We’ve just brought Unilever’s iconic PG tips’ TV Monkey to life as an AI-driven chatbot for this year’s Red Nose Day. The chatbot is enabling brands to build entertaining and engaging personas that power more personal and effective conversations with their customers. There has been rapid growth in demand for bespoke chatbots such as Monkey. Domino’s Pizza lets customers order through a chatbot, and there are hundreds of Slack chatbots to integrate into various business processes and systems. Individuals no longer want to spend time searching for an answer; we immediately want the exact information we need, hassle-free. As consumers become ever more demanding, artificial intelligence is a cost-effective way for brands to increase and improve personalised communication, at scale. Last year, Facebook invested heavily in this area, which makes sense given their Messenger app has over one billion monthly active users and WhatsApp, which Facebook also owns, has 1.2 billion monthly active users. At Facebook’s developer conference, F8, Mark Zuckerberg, said: “I don’t know anyone who likes calling a business. And no one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service they interact with. We think you should be able to message a business in the same way you would message a friend.” 2017 is expected to be the “year of the chatbot”. People are becoming accustomed to having two-way conversations with brands, and the technology is now available to make this happen quickly and simply. Modern advances in technology have had a detrimental effect on brand to consumer interaction; such examples are banks without tellers and even online shopping. A cultural shift is unfolding where consumers are moving from social networking to “social messaging”. The growing demand for personal interaction means businesses are seeing the need to adopt a conversational and “always on” approach to brand management. However, what are the ingredients to getting this new form of customer communication right? A chatbot should be as “human” as possible (but gracefully fall-back to a real person), have enough data to perform and make the customer experience efficient and reliable. The best ones should also entertain and engage in a way that can’t be achieved through any other means of digital contact. They need a distinct voice, a personality. Before creating a chatbot, brands need to think about the vocabulary, linguistic personality and persona to make sure it’s right for their audience. Getting this correct may lead to whole new business opportunity across sectors. As examples, for publishers, chatbots are a new channel for content delivery, and for retailers, they are a new channel for commerce. Brands just need to ensure the persona is right, the result is what the user wanted, and audiences are engaged. A widely cited challenge to the adoption of chatbots is the fear that technology will replace humans. At the moment, this is unfounded. The technology needed is (currently) not advanced enough to replace the complex and multi-layered conversations humans naturally have. Equally, people are not looking to interact with a chatbot in the same way they do a human. For example, we don’t expect Amazon’s Alexa to have a long chat with us about current affairs; we just demand it tell us the basic information we want, right now. Artificial intelligence helps brands create a higher quality response to the complex customer enquiries by leaving the simpler ones to be dealt with more efficiently. Brands can make use of the freed up resources to handle the more difficult questions which cannot, and should not, be automated. This new technology is a fantastic way to delight customers by providing a facility for queries to be answered quickly, efficiently and with the correct information. By making use of the platforms consumers use every day, such as Facebook Messenger, brands can ensure their customer service is more personal and most importantly, convenient for the consumer. Dean Withey is CEO at startup chatbot company ubisendImage: Shutterstock
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