It’s a fact: Technology is always evolving, whether it’s the shift from desktop to mobile, the increasing use of APIs, or service-oriented architectures (SOAs) built entirely in the cloud. So, what’s one of the next big shifts?
Popping up more and more is the use of chatbots to streamline how we communicate with customers—a trend that’s directly correlated with the rise in messaging platforms, and an answer to an increase in consumer “app fatigue.” Bots have been around the web for years, doing things like automating tasks and reporting sensor data, but this is a new variety—one that’s riding the wave of messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Slack.
Bottom line: Businesses have to be where customers are, and that’s less inside mobile apps, and more so in messaging platforms. These savvy customers expect a seamless, real-time, customized way to get answers to their questions or find products they’re looking for, and bots that are integrated into messaging platforms provide an easy, cost-effective way to do this.
So what are bots, what’s the technology behind them, and is a bot right for your business? Let’s take a look at the evolving world of bots and see if you should consider developing one.
BOTS ARE HERE —AND HERE TO STAY
Bots are software and scripts that are designed to automate certain tasks, make searches faster and easier, and, to communicate with humans. This last part—talking to customers—is the job of “chatbots,” bots that are designed to carry out specific tasks then return the data, all while essentially “acting” like a human.
Bots all over the web perform myriad functions—from data scraping and web scraping, to scheduling meetings or acting like e-commerce concierges. Facebook has brought business bots into its Messenger platform; Slack has in-line bots for all kinds of tasks; a CNN bot will summarize stories for you; Operator will search products based on price, color, style, and more; and Twitter has enabled deep links that let companies redirect customers to Direct Messages for private conversations. Kik, a messenger service, is also open to bots.
Fighting app fatigue
With people downloading fewer apps, savvy companies are moving their marketing and services where their customers are via integrations with messaging platforms.
It may seem counterintuitive at first. Many companies spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to their apps, but with bots, companies can fairly easily leverage someone else’s app. Facebook Messenger has significantly more users than an airline’s mobile app or an e-commerce app, for instance. So, it makes sense for many companies to capitalize on a platform with a huge audience already. For an airline, their app may be used so infrequently that using Messenger as a way for customers to check into flights could be a winning strategy.
Around-the-clock customer service with bots
When it comes to customer service, having a chat bot (or combination of a bot and human customer service agent) handle messaging with customers is not only convenient and effective, it’s often much less expensive than a call center interaction. And bots are also very patient—they can wait if a customer leaves a conversation for an hour, a day, or a week.
Chat bots are automated programs that interact with customers over messaging platforms to answer questions, provide suggestions, and more. More and more companies are investing in bot strategies as a way to help them augment customer service, provide better service, and save money in the process. Even fast food chain Taco Bell created a Slack bot with artificial intelligence and natural language processing that can take orders and payments for food.
It’s not actually a bot strategy—it’s a customer engagement strategy
How can having a bot improve your customer’s experience? In an era when anyone can pick up a smartphone and search for what they need, how will a bot provide next-level service for users? By pairing the two best aspects of bots: engagement and automation.
First and foremost, a bot should be part of your overall customer engagement strategy—or maybe even just a part of a single marketing campaign to support that strategy, like a bot that lets customers find the right running shoes for them to coincide with a company’s launch of a new shoe design.
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