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November 23, 2018

Chatbots: how should you be using them?

Written By Charlotte Parker
4 mins
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Boasting benefits such as higher engagement, retention and conversion rates, it’s no surprise chatbots have been a hot topic for discussion. But, before you all jump on the bandwagon (if you haven’t already) is it worth your time, effort and most importantly your budget?

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What can chatbots be used for?

We want it all and we want it now.  Consumer behaviour is constantly changing as we become accustomed to the wealth of information available at our fingertips.  Communication has steadily evolved from phone calls and meetings to channels such as email, social media, and apps. Now, real-time messaging is drastically rising as a prefered communication channel. Chatbots are programmes built to automatically engage with received messages. They can be programmed to respond the same way each time, to respond differently to messages containing certain keywords or they can be used with AI to adapt their responses to fit the situation – even including emojis! Chatbots leverage mediums such as SMS text, website chat windows and social messaging services across platforms like Facebook and Twitter to receive and respond to messages.  There are many discussions around how to categorise the many types of chatbots.  They come in all shapes and sizes, but from our experience, they generally exist for one of three reasons; to support, provide skills or to assist.

1. Support chatbots walk users through intended processes, generally answering FAQ-type questions. These chatbots need to have personality, multi-turn capability and context awareness.

2. Skills chatbots are intended to make life easier for users.  These normally have a speech functionality that enables the user to dictate a command without any intervention, for example: “turn on my living room lights”. These types of chatbots don’t require a lot of contextual awareness and have become increasingly popular as consumers become more time poor, looking for technology that increases efficiency. This ability to remove simple and straightforward tasks can be a ‘quick win’.

3. Assistant chatbots are pretty self-explanatory, they assist. Assistant chatbots are conversational and respond to just about anything while demonstrating personality through Artificial Intelligence (AI). A good example of this is Siri, still asked simple questions by users as the response given is often amusing.

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Chatbots are revolutionising online experiences

Armed with a shortened attention span and demand for high quality and personalised service, consumers have seen brands integrate AI into their real-time messaging to create a better user experience that results in quicker responses, higher retention, and conversion rates.  While chatbots have revolutionised online experiences, it takes time for this type of AI to be fully trained.  The more interactions your chatbot has, the greater context it gains for future responses, giving it the ability to provide a personal experience with often little or no human intervention.

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Solving problems

Just like any emerging technology, chatbots will only become widely adopted if it’s shown they can solve real problems. Otherwise, the novelty will eventually wear off. A report conducted by Drift, Audience, SalesForce and Myclever, highlighted key frustrations such as …. difficult navigation, overcomplicated answers and poor design. They concluded that the online experiences businesses are providing no longer match with the way people prefer to buy.  Instead, they predict the following use cases highlighting particularly answers in emergencies, complaint/problem solving and detailed explanations.

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Chatbots in education

So far, chatbots have been effectively used in a variety of industries.  Within the Beauty and Personal Care market, retailers have started using AI in chatbots to provide recommendations and advice to their customers. This theme of ‘recommending and advising’ is a key functionality for chatbots, and one that can be used particularly within education; a sector where they have not been fully explored yet. Leeds Beckett University have been a pioneer for change, using chatbots to engage potential students by offering easy access to information such as courses, entry requirements and open days. They even offered their first clearing place via chatbot in August 2017! Chatbots mesh perfectly with millennials expectations, providing:

  • Instant gratification
  • A chance to engage with emerging technology
  • Convenience and connection
  • Conversational engagement
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Not only do chatbots engage with millennials on these familiar platforms, they engage with them in a casual, conversational manner on the platforms they prefer. This provides an ideal formula for great customer service experiences during what is often a stressful and overwhelming time.  By streamlining tasks and processes, such as booking open days, researching course and entry requirements and campus information, universities can tap into millennials’ desire for greater efficiency and achieve higher conversion rates.

By following our inbound messaging framework, universities and brands within other industries can develop effective chatbots that can engage users and build lasting relationships.

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