Every day another tech blog writes a piece about chatbots and it seems the hype surrounding them might have reached a proverbial summit. Messaging platforms are rushing to open their API to incorporate bot development and businesses across multiple industries, from corporate banks to hotel booking companies, have built their own AI bots.
The topic has been around for a while and having casually observed its development and adoption from the side-lines, I feel that it this topic is a little different than the usual fad; Chatbots have the potential to remodel the way consumers purchase from, and interact with, brands on a daily basis. If brands are able to harness this potential, it could cause a big shift in consumer behaviour within the digital sphere that brands would be wise to pay attention to.
For years brands have been pushing to drive interaction with their consumers through digital channels, including social media. While we have lost the need for face-to-face interaction, so far the need for human-to-human interaction has been imperative in providing a first-rate consumer experience, but this has slowly begun to change. Brands are beginning to turn to robots and sophisticated technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver the same high levels of customer service within select areas of their businesses.
In today’s society, consumers live fast paced lives and have come to develop a need for near-instant gratification, forcing brands to drive up their level of customer service. If chatbots can help to deliver this for them then we can be sure that consumers will be willing and accepting of the technology within the right industries.
The technology will create three main ways in which consumers will be able to engage with bots; customer service, transactional engagements and content consumption (discovery), with customer service seeing the biggest effect. As it stands, more than one-third of customers prefer using social media than speaking to a telephone adviser, which has sparked a need for brands to deliver 24-7 customer service and respond in under an hour. This is a resource heavy task that could be made much more feasible through enhanced AI chatbots.
While Chatbots aren’t going introduce totally new capabilities, they will be able to provide additional support for customers by receiving information, asking questions and making purchases all within a centralised communication system.
Brands including Dominos, H&M and Taco Bell have already built and launched successful chatbots. Last week Microsoft announced that it has added five new AI bots to Skype, including virtual assistants for Sky Scanner and Hipmunk. For big brands within specific industries, the consumer behaviour shift is already beginning to develop at a rapid rate. In fact, consumers ordering a pizza from dominos need not have any contact with another human until the delivery man arrives on the doorstep.
Big brands have managed to get a head start in capitalising on this new technology, but smaller or new brands should be aware of their ability to save on resource while delivering the same great service. Predicting that consumers will readily accept the new technologies, and that developments will see bots being able to handle increasingly rich data inputs, we will soon begin to see new and richer ways to engage with brands from our fingertips.