With Facebook and Twitter now offering branded chatbots, how can brands get the most out of AI-powered customer service? Matt Wright, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) freelancer and Venturebeat contributor, looks at the 8 basic conversations your bot should be well-versed in before meeting your consumers.
Wise talks: Image from the film Electric Dreams, 1984, Virgin Films
Chatbots are robotic messenger services where audiences can ask a robotic chat simulator basic questions. They may well in the future sit prominently on your brand site, helping to replace and make the most of website chat widgets, WhatsApp conversations, Facebook Messenger chats, Kik or in combination with voice search services such as Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google voice search or Google Home.
— Matt D. Wright (@Matdwright) August 9, 2016
If we’re honest robotic conversations are at present not emotionally intelligent. Robot chat services can at present answer basic questions with wit – just like Siri. But there are a lot of development needs for brands to implement before using them actually becomes worthwhile to each brand.
The following post therefore is hypothetical yet hopefully helps to explore what Chatbot conversations will need refining now in order to start the ball rolling.
With all new technologies you have to start somewhere. So when dealing with robotic communications it may be best to concentrate on the conversations that both leap forward the applied usefulness of a brand chatbot service and furthermore the appeal of your a brand chatbot to your audience.
Take for example returns, complaints, the weather or dad jokes. You can recite a typical repetitive process for these fairly robotically as and when these topics are left open to respond to. It is however the very way that conversations like these are carried out that matter towards the future of your brand meaning and character. Was
the audience satisfied? Did they have a good experience through chat and would they do so again?
— Matt D. Wright (@Matdwright) August 10, 2016
“Chatbots will save time and money in the future for both brands and customers alike”
Getting Chatbots right will save time and money in the future for both brands and customers alike. It pays therefore to think now about how to build the most impactful and relevant conversations that can put you way ahead of the competition for memorableness and usefulness.
Building strong foundations: Use conversational commerce
— Matt D. Wright (@Matdwright) September 7, 2016
Set your brand the initial challenge of piecing together the main statements that you want audiences to ask the brand in the first place. Use this to formulate the flow of long term interactions. Crucially though, hold your hands up from the start of any brand conversation strategy role out and communicate that: “Hey. I’m new, I’m not as slick as speaking to someone instore but heck, here’s what I can totally ace at for you… the weather, instore search, store locations e.t.c.”
In a data driven logic the first step is to collect data on your top chatbot influencers as a small sample. This is nothing new for tech companies. But it’s something you need to consider as a starting point. Chatbots should not be 100% robotic, especially the serious conversations. Think about what conversations you would like to have with your target audience? Then ask them manually as a Chatbot, obsess over providing decent responses to all questions in a small focus group and start building the most important answers to questions using traditional decision tree logic.
Go Binary With Decision Trees:
Begin with simple conceptual decision tree logic, this gives you a foot in the door, an excuse not to have 1 million combinations for answers to natural speech.
Every single app, website, movie, product, home, space mission starts with this gentle building of binary momentum. You might start with a two answer question for your audience and they might like it, they might tell you to stick it and rightly so. Even amongst friends, you are not everyones friend or cup of tea. So move on and continue to build and learn from the conversations you do manage to have with influencers. Tell them the weather, ask them for feedback e.g. rate this new product, is it awesome or a sackable offence?… slowly get to know the core of your audience, their opinions, their biggest trailblazing patterns and above all their emotional temperament, do they want to laugh or cry, shout or whisper?
Whatever the brand quest, be it putting products in front of your audience or simply building brand trust. It is always crucial, in chat form, to have an emotive approach otherwise you are dead wood and unmemorable dish water. Binary it maybe at the start, but memorable it should be.
Eventually the aim is to begin creating chats that respond to your audiences feelings of the hour, the fight or flight moments of hate and love. If you weave in all emotions across the spectrum then you are capable of building a performance from brand Chatbots that ensure lovability over the competition and even friendship. You have to be capable of conversations whatever the mood and that is why emotions lead the way in charging your brand conversations up.
Here’s some example chats that cover all human emotions:
— Matt D. Wright (@Matdwright) August 31, 2016
Dealing with returns: help and advice is paramount, your audience needs to know exactly where to turn to and where to find things like returns policies.
Tip: find and stick to a preferred way of dealing with complaints through chatbots e.g. at the very basic a specific email account, a reliable phone number or even better in the chatbot itself. Go manual as soon as a complaint is raised!
Opening hours: “What time is the local store open until?” OR “where is the nearest store?” Simple questions like these really should be robotic already. They make a huge difference for audiences on the move with a phone on the high street, and can affect your bottom line in a split decision of choosing a competitor.
Tip: Those who ask questions on the go are your mobile influencers that may most likely be the most important proactive audience for spreading word of mouth or hitting the share button when it counts in key seasonal promotions.
Are you at the game? order this so as not to miss out, buy this to get the best view, see this before anyone else: Remind people of events, cultural tentpoles that influencers may have angrily forgot yet obsess over if they could. Signpost the things that will likely engage them e.g. where to watch live highlights. Turn anger for missing the game into joy.
