We may know that it’s crucial to be customer focussed in today’s world, but have you asked yourself - what’s your customer response time like as a business? Days? Hours? 

In today’s world of instant information, mere seconds can be the difference between someone choosing to go with your brand over a competitor. Not only that, but customers are now looking for functionality as well as form – you could have Ferrari-fast response times but is your information really helping them? 

In this  blog we’re going to look at the emergence of chatbots and the way that they are transforming into a necessity, not a nice-to-have. There’s the good, the bad and the just plain baffling, but hopefully it’ll give you a few thought starters to how you could incorporate a chatbot into your sales and customer service offering.

What's the history of chatbots?[1] 

Infographic-v2 (1)

What are some good and bad examples of chatbots? 

With opening up technology to the public, there were always bound to be examples of the good, the bad and... the Tay Bot (more on that later). 

Lyft

Using the Lyft chatbot through either Facebook Messenger, Slack or Amazon Echo, you can request a driver as well as track their location, and view a picture of the car so you know who you are looking for. Using Slack you only need to use slash commands such as /lyft home.

Sephora

Like a helpful girlfriend out shopping with you, by chatting to Sephora on Kik you can get makeup tutorials, suggestions for top-rated products, product reviews and ratings.

MedWhat 

Is Dr. Google just a bit too slow for you? Do you want to panic over you probably totally normal symptoms faster? Never fear, MedWhat is here! MedWhat draws upon large volumes of medical research to offer accurate responses to user questions, while also ‘learning’ how to interact with humans.

You said what, Tay? Chatbot fails.

Microsoft’s Tay Bot

Less than 24 hours after Microsoft launched Tay, an AI modelled after a teenage girl, and marketed as ‘The AI with zero chill’, they pulled her plug. In that small-time frame, Tay had spiralled into a “Hitler-loving, incest promoting, 'Bush did 9/11'-proclaiming robot”. That’s because Tay was designed to ‘learn’ through conversations, and unfortunately when the internet at large got wind of this, the topics spiralled pretty quickly.

Turing Robot’s Enemy of the State

In 2017, A Chinese software company called Turing Robot released two chatbots for the Chinese messaging service QQ. Similar to Tay, the purpose of the bots was to learn and react to chat from the public. It didn’t take long for the Turing train to run away, though, with one user commenting “Long live the Communist Party!” to which one of the bots, BabyQ replied “Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?”

As you can guess, they were pulled fairly quickly.

Should your business have a chatbot?

While there are obviously some pretty high-profile chatbot fails, we believe the important take away is that a good chatbot is one that provides utility to the customer. Below are some good thought starters when you are considering adopting a chatbot.

Review in light of your buyer personas and journeys

With any marketing activities that you do, the first crucial step is to work out your key buyer personas. If you’re not sure how to get started on this, here’s our free guide. The reason why you need this information is because you want to talk to your customers in a way and a place that suits them. There’s no point installing your chatbot on Facebook if your target market doesn’t use social media and would instead prefer to interact with you elsewhere.

What are some key buyer questions that you could answer?

If you’ve noticed a trend in some of your queries that you receive, or a common problem that customers seem to face, this could be your opportunity to answer those. Whether it’s more information, or the ability to purchase a product in the chatbot, sometimes even the simplest of tasks are the most helpful for your customer.

What’s your tech stack like?

If you’ve done step 1 and 2, and realised that your customer would love to be able to quickly re-buy past purchases, the next step is to look at your internal systems and see what you can realistically offer. In the above example, you would need to link up your CRM to your chatbot, to allow the chatbot to have access to a specific customer’s purchasing history and details. However, if you’re not quite there yet, rather than think of it as a barrier, maybe it’s time to look at developing your systems further. 

What does all of this really mean for you? 

As with all technology, it only works if it’s useful for you and your business. As we’ve seen, AI technology can get out hand, however at it’s worst it is simply not-that-helpful for the customer. Chatbots are on the menu for your digital future. They need to be considered seriously now, as they can be a seamless and real-time way to provide help or information to your customers at crucial points in the relationship or the buying process.

Build your own chatbot Download Guide

[1] https://chatbotsmagazine.com/a-visual-history-of-chatbots-8bf3b31dbfb2