the following chatbot rollout schedule.
Rollout phase 1: Launch and learn. In this stage a company should define use cases and campaigns, as well as design and create the context and tone of the bot. Where you would normally think about what your company looks like (logos, colors, etc), in this case you’ll be considering what your company sounds like. What kind of voice will your bot give to your company?
Rollout phase 2: Add scale. Here is where a company should conduct an analysis of opportunities based on the initial release of the bot and modify conversations based on these learnings. You can then incorporate additional data and content based on user feedback and new content sources.
Rollout phase 3: Extend. So you have your base chatbot, now it’s time to extend the functionality to additional platforms. Here you’ll design and build additional interactions and content based on available platform capabilities, and most likely integrate other systems.
While early chatbot experiences didn’t necessarily match up to the hype—most likely due to a poor understanding of their capabilities and improper usage—the slope is rising. Better use is evolving and industries are harnessing the power of chatbots. Tools are getting better and finding their way into the right hands with companies coming up with creative ways to use them. If you believe the return on investment for a chatbot could be in your favor, become an early adopter and begin incorporating bots into your experiences today.
The full recap of this webinar can be viewed below. Also, be sure to head over to COSE’s Events Page to discover other upcoming events that can help your business grow.