Are you being served? Why chatbots hold the most insight for marketers

Going beyond streamlining customer experiences, chatbots are now the key for marketers to unlock new customer insights, says Robert Schwarz.

In the same way that organisations are embracing mobile and IoT platforms, virtual assistants and chatbots are growing in popularity, enabling intelligent, human-like dialogue between consumers and brands. Juniper Research has predicted that the use of virtual customer assistants will jump 1000% by 2020.

As more and more brands implement chatbots and virtual assistant technology as the new digital interface for customers, their increasing presence has signalled a shift in the way companies market to their audience both inside an organisation and out. What may have originated as a solution to streamline customer service and capitalise on automation, chatbots have now created new avenues for marketers to gain new insights about their customers and inspire new strategies for brand engagement.

The proliferation of digital channels has changed the way customers interact with brands. With the increased emphasis on digital engagement across all industries, chatbots are answering customers’ expectations for an online interface. Customers are moving away from traditional phone calls to using messaging platforms from their smartphones or other devices as a means for communicating with brands. Virtual assistant and human assistance provided across messaging apps and channels is proving to be the preferred platform of communication, especially with younger demographics.

According to a recent study from technology company Ubisend, 45% of customers would rather contact a business through messaging than email.

Research from Emarketer predicts that the number of people engaged in digital multi-tasking will rise to 91.6% by 2018, ultimately pointing to the desire for customer engagement to be done in real time at a consumer’s convenience. This new expectation from customers for fluid communication is supported by the presence of chatbots and intelligent assistants from tech giants such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook who are collectively investing billions to develop digital assistants for consumers.

What does this flexible engagement between customers and brands mean for businesses? As customers spend increasing amounts of time in app-based advertising services and messaging platforms, marketers have the opportunity to harness the power of chatbots from the very first point of contact to determine what they need most and continuously evaluate and improve interactions with their customers. Research shows that consumers abandon sites after an average of only three clicks.

They want answers right away, and the inability to answer their questions quickly can drive these customers away from a brand’s site. Prompt live assistance makes the customer feel that their needs are being met.

Generally, chatbot conversations arise from pain points when customer self-service experiences don’t provide substantial assistance. When the brand looks at the raw data that comes from the touchpoints of when the experience has failed, brands can make the necessary changes to improve interaction with their customers. Many chatbots are programmed to learn from their conversations: every interaction leads to ongoing growth in content and understanding, which in turn contributes to the downward trend in call volumes and helps provide real time feedback pertaining to client engagement trends and online information gaps.

Chatbots are an excellent marketing tool as they excel at collecting customer data and insight from support interactions. From the vast collections of unstructured data gathered from ever-expanding omni-channel solutions, a brand can end up with a by-product of millions of conversations, chat logs and millions of touchpoints. Both real-time and historic reporting interface coupled with data directly collected from client analytics, leads brands actionable insights and trends impacting bottom line.

It’s the role of marketers to mine and extract insights to tap into the feedback that can help to customise their service offering that caters to customers and secure brand loyalty. The advantage of chatbots is that live support agents can use this information such as customers’ purchasing patterns in real time to deliver a personalised service offering. Cosmetic giant Sephora created a chatbot on messaging app Kik which prompts customers with a series of questions to offer them customised beauty tips and recommend products. Customer experiences will continue to improve following strong interactions with chatbots as the brand develops a stronger rapport with its customers by providing a tailored, personalised service.

With chatbots, marketers have the potential to deliver the highest levels of automation and customer satisfaction through a combination of intelligent self and assisted services. Earlier this year, Domino’s Australia implemented DRU Assist, an AI-based technology that allows customers to engage in human-like virtual chats when ordering pizza. By using any of the DRU Assist enabled digital platforms, customers are able to place orders via a combination of speech and or text. As pioneers of technology driven ideas within the fast food market, Domino’s DRU Assist goes one step further than providing engaging conversational interaction with customers, by adding DRU’s personality, which has been tailored to the Domino’s brand. This combination of advanced technology and marketing innovation is enabling Domino’s to enhance its CX and further strengthen affinity with the brand.

AI technology is infiltrating many aspects of enterprise businesses today, from automating internal workflows or B2B interactions and addressing new and effective channels of customer service is a priority. In addition to increasing productivity and reducing costs, it’s important that brands recognise the value of chatbots as an effective marketing tool. Data pulled from customer conversations can deliver benefits to their customers by offering a targeted, personalised experience, while also allowing companies to make intelligent business management suggestions.

With chatbots, brands can get a true picture of customer sentiment and find strategies on what really needs to be improved to ensure customer satisfaction.

 

Further reading

 

Robert Schwarz is the ANZ managing director of enterprise at Nuance.

 

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