Chatbot’s have had mixed press in the world of Marketing Communications and Myles agrees that “many people in our industry think Chatbots are failing,” but he believes that this supposed failure is a result of “the high expectations we are placing on Chatbots.” It is early days for them and while “they won’t be passing the Turing Test anytime soon, with continued development, agencies will be able to improve their Chatbot offering and excite more and more clients about the possibility of using them.”
To aid this continued development, people must understand that Chatbots are versatile and can be constructed and implemented in different ways. “Bots don’t always have to be computer driven, there is the opportunity for bots to match you through to experts” who can then take care of any issues the user may have. This type of Chatbot can be more appropriate for brands who are weary of giving it full control of consumer interaction. “This provides a great opportunity for these brands to see just how useful Bots can be. Once they establish themselves, we can then begin to develop more functionality.” However, Myles is adamant that the key for agencies looking to use a Chatbot is for them to first “understand the purpose of it. What do they want to achieve with it? Are they trying to provide expert follow up advice after a purchase? Or do they need a service level Chatbot that can help out with specific things?”
Once they establish the client objective, development of the Chatbot can take place. However, there are still other areas to consider during the development stage as Myles is “a firm believer in copy first, code second. The conversation a Bot is creating should flow and for that to happen time needs to be taken to develop dialogue based on the target audience. After all, the conversation and wording an 18-year-old uses might be completely different from that of a 30-year-old and it is important for a Chatbot to interact with the user in as natural a way as possible.”
Despite the amount of planning and development time required to create a functioning a Chatbot, “there are some excellent examples out there of agencies getting them right. AKQA used a one to help tell the story of Yeshi, a young African child, and her daily 2.5-hour trip to collect clean drinking water.” This bot helped Lokai and charity: water spread awareness of the African water crisis without the traditional use of shocking images or videos, which have proven to be a fatigued method of advertising charitable causes according to Mintel.
With regards to customer service and care roles, Chatbots have proven to be effective in providing follow up care for consumers who have recently purchased products. Myles recounts buying “a product recently and receiving a message from the Chatbot with a trackable order number. This was useful information that I was keen to interact with and it helped to drive the purchasing cycle with follow up care by asking me if I had received my parcel. The barrier of re-entry with the brand was completely removed as I was able to click back into the conversation.” There are also opportunities to use them as a market research tool. “Running surveys through a Chatbot is more effective than the likes of email surveying. The response rate from email surveys can be low, while chatbot surveys tend to see higher response rate thanks to increased interactivity.”
But with Chatbots proving to be effective in certain areas, is there a chance they could start to automate certain agency roles, such as Community Management, over time? Myles believes that “it’s important to remember that these roles will always need an element of human oversight: particularly with data, it’s one thing to spot a pattern but another to provide the intuition or understanding that we do at Edelman.”
With so many great case studies on the use of Chatbots popping up, Domino’s Dom as an example, it is only a matter of time before they develop to a level that will encourage more brands to use them. With Myles currently busy on a few projects, stay tuned for further Edelman developments in the Chatbot space!