Brands today are facing increasing pressure to remain competitive. They try to differentiate themselves by offering customers user-friendly or cheaper services. This means brands are forced to innovate digitally, or risk becoming outdated and unattractive to customers.Technology can help brands initiate conversations, avoid disappointment and limit impact on customer service. Brands need to have a human vision of customer service in order to show their customers and prospects that they care about them. Luckily for them, marketing is quickly becoming what marketers have always dreamed of – real time one-on-one customer interaction. The entire customer experience is now based on omnichannel and real-time customer engagement, which puts the brands back in the driver’s seat.
Digitalisation and Chatbots
The world is becoming more digitalized by the day and shows no signs of slowing down. Brands are finding more and more ways to interact with their online customers. This should result in more frequent and engaging interactions, right? Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Most of today’s digital interactions with customers are executed by chatbots, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Despite the fact that these bots can have actual conversations, there’s a difference between talking to a human and to a bot that technology may never be able to overcome. Brands can be sure that customers are aware of this. According to a study published by JAMA, conversational agents like Siri or Google simply don’t understand the difference between “I’m dying” and “I’m dying of hunger” in a crisis.
Another example is IKEA’s Anna chatbot which was developed in 2005, but was retired after 10 years. The brand chatbot tried to impersonate a person, only to find that it was trying too hard to be natural, and it diverted from the purpose of conversational commerce. It failed to greatly improve the company's customer service and the overall online customer experience.
Therefore, chatbots have a risk attached to them - if not properly implemented, they can quickly damage a brand’s valuable reputation. In attempts to make chatbots seem more human and encourage customers to interact with them, brands have been creating technology with “personality”, by naming their bots with human names; Alexa, Gigi, Siri. But is it really possible for a chatbot to provide human service, even if consumers know they’re talking to an algorithm?
However, some chatbot functionalities are very helpful when it comes to filtering and segmenting your online audience, based on the stage in the sales funnel. Bots can help brands make the initial contact with their online customers, help them with the brand research or send them to a certain webpage if they have trouble finding a specific product or service. On the other hand, if the chatbot identifies a web visitor as ready-to-buy customer, it can then redirect them to a human agent, who is able to address any concerns the customer might have and form a personal connection with them.
Ben Lamm, the CEO and co-founder of Conversable, probably said it best: “Bots are easy. Conversations are hard.”
Human Characteristics Bring Brands Closer To Customers
Recent academic research found that consumers don’t want robots that can talk like humans. The thing that makes the biggest difference are people. And more importantly, the empathy and spontaneity that those people can bring to an experience. But as we learnt, most brands are going through digitalisation and are investing in new technologies that can help them connect with their online audience. This means that brands need to find the right balance between human and digital. In other words, deploying technology to make brands feel more human ultimately means getting more humans in touch with the technology to allow for conversations to happen anywhere - and by anywhere we mean online.
Bots can help brands make the initial contact with their online customers and some chatbot functionalities are very helpful when it comes to filtering and segmenting your online audience, based on their stage in the sales funnel. But as a stand-alone tool, research has shown they do not perform very well.
GPShopper released its Reality of Retail Tech report in February 2017, revealing that 59% of consumers don’t want to use chatbots while shopping, only 9% of consumers think chatbots will positively impact their shopping experience, and 21% felt that virtual assistants like Amazon Echo and Google home will improve their shopping experience.
The evolution of customer interactions has been dramatic over the past 20 years. Customers’ expectations and behaviours online have changed due to the availability of customer-centric technology, that have led to innovation. Today in 2017 live streaming video is on the rise and ways brands can use live streaming video are endless! All the social media platforms have adopted it and brands can now connect with their online audience in real time. What live streaming video does best is that it allows brands to drop the corporate veil, connect human-to-human and allow customers to participate in brand storytelling in a way that enriches the online customer experience.
A great example of a brand providing human service online is Audi Ireland. The brand implemented live streaming video right onto their website for their recent Audi A5 and Audi Q2 car launches, using Whisbi One-to-Many solution. This innovative technology allows online customers to interact with an Audi Guru in real-time. Customers can ask questions through text chat and explore the car from the comfort of their own home, via a phone, tablet or computer. This new approach to online customer experience resulted in higher online customer engagement rates for the brand and more time spent on their website, compared to a standard chat.
“The success of Audi Live to-date, in addition to the positive feedback from customers and stakeholders alike, underpins our decision to continue making this unique technology available to our customers, in order to deliver an enriched online customer experience. The number of customers engaging with Audi Live during the launch of the platform grew exponentially, so we look forward to receiving customer feedback on the optimised version of the platform, which will be used as part of the all-new A5 launch campaign”. - Richard Molloy, Head of Marketing & Product at Audi Ireland