There have been a number of discussions of whether chatbots are a mere trend, whether they are truly useful and important to have in our business or if it’s all just hype. On the other hand, we have also seen great outcomes in certain industries which are slowly starting to reap the benefits and have observed startups that are growing and gaining traction thanks to fundings that have been raised in this sector. There is no doubt: chatbots are of interest and are at the forefront of 2017. But chatbots are not just a “thing” for startups; big groups such as Bank of America, Uber and Sephora have integrated chatbots to their strategies with promising results. Chatbots are not just an improvement for a user interface, nor “parrots” which just regurgitate information, but are a different way of doing business. Let’s take a look at how to unleash their potential.
Harmony and Coherence
Big web players such as Facebook have got the hang of it: interfaces with conversational elements, in other words chatbots, bring harmony and coherence to the way a person would use a product. With conversational interfaces, a user is more likely to understand how to use the interface and have their needs be met more rapidly. Rather than lose time navigating through a service on their own and waiting around for support to help them out, when a person converses with a business that integrates a chatbot to their service, the person will be guided throughout the conversation in real-time till they have received what they needed.
But what will make businesses with chatbots stand out amongst others lies on not just using chatbots to give out information to users, but to fully accompany their users throughout their action process.
Chatbots as true companions
People that come into interaction with chatbots are now looking for more than just a service that merely understands what they are asking and giving out automatic information accordingly. They are no longer impressed if you can geo-locate where they are and push a specific data to inform them of the demand they are asking. Unfortunately, many chatbots are only at this phase, thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP) having entered the chatbot world to help fluidify conversations, understanding a user’s intent and making it very easy to make chatbots. At present, understanding what a user is requesting and the text input are no longer important. What is relevant is comprehending the intent of the end-user and how to guide them.
Users are now more receptive to chatbots that are adaptable to their specific profile
Users are now more receptive to chatbots that are adaptable to their specific profile, that are proactive and most importantly, that can execute actions in their place. Customers are waiting to be able to interact just as they would a human, but not just any human, a goodwill human that will surprise them, help them, guide them without having to be asked. In order to give a real service to your users, you would need to develop your own intelligence that goes beyond just using NLP. It is thus highly recommendable, if not necessary, to develop artificial intelligence (AI) that will allow the chatbot to execute these complex actions to deliver personalized information for your users.
The bot-first design to go the extra mile
Nevertheless, it is important to not consider a chatbot like a new interface to display your service or your product. It is a limited viewpoint and an error of conception. If companies consider their chatbots as a simple add-on, there would be difficulty in coherence with their brand as they would then need to make sure that their service, conversion funnels and business plan that they have created, developed and commercialized fit well with their chatbot. It should be the other way around.
Having a chatbot that is completely user-centric will help keep businesses focused on their objectives
It is important for businesses to ask themselves: what is it that they would like to offer their clients? What can their chatbot do to give the best service as possible and be a true guide for their users? Having a chatbot that is completely user-centric will help keep businesses focused on their objectives and be a great companion for their users. In other words, we should figure out what is the service that we want our chatbots to provide to our end-user to then ask ourselves how we can respond accordingly and efficiently. This is what the “bot-first design” is all about. At Heek, we have created this working methodology to always stay focused by placing conversation at the center of all to help users make their websites: from imagining the features, the specs creations, the iterations, support, pricing, design and furthermore around the chatbot.
Making the online world accessible
Not only can chatbots be used as guides for users, helping to deliver instant services to customers, but it is interesting to delve into the impact that they can have as a true lever to democratize the web. Chatbots can help a 5 year old, an 80 year old or a visually impaired person to use a product without them needing to know how to do so. Even if one were to be illiterate today, chatbots with voice recognition features can help make the online world more accessible.
Chatbots are here to bring about a final bridge between the human world and go beyond internet access, culture and usage norms
We can go even further by imagining that once chatbots have transitioned over to SMS, this can also be an incredible growth enabler for countries and even continents who have a poor internet coverage such as Africa or certain regions in Asia. Chatbots are here to bring about a final bridge between the human world and go beyond internet access, culture and usage norms. The chatbot sector is a big playground allowing us to see large and to unleash its full potentiality.
To sum up
Chatbots are only at their starting phase, but their is a great potential that can be leveraged in the near future. It is true that chatbot platforms allow the creation to be very simple but a number of chatbots created do not not bring a relevant added value. To create a chatbot that is meaningful, we would need to think about the conception of its service in full bot mode by always questioning the utility of the service provided and to never hesitate to think big.
Author: Nicolas Fayon