Can a bot treat you better than a human being can? Customer service is veering into the realm of attendants who get to know you better through artificial intelligence than any individual ever could. The challenge is to execute so customer experience is enhanced rather than devalued.
In fact, a growing number prefer it that way, claimed panelists at the first OMMA Bots & Chat conference in New York last week. Natalie Monbiot, SVP, managing partner, strategic innovation at UM Worldwide, says an activation for the movie Goosebumps yielded conversations averaging 10 minutes, and one went for two and a half hours.
In addition to satisfying a customer, the discussions yielded insights no one had yet thought of and may lead to the next product iteration – a line of merchandise.
That’s a good thing. So long as care is taken to be sure bonafide customer emergencies still route efficiently to a human being who can help solve a problem quickly, not just keep an intelligent conversation going in a non-offensive way.
Chat bots have been around awhile, says Gabe Weiss, retail innovation lead for SapientNitro. People hated Microsoft’s Clippy because it failed to differentiate and kept asking if you wanted to learn how to make a spreadsheet long after you had become experienced with the product. On the other hand, Burger King’s subservient chicken was funny, mixed it up, and an example of an early chat bot that brought personality into the mix and went in the right direction, he adds.
AI enables the capacity to talk to you just like you want to be spoken to. Are you someone who responds to a drill sergeant? Or do you need a more nurturing personality? Are short, clipped sentences your style? Or are you someone who requires a lot of chit chat and niceties? The technology promises to deliver not only to your state of mind but to your personality as well.
Bot voices can also be mapped to brand personas, adds Weiss. Think explorer for Jeep or hero for Nike, magician for Apple or outlaw for Harley-Davidson. There are also roles — say an instructor, concierge/butler, friend, advisor, parent, coach or mentor.
What will make people keep talking to a bot? Christian Petersen, director of product for the Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center, says if it thinks like a bot but behaves like a human, they will. Knowledgeable, remembering more than a human, trustworthy and quick to get information. But also friendly, energetic, a good listener, with a passion for the topic and professional.
How do you get started? Model your best human customer service reps to get at the most likely questions and best answers. Then let the machine learning take it from there.
Says Pete Sena, founder and chief creative officer of Digital Surgeons: a personal shopper bot you know is a bot and knows your name but sometimes gets things wrong might get more tolerance than calling an off-shore call center. Millennials, meanwhile, lack patience for long strings of “Press 1” phone messaging. Then again, who doesn’t?
Cautions Tom Goodwin, EVP, head of innovation for Zenith Media: It’s one thing to play with a robot if you’re bored on a Friday night, quite another if you have water leaking in your house.