Hold On To Your Bot!

In a world where intelligent customer engagements define business success, conversational interfaces play a critical role in driving higher returns. With the potential to empower users with highly relevant and contextual information, an organization’s bot strategy can make or break the experience.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Artram.

by Jayakrishnan Sasidharan

posted on 07-11-2018

As technology advances, opportunities pop up as the “shining new squirrel” in every space. One such space is the rise of conversational interfaces (CI). A great field of computing with limitless potential, CI can revolutionize the digital space by leaps and bounds. Messaging apps, bots, voice assistants, augmented reality, virtual reality, and holograms all show promising potential in complementing existing engagement interfaces with contextual insights.

Among the CIs that are being developed, bots are at the front line already. They have been launched to consumers and gained acceptance. Easy to set-up and integrate, bot applications are widespread across business functions today.

However, have bots entered strategy discussions? If not, it’s time. Here is how bots can be made more relevant to business today.

Getting bots to the boardroom

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing are bringing forth use cases where bots can play a significant role in enhancing business outcomes. For example, today, bots are executing a lot of transactional tasks through social apps and other messaging interfaces. However, integrating bots into the digital strategy of the organization can help brands create holistic experiences for customers. They drive an extended opportunity to streamline interrupted experiences and drive hyper-personalized interactions.

For instance, in the airline industry users engage with airlines in varied emotional states. When they access static interfaces that provide low contextual offers, there is a high risk of dropouts. Bots can take over a major part of this journey by catering to each emotional state with highly contextual conversations. From a user who just missed the flight, to a budget-conscious traveler who is exploring low-cost alternatives, bots can deepen the engagement by providing hyper-personalized recommendations and conducting hassle-free transactions — all from a single touchpoint.

With advanced applications, bots show potential to become central to the strategy of many business functions such as customer services and marketing.

Making the right calls

Any new technology is only as good as the value it drives. Leveraging a tech-driven hype to foster engagement with customers has a larger risk of stressing them out in the longer run. Once the adoption driven by the “novelty factor” ceases, conversations may turn into bad experiences.

Bots could hit a similar fate as the early mobile apps (i.e., when customers faced an “apps fatigue” resulting in failed mobile app strategies). To avoid a similar fallout, it is important to narrow down the intent of using a bot rather than using it to solve everything a customer wants.

Bots are a context play, more than a contact play. They need to specialize and train for specific roles and seamlessly transfer to humans when conversations go beyond their area of operation. This is where a brand’s internal readiness also plays a critical role (i.e., teams need to ensure effective functioning of the bot so it could respond in the most appropriate manner).

For example, if the airline bot that is trained to provide travel recommendations tries to respond to a service-related issue such as lost baggage, it could damage the brand experience. Teams need to be able to pick the conversations right where the bot left it with zero delay and zero interruptions.

Betting on voice technology

The future of bots is voice. Customers today are moving towards natural interactions. As bots break language barriers and get equipped with advanced capabilities, they show a potential to completely transform digital engagements.

Voice-enabled bots can significantly reduce touchpoints/channels and take over a large part of the customer journey. For example, an anxious airline passenger who missed the flight would prefer an easy and secure way to book the next available flight. Interacting naturally with a voice-enabled bot could instill trust and comfort, leading to a positive impact on the emotional state of the passenger. Additionally, lesser touchpoints would result in faster processing of information and a frictionless experience.

With the right level of strategy and investments, bots may be able to solve everything from everyday ordinary tasks to complex business challenges. They might also evolve to play critical roles such as being an additional security layer for highly secure financial transactions. Nevertheless — bearing the potential to become competitive differentiators for organizations — the future with bots is a promising one.

Adobe has made some key investments in voice technology to create next-generation voice experiences. You can read more about our recent acquisition here.

To hear more from me, follow me on Twitter: @sasidharanjay.

Topics: Community, Leadership, Digital Transformation