Tip: stay plain, answer conversations with prepared general learning tips either about an event or about your chatbot: “Are you watching the big game then?” If yes and “christ why would you ask that”… then answer: “sorry I’m just a bot but I can help you with x and here’s how…”
Opt ins: “Does it make you angry to always see clothes that are brown?” Or “do you want to see more outfits for men?” Encourage Yes and No answers, segment the division audiences and grow these segments based on predicting their further preferences based on what you know.
Tip: grouping off audiences makes it easier to serve relevant and impactful conversations amongst the daily new conversation ideas. Plus you might find a segment more useful for future campaigns
Sick of bad shoe content? If yes then here’s a fix. Try and find things that make your audience boil over, like Brewdog’s contempt for commercial beer, attempt eradicate the failures of bad communications by championing promises of the better forms of content i.e. is there any news that would make your audience of commercial beer hating laugh.
Tip: know where to send audiences to, links are imperative. You cannot be expected as a bot to answer all questions uniquely, you don’t necessarily need to personalise questions or responses either. You just need to take the baby step in building relevant and impactful conversations, that continually sending traffic to the right webpages at the right time for the audience i.e. you want audiences to start to see you as a Google.
Style focus: Style is an important example of getting audiences to express their disgust. If you can narrow more general audience style preferences then you can learn, at scale, to respond to or start conversations that buy more engaging time e.g. “what do think is the top trend right now? X or X”?
Tip: Use Chatbots as a focus group from retail trends.
Insult something: Ultimately you want to provoke conversations that may be agreeable e.g. a referee decision in the news.
Yet avoid insults: Prevent any conversations that may disgust audiences. Albeit just a lack of understanding, stay brand safe and stick to your brand social policies of topics not to mention.
Share helpful tips: Help audiences overcome their problems. Is it a funny shaped body? e.g. hourglass, apple, pear, triangle. Resolving dilemmas can help to relieve forms of disgust that may exist towards your products.
Responding to bad moods: Even if you don’t have the right answers then avoiding disgust can originate from responding to audience feedback with, “I’ll have a think” statements e.g. “I hate you, you’re rubbish” could be responded with “Cricky that’s a bit strong for the morning, want to see something funny?” If no then “okay, I’ll shut up then!”
Build reliability: To get audiences reliant on your conversations might be as simple as encouraging more basic questions that audiences can slowly begin to trust the answers of each day. How is the weather today? When is the next sale? What is new in stock? What is the most popular product today? What is my reservation number? How many points have I accrued? What time is the Croydon store open until, who is the best member of staff this week? Got any specials on? Answering these questions is great for building feedback that ultimately puts you front of mind e.g. What are you going to spend your points on?
Tip: You can educate audiences with what sort of questions you are able to answer e.g. via an far page. Doing this gives the audience a tool for improving their interactions with you chatbot
Build focus groups: Encouraging questions such as “want to know the weather?” ensures further potential in audiences returning for the same question everyday, this offers the daily potential to throw some banter into the mix e.g. “only 5 days until spring” or even “have you tuned your heating timer at home yet?” if you’re an energy company.
Have secrets: Secret questions may also be an interesting way to promote a brand chat bot virally, akin to Siri e.g. asking for promotional codes and discounts via an emoji of the day e.g. “can you guess our emoji of the day?”
Tip: Emojis are more conceptual and as such provide more emotive conversations that don’t need strong relevancies, this is great news for building robotic engagement that isn’t answerable to being accurate e.g. end the day with a zzz emoji and share something to dream about such as a flight to Barbados if you’re a travel company.
Content Marketing: Bring joy through chats about self help articles as and when they’re relevant. Do the same for product insights, even product history insights e.g. winter boots, how to get them right… take feedback for content and add to content from the feedback
Timings: Ask what they might want, e.g. when are you getting the summer shorts on? Build excitement that builds to commercial product communications.
Hard sell: Do the hard sell and liberate commerce from chats e.g. “Which product is your favourite?”, “Shall I send it in the post for you to try?” Think about ways to incorporate deeper commerce transactional opportunities through chatbots.
Gamify: Play word association, guess the joke or missing word. Think conversational games and run with it e.g. I spy on the commute.
Story jolts: Ask: “Want to hear a story?”… “Mandy in the office lost her new x”. Beatbox, send memes. Astound audiences with mini show pieces that earn you laughter, but time them well.
Innovation: Allow people to search your products through chat, don’t feel that you have to be precise, respond with the category links to webpages.
Jokes: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Throw in a couple of nostalgia pieces that are bespoke to your audience characteristics.
Promos: Promote your favourite brand alliances in music and movies. Talk about Bridget Jones, have a track of the day.
Sign posting: Give people discounts when they walk in store using a “Chat me your location when you make it instore” style communication.
Seasonal: Offer seasonal help e.g. wedding help and advice might not be helpful to all but help those who do.
Proactive Gifting: Which product would your mum like this mothers day? But be funny though.
Feelings: Ask how you’re feeling. If it’s sad then ask if you can cheer them up with something funny.
Reactions: Ask for reactions to a story in the news, always start with “Trending: does the news about x interest you…”, if no then respond with “okay I’ll shut up then”.
Protectionism: Send out warnings over news items, help people avoid danger
About the Author: Matt Wright is a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) freelancer for independent publishers, start-ups, agencies and is a contributor to Venturebeat. Visit Matt’s SEO freelance portfolio or connect with him on Twitter: @Matdwright.