Chatbots have been propelled to the forefront through the rise of instant messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp…) and the many improvements in the realm of Artificial Intelligence. Chatbots are now intrinsic to our daily life. Appealing to both brands and consumers, this new gen of virtual assistants has gained momentum since 2016. They stand for the best of what is coming to the world of customer relationship.
If you too wish to get started and bet on this new touchpoint, then this article is made for you as it uncovers the 5 most common traps to avoid and best practices to adopt before jumping into the chatbots adventure.
Chatbot: Definition and background
A contraction of “to chat” and “robot”, a chatbot is a piece of software able to understand messages (oral or written) and to answer these within seconds – thanks to a series of pre-recorded answers. Chatbots are nothing new under the sun, remember Clippy (1997), the paper-clip-shaped personal assistant aimed at guiding you through Microsoft Office? Or more recently TacoBot, the virtual assistant that lets you order your favorite Tex-Mex food from Taco Bell (2016)?
Since then, Bots have kept on evolving and we have witnessed the rise of a new wave of better performing conversational solutions. Thanks to technological improvements, they now can precisely analyse customers’ requests, provide spot-on answers and do more complex actions (e.g. booking or purchasing). This tool is increasingly sought after by the customer service department of many brands and eCommerce players, which can subsequently cut down their CRM costs through the automation of a few tasks, and provide their audience with a new digital experience.
1. Wanting to do it all:
When getting started in the creation of a chatbot people get ahead of themselves and right away think of creating a multi-task artificial intelligence solution, like Siri or Cortana. Beware! Do not fall into the trap of wanted to do it all. Your chatbot must be simple, quick and easy to use. It aims at making the whole customer-relationship smoother, and day-to-day requests easier: checking train schedules, booking tickets, delivery tracking…
To reach this first goal, we advise you to focus first on one main task, i.e. defining what the main use of your bot is. The second one is to provide an efficient and effective experience. You got to meet some of your clients’ most pressing needs. Avoid starting a bot just as a marketing fad that does not meet any real needs! It should be the best answer possible to a precise problem that needs to be dealt with on the spot.
From the design phase, set a clear goal it must reach (e.g. the above CNN bot keeps you up-to-date with the latest news).
Do not attempt to solve issues that do not meet this simple set of rules. Keep performance in mind, focus first on its core usage, and try answering the best possible way to what users need, and keep a user-centric focus.
2. A bot without any personality:
Beyond the service they provide, bots are here to bring a whole new kind of customer experience – fun and fast. No one wants to interact and chat with a machine that does not have wit and a good sense of humor! Try to make it more human, friendly and natural so that internet users feel like they are having a conversation with an actual person, like how it would feel with an actual counselor. This will ease the way it connects with its audience and how it is perceived.
Put emphasis on granting it with a comprehensive vocabulary, a wide array of tones and wording… These features are key to the success of your chatbot, and should be designed the same way an ad message would be! Take advantage of this channel to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Transform your bot into a true asset.
It is obvious that the personality of your bot should be in line with your target audience and your brand image. It should also be in line with your social media strategy to create a unified communication front.
3. Not empathizing with the point of view of the user:
Beware! Though it is a deep-rooted trend, not everyone is truly at ease with bots and the way they work! It may well be their first interaction with a robot.
Only 22% of Americans have ever heard of chatbots, per a study by DigitasLBi.
A user will fast feel frustrated if the conversation doesn’t go anywhere or worse if the bot doesn’t bring the expected answer. To deliver a rich and smooth experience to your users, you should design a conversational UX. It is thus essential that you’re the one guiding the conversation, by being the first to introduce yourself – Who is she/he? What can she/he help you do? – then by submitting pre-recorded answers to users under the shape of buttons, menus or sliders.
This system makes reading easier and the exchange smoother, while making sure that the user stays in the scope of the bot. Though the interface of a bot is mostly text-based (messaging apps), you can attach images or other kinds of visuals too – making your message all the more impactful. For instance, if your target audience is the young feel free to play along the lines of the lingo made popular on messaging apps – emoticons or GIFs make your user interface feel more dynamic and fun! Be creative!
4. Not taking the time to test your bot:
Don’t jump in head first! Before going live your bot should be 100% operational. Note that there’s nothing worse than a bot that doesn’t get your requests right. It was created to simplify a set process and bring some extra perks to your offer, not the other way around. What your future virtual assistant should not do is to generate frustration or even worse block the user, simply because of a procedure not conceived properly.
Do not fall in this last trap, it is essential to systematically test the actual experience. Before launching your chatbot, please always assure that it works properly by launching live beta tests with a small group of users. These can be co-workers or actual users. This step is key to :
- Validate the main mission,
- Check functionalities, how coherent answers are, and the proper activation of the various scenarios possible,
- Detect dropout factors,
- Fix potential settings errors.
Do not forget to validate these steps before launching your bot, as a poorly-performing bot will be counterproductive and will harm your brand!
5. Not putting humans first:
Like any new data-driven tool, bots require the full-scale engagement of your team. Indeed, even if these can learn on their own thanks to their artificial intelligence (also called machine learning), people should stay at the heart of the process. Chatbots are to date still semi-autonomous – they obey to rules and follow pre-set scenarios as set by people inside your company. They have their own limits and can sometimes reach a dead-end. Remember to let an “exit door” when bots fail to answer requests and refer users to a qualified person. Bots and humans should remain complementary!
80% of brands are expected to use chatbots by the end of 2020, according to a study by Oracle.Beyond the initial buzz, chatbots are a deep-rooted trend to watch over the coming years. Though much improvement is required for chatbots to gain much-needed accuracy and become full-blown marketing channels, it is obvious that their performance will skyrocket soon.
Remember to follow our tips when designing a bot to ensure optimal success and to boost your customer relationship!