Leading the chatbot revolution

How can chatbots improve and remain relevant in the coming decade?

Gone are the days where frustrated customers have to wait for their email queries and phone calls to be answered by busy customer service officers. With chatbots, or conversational artificial intelligence (AI), businesses are able to provide instantaneous replies. This allows them to maximise their marketing, customer service and sales efforts whilst cutting costs.

A 2018 Forbes survey conducted with around 30 CEOs of leading Fortune 500 companies and leaders from SMEs found that 90% of the executives agreed that conversational bots and chatbots are among top items on the technology agenda.

It is no wonder that both MNCs and SMEs are incorporating chatbots into their business models. Successful iterations include Mitsubishi Motors Singapore’s Miyuki and the Hatten Hotel Malacca chatbot. However, how exactly does one make their chatbot stand out? How can chatbots continue to improve and remain relevant in the new decade?

Building pleasant and effective customer experiences

1. Value-adding to customer experience

i. Imbuing chatbots with personality

A psychology study found that chatbots that are friendly and personable are more appealing to customers. As compared to conversations that revolve around static flows and the clicking of buttons, bots that are imbued with personality are able to engage in free-form conversation, providing greater ease and better understanding for customers.

Depending on the target audience, some A-listed bots use regional salutations, which adds a personalised element. Emojis also add an element of fun. Furthermore, as digital brand representatives, chatbots need to be visually appealing and have catchy names that serve as an extension of the brand. For example, Bayer's virtual assistant comes in the form of Maya, a contraception confidant to ladies on topics of birth control and family planning. Beyond providing useful tips that would otherwise be regarded as social taboos, Maya takes on the voice of a friendly, local girl to help ease conversations.

ii. Enhancing chatbot utility

For our clients, who predominantly use chat to engage and acquire leads, the persona and ‘voice’ of the bot often becomes a centerpiece. This alone is not enough. Personality should go hand-in-hand with utility. Chatbots have to be able to do their jobs effectively, or risk customers walking away feeling more frustrated than they would have been talking to a bot with no personality.

This is something we have come to understand in our years of creating chatbots. When incorporating bots into your brand, you must consider how to value-add to your customer service model. Chatbots should not sacrifice the functions and convenience a human agent can bring to a user. Instead, they should be able to enhance immediacy and connectivity with your brand. Unlike humans, bots can be available 24/7. This ensures that users do not feel short-changed when speaking to a virtual agent.

Ultimately, both personality and a bot's enhanced functions help to value-add to the customer experience.

2. Increased chatbot intelligence

Keeping abreast of the latest technologies, chatbots that have stayed relevant are equipped with natural language processing and machine learning techniques to understand a user's intention from available conversation data. Detecting the emotions and sentiments of the user, they are able to respond with a personality that represents the voice of the brand. The use of sentiment analysis also ensures that issues requiring human intervention are appropriately escalated, increasing the synergy between bots and human agents on the customer service team.

Advances in technology have built smarter chatbots that are able to understand the context of client inquiries, thus providing more accurate results. This is made possible through the availability of higher computing power for faster training of the AI model, data availability in terms of domain specific knowledge bases and native language packages, as well as better tools.

Investing in chatbot intelligence has further benefits for businesses. Chatbots that are able to understand customers better can help with improving marketing efforts. Every query by a customer is a potential lead and can be profiled according to customers' interests, intention and journeys. Such information allows chatbots to generate actionable insights for brands.

3. Better personalised content curation

Studies have shown that customers actively prefer personalised content. With chatbots, it is now possible to tailor-make the conversational experience for each customer. This advancement in personalisation is possible as chatbots can profile and segment customers. In doing so, customers can be provided with better personalised experiences in terms of content consumption and product offerings. In other words, this means more curated recommendations and targeted promotions.

In turn, this improves sales conversion rates as customers could be incentivised to convert after receiving personalised content.

The key to the future

Conversational AI is one of the defining features of the 4th Industrial Revolution and it is set to revolutionise the face of businesses. It can help to achieve good customer service, digital marketing and sales, which are essential to brand reputation and increased profits.

Granted, while some projects like Facebook’s highly anticipated virtual assistant, “M”, have failed to be implemented, chatbots are definitely here to stay. With their growing utility and efficiency, they have become increasingly pivotal for the future economy. While some are concerned that chatbots will steal human jobs, strategic collaborations between humans and AI can actually help to streamline workflows and improve overall customer service, even generating leads.

We are already seeing a management shift to embracing chat as the centrepiece of digital strategies. The use of chatbots affords for richer data points and deeper integrations in CRMs, payment gateways and other complimentary business intelligence tools. Thus, it helps businesses in moving information faster to and from their user base. Moving forward, with the increasing growth of business chat and online shopping in the region, it is even more crucial for the chatbot industry to gain an edge in today’s competitive business environment.

Matthew Low | CMO and Co-Founder | AiChat

Matthew is currently the CMO and co-founder at AiChat – an award-winning chatbot solution provider with enterprise clientele across the region. A serial entrepreneur with previous endeavours in content production and digital consultancy, he is passionate about digital disruptions and strategies that can impact and redefine business growth.