Developments both in natural language processing (NLP) and in bot features and functionality on messaging platforms in the past few years have made chatbots smarter and more helpful, and businesses are taking notice. In a December 2016 Business Insider survey of managers and executives, 80 percent of respondents said that their companies planned to use chatbots by 2020.
Suppose you run a pizza shop that lets customers order using their smartphones. Instead of having to download your app, your customers can engage with a chatbot inside their favourite messaging app, like Facebook Messenger, Kik, or Whatsapp.
We are assuming of course that the experience of using the bot is close to or as good as using the app. If it isn’t customers will still prefer to use the app or call in. If it is and customers like the experience, this could easily result in more customers and more repeat customers.
Apps are usually used independently of each other and independently of the communication channel. Chatbots on the other hand can offer many micro services within the same conversation.
Currently, most businesses will send a customer an email asking them to pay a bill and rely on the customer to log onto the website or an app to pay the bill. With an enterprise bot, a business can ask the customer to pay the bill in the chat app and at the same time provide them with a means of paying the bill still inside the chat via a bot. This makes life much easier for the customer.
Customers with a question about your business, the menu or dress code don't want to search for your phone number or send you an email.
Chatbots are available whenever, wherever, to provide instant feedback.
Interacting with your business via an app often feels impersonal. Chatbots can be given fun personalities that make customer interaction fun.
It must be remembered however that customers value utility over personality in most cases. Those of us who remember Clippy learned this lesson well!
Chatbots allow you to share functionality which is very different to sharing content. For example you could give a discount to anyone who buys a pizza via your bot in the next 2 hrs. Your customers can then share the bot with any individual or group of individuals who could in turn receive the discount by purchasing a pizza from the bot.
The fact that the chat platform already has a critical mass of relevant users makes social features like this much easier to execute through bots.
Beyond the ability to share functionality with multiple users, customers want the ability to do things in groups. Not only can this be more efficient, for example in the case of splitting the bill in a restaurant, it can help customers learn. Watching others add a bot to a group and use the bot in the group helps everyone in that group not only discover the bot but learn how to use it.
The interesting thing about putting functionality inside the communication channel is that it becomes much easier to combine experiences and functionality into a single channel experience.
Not only can the bot interact with voice, graphical widgets, text and video, it can be integrated with many third party services that the chat platform is integrated with including third party bot services that can all be part of the overall UX.
It’s possible to even imagine a scenario in the future where a bot would pass on a payment request to a separate payment bot in the channel or for a booking bot to ask someone’s personal assistant bot for an available time slot.
Whereas an application is usually a standalone experience, a bot experience can combine and connect to many different elements in the conversation stream.
A customer that interacts with a bot on Messenger wants to be able to pick up that conversation on Slack or even Alexa. Whereas the experience of the app is the app, bots need to exist independently of the experience on any single communication channel.
There are many reasons why customers want what only bots are capable of offering. How bot makers deliver on all the above is going to be interesting to see.
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