Kati Manninen, March 14, 2019
You’ve probably heard that chatbots are the future of marketing. Thanks to its nearly limitless scalability, an automated chat interface can be a powerful addition to your marketing and customer service toolboxes. The bots offer a 24/7 opportunity to help customers with their most common questions, which can be invaluable in a world where you have to engage whenever and however the customer prefers.
In order to use chatbots effectively, however, it’s necessary to understand where they fit in the overall marketing puzzle. Like every communication technology, they offer new marketing opportunities. But chatbots can’t be used in isolation; they must be part of your overall communication stack.
Though there are exceptions, chatbots are usually at their most useful in the middle of the customer journey. The typical scenario involves bringing customers to the chatbot from earlier channels of engagement such as an ad or website. From there, the conversation can continue over email, via phone or with a face-to-face meeting.
Here, it’s important to remember your overriding goal: getting customers engaged and keeping them engaged. When customers are engaged and in communication with your company, they usually become more interested and, ultimately, more loyal. They’re less likely to disappear from your brand.
Maintaining that vital customer engagement when advancing from one communication channel to the next can be a challenge, especially when using chatbots. The conversation must always remain relevant to what the customer is looking for. Imagine you’re on the web researching prices for flights to Amsterdam and a bot pops up offering you package holidays in Tenerife. Would you even respond?
This is where context comes into play. Every piece of information you have about the customer — who they are, what they’ve researched and bought in the past, what they’ve been asking about today — helps keep the conversation on point.
In other cases, even the most basic information about a customer, gleaned from ads they’ve clicked or web pages they’re viewing, can help focus the chatbot conversation. Another option for learning about the customer is the direct approach: just ask. The chatbot can start with a few questions, keeping the customer engaged and steering the conversation in the desired direction.
There’s enormous interest in chatbots at the moment, which is no surprise given the quick payback and high ROI they can deliver. But as is often the case with new technologies, some companies are rushing in blindly, implementing on a wide scale without taking a hard look at what they want to achieve. We’ve seen examples of managers approaching the chatbot question from a purely technical perspective, resulting in an unnecessarily massive project with no end in sight and no value for the customer. Luckily, those instances have so far been limited in number.
We recommend you start simple. Have a narrow target for what you want to accomplish. Once you’ve been successful, you can move ahead step by step, gradually broadening the chatbot to cover other use cases. Of course, it’s also vital to have a technology and change partner who understands your business case or who works along side you helping you define it. Then, you’re best positioned to end up with a tool that meets your high expectations.
If you would like to learn more about chatbots, and how they can boost your 24/7 customer engagement, get in touch with us. It’s our pleasure to discuss the topic human to human.