If you grew up watching Star Trek, you know about the Enterprise's computer. With the simplest voice command: “Computer”, anyone on the ship could ask a question and get an immediate reply. The answer didn’t come in the form of a computer printout or on a screen. Communication happened vocally.
Sounds familiar, right?
The Star Trek computer interface is an early version of what we now have coined "the chatbot". Although chatbots have been in development for decades, they have now reached the point where businesses and web services can put them into widespread use, far beyond the use of the Enterprise's Computer. Essentially, they are the newest advancement in Marketing Automation, allowing marketers to offload a variety of tasks, reminders, and commands. There is a rush to create the best chatbot platform, one contender being Oracle’s Intelligent Bots Service.
While Chatbots are being used across a large variety of fields and industries, I'm excited to share how they are and can be utilized by marketers. Here are 5 uses of the Chatbot, that go beyond what Gene Roddenberry suggested in Star Trek.
As many marketers are balancing a very active schedule — sometimes an impossible schedule — chatbots have become a well-needed relief! Gone are the days of manually creating calendar events and hopefully remembering to add in notifications. A chatbot will schedule all meetings for you and some will even compare your coworkers' calendars to find an available time slot for everyone. If you're bogged down at work and can not monitor your stocks, chatbots make it a lot easier to track your finances, make trades, and customize notifications about stock updates.
To name a few more uses that will free up your schedule, you can offload booking travel, restaurant reservations, and weather updates to your chatbot. What a huge weight off of your shoulders!
Monitoring customers' behavior is not a new idea for marketers. But, having a chatbot do it for you definitely is! By storing information gathered in conversations and breaking the information down into user-friendly data, marketers have a new best friend. By remembering this information, a chatbot is more equipped for future interactions with the customer. Just like an acquaintance recalls an important development in your life and follows up with you, a chatbot can “remember” past customer activity and act on it.
Sephora has utilized their chatbot, Kik, to convince site visitors to take a quiz. By asking, "Do you want to take short quiz so we can get to know you?" Kik is able to collect responses, store them, and personalize all future interactions.
If you adopt a chatbot, gone are the days of spending minutes before a customer interaction in your CRM, trying to find out how best to use the notes that you recorded; your chatbot will handle these for you.
Businesses across all industries most often use chatbots to perform low-level customer service queries and tasks, like answering specific questions about a business or scheduling appointments. How does this help marketers? It automates and streamlines various touch-points with each customer.
Take this example of a chatbot for a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta. They've built Ashley, a chatbot, to automate customer interactions in a timely manner. When you access their homepage, the chatbot pops up in a familiar chat window, introduces herself, and asks for a query. The primary business purpose of the bot is to schedule consultations, but it can also answer questions about the firm and their practice areas. Try it out to see for yourself!
According to Business Insider, chatbots are helping companies respond to customers faster and engage with them on a deeper level than typical social media interactions. Companies are also reporting higher satisfaction levels with interactions and even positive ROI from their chatbot investments.
Although the simplest capability of a chatbot is to respond, today, there are chatbots that go beyond the minimal expectation and actually learn. Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri, and Alexa are the most well-known examples.
These cutting-edge chatbots are complex. While all chatbots use natural language processing to transform sentences into computer commands, select chatbots use machine learning to build a unique dataset about their users over time. They also use advanced AI techniques like predictive intelligence to try to guess what their users want, much like a personal servant who tries to anticipate needs. This technology is still in its first phases, but the public seems to love it, despite the rough edges.
In the midst of rising customer expectations, it is critical to have fast response times. If your engagement has been taking a plunge, it might be due to your slow replies and customers' increasing expectations of service. Employing a chatbot will help.
Some people only associate chatbots to the small window that pops up on a new page asking if you have a question. That's one capability, but more advanced chatbots will use voice, acronyms, and emoticons to communicate. Manufacturers have been making leaps and bounds in advancing the chatbot to relate on a deeper level with customers. As predicted, the chatbot is not able to replace the human. A person is able to understand context, employ logical reasoning, and understand the customer's intent nonetheless there are many manufacturers who are working toward these advancements for chatbots as well.
One thing is certain. Chatbots aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Adoption of chatbots has been rapid and there hasn’t been too much pushback from people demanding to speak with a human. Indeed, Millennials are quite used to talking with everyone through chat interfaces. Before too long, more updates and innovations will prove the chatbot to be revolutionary and not so far from the Enterprise's AI imagined in Star Trek. For now, it's a wonderful thing to reminisce and see how the chatbot was predicted by Gene Roddenberry.
For a more comprehensive look at the history of marketing automation, take a look at Busting Common Myths of Marketing Automation: The Reality of the Marketing Technology Journey
Featured image source: pixabay