Conversational assistants are transforming the way brands and customers communicate. Otherwise known as chatbots or virtual assistants, these AI-powered messaging tools let companies hold one-to-one conversations with their customers in real time, on a scale that is simply unprecedented in human history.
Over the course of a single conversation, a virtual assistant can answer a customer’s questions, provide more detailed product or service information, and narrow the conversion funnel — all while meeting the customer’s preferences and needs. And what’s more, a conversational assistant can give its undivided attention to millions of customers simultaneously.
As companies like ours work to solve the challenge of enabling (1) customers to have better and more meaningful engagement with brands and (2) brands to drive conversational assistant discovery, this extraordinary scale will only continue to grow. It’s no wonder that by 2020, the research firm Gartner predicts that chatbots will power 85 percent of all customer service interactions, with the average person having more conversations with a virtual assistant than with their spouse.
As conversational assistants become more mainstream, companies and brands need to consider how they can deliver a quality user experience. Here are some crucial tips for developers to keep in mind:
In order for chatbots to be effective, their creators need to develop a unique, engaging personality that reflects the brand’s core values and goals.
For instance, customers inquiring about opening a business checking account probably don’t want to interact with a bank that uses informal language and traffics in sarcasm. However, this sassy personality was perfect for Rose, the flirty conversational assistant at The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. When a user asked her if she could provide backstage passes to Britney Spears, Rose replied, “Do I look like a sugar daddy? When I give things away, it’s usually on a whim.”
While conversational assistants should strive for a vibrant, human-like personality, it’s important to be transparent by telling your users upfront that they’re talking to a chatbot.
Of course, a great personality isn’t enough reason for consumers to interact with a conversational assistant on its own. According to a survey from LivePerson, 48 percent of chatbot users don’t care whether a conversational assistant has a name or a personality so long as it solves their problems. From an end-user perspective, a good conversational assistant can deliver instantaneous answers to their most burning questions and even guide them through the product selection process. All this saves the customer time that otherwise would have been spent sifting through a brand’s website for the information they needed.
As an example, Kia has been using our display advertising platform to promote an in-unit chatbot that asks the user what kind of car they’re shopping for, and then provides options to learn more about the models that fit their search, and then book a test drive.
A major benefit to having a virtual assistant is that the discussions with customers can help brands glean valuable insights into what their customers want, helping them improve overall brand loyalty moving forward.
For instance, if a fashion retailer realizes that many new customers are asking about its return policy, it might decide to make this information more prominent across all of its properties.
In fact, you can even ask customers questions of your own with the express intent of learning more about their preferences. As an example, a beverage company could ask customers to choose between new flavors and test packaging ideas. This two-way approach to the customer relationship allows consumers to test out potential ideas and feel as if they are a real part of a brand’s journey.
It’s important to remember that you’re in it for the long haul. A conversational assistant that is best-in-class today might fall behind the competition as your rivals continue developing more advanced virtual assistants.
That’s why it’s so important to build a conversational assistant that’s grounded in an intelligent AI algorithm, one that gets smarter the more it talks to customers. If users seem to abandon your chat window after a certain question, your conversational assistant should be able to automatically shift to more engaging language.
No matter what, you’ll want to continue iterating on your conversational assistant tools. Only through a rigorous process of testing and learning can brands truly see the value of this exciting new marketing paradigm.
Stephanie Lyras is Head of Partnerships at AdLingo, a new platform within Area 120, Google’s incubator for experimental projects. AdLingo uses the power of display advertising to help brands deliver their conversational assistants to customers at scale. For more information, visit www.adlingo.com
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