Digital strategy

All the pros and cons of adding chatbots to your digital strategy

Chatbots digital strategy

First of all a super big thank for your amazing reply to my last article about social media, I’ve been impressed!
Among all the topics I covered, chatbots are getting a lot of hype and are the ones registering a controversial opinion. There are still a lot of people who think they’re not useful like Andy Watt was telling me in this conversation.
Why should I spend time talking with a chatting robot, who struggles to understand my points?” is a more general statement.
To me, it seems to be back to a few years ago, when brands started using social media to try to sell stuff rather than understand it was just a tool to start a conversation. Users didn’t get why they should use social media to follow companies updates. Now Facebook is driving, even more, traffic than Google.
But just a few years ago, both companies and people struggled to find the useful part of social media. Now we can’t live without them.

google-v-facebook-referral-traffic
The early tech is usually not good enough to reach the mass market and people struggle to understand where’s the value until they actually become addicted to it.
Is it what’s happening again with chatbots?

Brands and chatbots: a love and hate relationship

Taco Bell’s TacoBot let you order from your Slack messenger, Domino’s DOM helps users order from Facebook. At Whole Foods, you can chat with the Messenger Bot to get a recipe, while HP’s print bot printed things for you, via Facebook Messenger. Do we really need bots to perform those action? No, really.

Chatbots digital strategy

Chatbots are opt-in experiences. Users actually need to change their behaviour to interact with bots. That’s why users are looking to get value out of the time they spend engaging with them. Users expect personalization and immediate replies. But the truth is that chatbots still need a lot of time to learn and improve themselves.
Facebook this week said it was “refocusing” its use of AI after its bots hit a failure rate of 70%. It means bots could only get to 30% of requests without some sort of human intervention.
And if humans need to fix mistakes made by bots where’s the added value for brands and companies?

Why do chatbots fail?

The key element of designing conversational interfaces is played by design.
Users expectations depend on how the experience is designed.
But don’t forget that the technology is still in its beginning and the majority of chatbots aren’t actually intelligent. We should wait for the wave of bots with linguistic and natural language learning capabilities, which are still quite rare.

chatbot fails chatbots digital strategy

There’s also a problem related to the lack of transparency, goals and communication strategy from the companies side. Why should you deploy a chatbot? What do you want it to do? How can you make it valuable for users? You can’t think that a chatbot can actually be the perfect substitute for your website or magazine.

At this stage Bots should be very specific and give just a few options to the final user, especially ’cause they’re still learning and they don’t have the power to provide all the info and details of a website. Bots that do one thing well are more helpful that bots that do many things poorly. 
If bots are impressively conversational to start with, humans get too colloquial — and then the bot fails, creating frustration.
“You have to think about it as creating a human. If you sort of just go out there, it won’t work.” said Legowiecki, who lead the team developing the TacoBot “It’s hard to build an expertise.”

Companies need also to be transparent about chatbots: they’re robots in their early stage technology. New technologies need to fail and the industry needs to learn from that error to improve. You can’t pretend users think they’re just humans, especially when the experience they get is awful. You need to have users onboard, on your side, becoming an active part of this new tech path.

The industry around chatbots: just hype?

Back in August, the attention around chatbots exploded.
According to data provided by Botfunded, there’s been over $170M+ in funding for artificial intelligence and chatbot startups.
People started building bots because it sounded cool doing it.
Chatbots were treated like the earliest version of Apps which would eventually die, but we all know how that turned out.

chatbots startups investing funds 2016

The truth is that even if Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proclaimed that “bots are the new apps. Bots are maybe the future but it’s difficult getting their value today as we’re far from providing a valuable experience for the final users.
So, the hype is not helping, but it’s in fact, creating, even more, expectations towards a technology that can take some time to develop effectively.

Remember, less is more.

So, what should you do? Including chatbots in your digital strategy or just wait for the future development of this tech?

My advice: 

chatbots stupidStart experimenting. All social media users, even your users, like having fun. If you can’t develop a chat adding value to your user’s experience, start developing one able to entertain your users, so they can have fun and you can learn, a lot.

Users need to be accompanied towards a new era, you can’t just leave them playing with it. Your users and their engagement are too important. Change with them and develop something they want, following their needs. Chabots should be about them and now about you. 

There are a lot of stupid chatbots you can build and learn from, check them out and remember, less is more!

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