The roBOTS of Customer Service

"M", the Facebook Messenger Personal Assistant.
“M”, the Facebook Messenger Personal Assistant.

As I’ve written in many previous articles the need to continually learn is imperative and never-ending, no doubt you will agree. On that note, I recently attended a superb digital summit in Brisbane. Although based in Sydney I felt that the calibre of speakers and information presented was worthy of taking a day off and flying up to attend.

I would like to share with you some of the latest insights into the web, social media and a snapshot of the behavioral psychology applied.

If you think that 700 million people at any moment in time are using a messaging app service and the five top apps are Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and SnapChat, you can’t help taking a deep breath knowing that Facebook owns FOUR OUT OF THE FIVE. Which if nothing else tells you the power of information in the hands of few, and the need to understand these platforms, and where its all heading.

A gentleman by the name of Ted Livingstone who is the founder of messaging app Kick quoted the following:

“Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers, bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new Internet.”

So words like chat apps and websites we all get, BUT what is this word ‘bots’? A bot is a software application that runs immediate tasks (known as scripts) over the Internet. To put this into our terms, there are many functions that happen in Internet sites that could be automated and don’t necessarily require our physical input, or a person responding. A good example of this is automated responses to common questions. Some of you may or may not be aware but Google greatly improves your ranking if you are seen to have responded quickly to a request on your website. Hence having a bot which could understand a common question and provide an immediate response will save both time money and improve the ROI on technology investment. No doubt we will all hear more and more about AI artificial intelligence, and no it’s not the artistic creative kind, it’s the type which is able to learn constantly. It was explained to me in the following manner, which was a bit confronting but did make perfect sense.

Let’s assume that a doctor looks at scans all day long, there is no doubt that with years of experience they become more and more proficient. Now imagine if you took millions of scans and fed all that information into a computer, adding not only the images but doctors interpretations. By repeating this process many times, the computer which is not impacted by emotions, being tired, distractions of phone calls and people, could analyze these images better than any individual doctor no matter how good they are, on a consistent basis, and the fact that it is using hundreds if not thousands of doctors results in a combined learning process.  So in years to come, jobs which involve detailed learning will easily be substituted by AI. The creative and strategic roles will be difficult to supplant.

So what does ‘bot’ mean in our world?

Facebook is looking to use bots in messenger, so a bot is designed to automate tasks that you would usually do on your own – for instance, booking a restaurant, adding an appointment to your calendar, or grabbing and displaying other information. But the key here is that you won’t have to tell it too many things, it will contextualize what you are saying.

Chat bots, as they are called, simulate conversation and can live inside a messaging app. A bit like Siri on an iPhone, you would almost feel like you are chatting back and forth with a human. So some chat bots handle a variety of customer service inquiries which would normally require a call to a person.

Apparently Taco Bell in America allows you to order off the menu, using a bot. Imagine you had a bot on your email, it would understand that you are trying to schedule a meeting and put an alert in your calendar. It is perceived that these bots will become so sophisticated that they will be providing us with legal advice, preparing all your expense reports and submitting them in the correct format. In the retail environment, some of the make-up stores have been using bots through their Twitter accounts in giving advice on make-up.

Customers chatting with bots
“Bots” can chat with and assist humans across any kind of online platform.

Now for some gems! Did you know that the majority of videos watched on smart phones are reviewed in a vertical position and not landscape? Therefore if you are producing video content keep that in mind – people are not turning the phone sideways to watch. Also, did you know that most people don’t listen to the sound when they watch these videos, and therefore it is effective to add some captions, or what is known as a call to action. You need to know videos are booming and growing at an incredible pace, make sure that any video you produce is appropriate for each platform.

The buzzword of today is understanding the “journey” your customer is taking to arrive at their purchase decision. Each of us needs to map out that journey to understand how they got to us, what got them to the point of purchasing and if they did or didn’t purchase what happened in that journey. How can we remove the obstacles for our customers when dealing with us? The key point here is that it’s not purely about the benefits of what we do or how we do it, but looking at how we can remove the obstacles from someone making a decision. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this concept.

Sophisticated online players are using software such as Full Contact.  This software has the ability to constantly reach out onto the web, and using google smarts will monitor all of the people in your database and synchronise any changes to their social profiles photos, emails signatures and company information – everything that they are doing is updated automatically for you. Pretty scary if you ask me, what this so-called friendly software can do is in essence STALK every one of your friends, family and customers if you chose.

Let me share some cool statistics. Mobile users have an average attention span of less than eight seconds therefore you have to think how to personalise the message. When you engage your client with a photograph you need to appreciate that images are processed 60,000 times faster than text. 87% of MMS and SMS’s are opened in the first hour, this means that if you’re using a campaign with MMS the average time from when you send it to someone opening it is four minutes, with an email the average time that someone will see your email is 48 hours. Images need to be visually stimulating, you must use rich media, including strong visuals, sound where appropriate, and today not just video, but consider animation.

People are using their mobiles to consume content for approximately three hours a day, and this has increased by about 20% in the last two years. The experts strongly believe that the future of expression on mobile is video, they also believe that most mobile traffic will be video by 2020.

The Instagram community is incredibly diverse and when we consider how each of them use it, it is very confronting. The millennials use Instagram nine times a day. 72% of dads who use Instagram start their day just opening it up, maybe checking out pictures of what the kids are doing. 68% of mums use Instagram daily.

When using Instagram consider using more dynamic ads, this means videos of Jewellery or diamonds moving. I could keep going with so many interesting facts, and I am still processing a lot of the information myself.

I will leave you with the layering approach that a very successful Australian brand has used to build its business. The brand is Cotton On and they don’t talk about customers, they talk about community. There are four tiers of dealing with their community and it’s focused on the first contact an initial service, looking to build a two-way dialogue and enhance the experience, than driving a high level of consistency and repeat visit and above all else ensuring that this person becomes part of the community and a fan.

I don’t know about you, but I feel Iike I am on a rollercoaster and really need to understand my “journey” and the community that I share, and above all else, I better practice what I preach and keep learning.

Trade well.

 

 

 

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