When AI is Less Robotic Than Humans: 5 Principles of a Successful Chatbot

Eduardo Sant'Anna

Published at
27 de July de 2021

Click below for a short story on how customer experience can be vastly improved with Conversational AI.

You know the drill.

Call a Customer Support number. Wait in a telephone queue. Build up patience to spend a lot of time explaining your situation to an agent. With some luck, you will get your questions answered and your problem solved.

Nobody enjoys this experience.

I had a simple task for my travel insurance provider: to add a destination to my annual policy.

Consumers Want to Chat - Conversation is The New User Interface (UI)

I decided to go to their website and use the chat functionality instead.

After all, we spend 5x longer messaging each other than calling. Also, messaging has surpassed social media in terms of active use and mindshare with consumers. It clearly makes a lot of sense for businesses to address this trend.

A conversation via a messaging platform is the user interface of the modern world!

But I did not have a good experience. And I know I was chatting to a human. Why?

Because the conversation was too robotic! ??

  • The agent said his name was George
  • I could sense that George was a very bored person sitting at a desk behind a computer
  • He asked me some very cold questions, clearly following a script
  • He would then copy-and-paste some pre-defined (and very long!) text of info that I had already seen in their website
I know I was chatting to a human because the conversation was too robotic.

After some messages back and forth, George's recommendation was... that I must call their Contact Centre to resolve my query! Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

It wasn't a helpful exchange. And now I have to take time off my busy diary to do exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place!

Chatbots to the rescue - Conversational AI platforms

If the travel insurance company had implemented a well-designed bot, powered by Artificial Intelligence, the customer experience would have been much better.

I know, I know. You have also had bad experiences with automated systems and chatbots.

Although they look simple on the outside, businesses should not underestimate the importance of planning, design and development of bots. Engaging with experts in this field is crucial to ensure you get it right.

Here are five ingredients needed in a modern chatbot, built for success:

1) It has a Persona, Integrated with Messaging Platforms

Quite simply, your business must be where your customers are. And the bot will be one of your Sales and Customer representatives. Since 2015, the big four messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber) have had more monthly active users than the top four social media apps.

We also tend not to call each other and end up messaging people more often than not.

The takeaway message here is clear: if people are using messaging apps, it should be a no-brainer that brands and services should be present where their customers are.

If your customers don't want to call their parents, friends and significant other, why would anyone think they want to call your business?

It is also critical that your chatbot must have a personality. It is key for customer retention and simple "wow factor". It may be surprising, but people actually want to use chatbots to interact with brands. However, they do not want to feel like they are talking to a robot.

2) Understanding of Context

This is both in terms of the conversation itself and on my history as a customer. 

A bot built on a modern Conversational AI Platform must understand that, if I start talking about travel insurance to Belgium but then ask "what about to Australia", that I am still talking about travel insurance.

It must also allow businesses to personalise the experience. For example, maybe it knows I am from London and can joke about the weather.

It may even know that I was born in Brazil and that the football team has just been kicked out of the World Cup. It may have an effect in my mood. :-) 

3) It Learns With Every Conversation

The more people use it, the more it understands nuances of the subjects it handles. If you are assessing a Conversational platform, Machine Learning is a required functionality.

But don't assume this is just a feature to switch on and leave it there: "learning" is continuous and needs guidance. It is the case for humans and therefore also for machines.

The platform must provide reports and the team behind the chatbot must be knowledgeable to evaluate changes and provide further training to the bot.

4) It is aligned to Business Processes and Systems

You wouldn’t hire customer services employees and just leave them with no access to your customer database and to the critical data they need to perform their work.

Equally, a well-design bot is integrated with your business processes and tools through APIs.

Don't just create a "decision-tree chatbot" that then points customers to a contact centre most of the time. Otherwise, you are just creating an annoying text-based "press 1 for sales, 2 for support, etc...".

Businesses need to create Conversational experiences that are pleasant and natural. Don't just define a static "decision tree".

5) It Increases Overall Productivity, But Keeps Humans in The Loop

It just liberates humans to do more fulfilling and productive jobs.

Would you do your accounting with an abacus and pieces of paper? Probably not. And that's because it is more productive to use calculators, spreadsheet and accountancy software instead.

In the very near future, no-one will have to do boring, repetitive and low-productivity computer-based tasks. Automation will be everywhere.

But fear not, AI is complementary to humans, not a replacement. A good chatbot also knows its own limitations and can connect the customer to a person to take care of more complex requests. 

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a remarkable experience with customer service support? Is your business assessing the implementation of AI and bots?


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