While the digital revolution has brought considerable change to the way we do business, few innovations have had as much impact as that of artificial intelligence. AI has made itself especially valuable in the marketing sector, where it enables companies to create customer journeys tailored to individual requirements, conduct detailed analysis, recommend purchases and provide valuable support and post-sales follow-up.
But while many AI applications whirr away behind the scenes, some are more customer-facing. Chatbots are already a fixture in many companies, who appreciate their ability to offer round-the-clock support, help customers find what they’re looking for, considerably reduce wait time and automate key tasks. Chatbots offer the considerable advantage of being cost-effective (especially compared to a fully-fledged support center) while freeing up human capital to focus on cases requiring more of a personal touch.
Few would deny that introducing chatbots to your business strategy is a good move. But at the same time, bringing in new communications channels is a considerable shift, and one that entails advance planning. Let’s take a look at how you can successfully strategise channel migration to boost chatbot uptake.
Migrating Customers From Traditional to Digital Channels
With digital usage accelerating across the globe and the tech-savvy making up an increasingly large proportion of the market share, the need for brands to implement effective omnichannel communication strategies is growing exponentially.
But what makes for a positive omnichannel experience? Quite simply, a coherent, platform-wide brand voice and standardised services, whether the customer is interacting with your company via your website, a messaging app, email or even a brick-and-mortar location. Apple is a great example of how to do this right - the Apple Store physical shopping experience is mediated via online tools, and in-store “geniuses” often direct customers back online when products are out of stock.
Customers able to interact with your brand via multiple channels will usually end up using the one that suits them best. The problem is when that channel isn’t the one that suits you best: some platforms are more expensive to run than others, notably those involving multiple human agents such as help lines. It’s therefore in your interest to help your customers find their way towards more cost-effective channels - such as messaging apps.
Good news: people love to text, and younger consumers such as millennials are all too happy to interact with their favorite brands through messaging apps rather than email or phone calls. But in order to successfully migrate your customer base towards more efficient, cost-effective channels such as chatbots, it’s essential to start with clearly-defined goals supported by a specific set of actions. Here are three essential steps that should form the basis of your channel migration plan:
- Define cost per transaction and level of service for each channel
This will enable you to determine which channels to prioritise for each customer segment.
- Define your customer segments
Examine existing value, potential value, volume of interactions and cost to serve in order to define the customer segments to be migrated (and where).
- Design your migration incentives
This step involves coming up with methods to incite your (carefully selected) customer segments to switch channels. This can be as simple as informing customers about your new channel and its benefits, or involve perks such as discounts, free trials or extra loyalty points.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at how to ensure your chatbot becomes a key channel for your customers.
Making Your Chatbot a Key Communication Channel
When embarking on your chatbot venture, it’s important not to rush in blindly. Take a moment to sit down with your team and ponder the following questions:
- What are the platforms I want to launch my chatbot on?
- Do I have the necessary technology to support those channels?
- Do I have measurable goals for those channels to measure the success of my new chatbot?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move onto the following steps:
Identify your focus areas
Define the main areas of focus of your omnichannel strategy by analysing user data across your existing platforms. This will enable you to identify trends and relationships that you can then translate into a series of actionable objectives to get your chatbot off the ground.
Define your needs
One of the major benefits of chatbots is that they’re applicable to a wide variety of industries and business requirements. Carefully identify the needs of both your company and your customers - support, feedback, research, product suggestions, etc - and adjust your bot accordingly.
Identify the needs of both your company and your customers and adjust your chatbot accordingly
Get all hands on deck
In order to ensure a coherent brand voice and a seamless user experience, the various departments in your company need to work together in order to align the objectives, goals and messages related to your chatbot strategy. Set up clear communication lines with senior management to keep them up-to-date in real time and ensure their full support.
Fine-tune your bot
Don’t try to cram your bot with every feature available - you’ll ultimately end up with a bloated product that’s liable to malfunctioning. Instead, use your carefully-collected user insights to endow your chatbots with features that bring true value.
Decide what to automate
While chatbots are great at responding to simple queries and directing people towards specific products or services, knowing when to bring in a human agent is essential to building customer trust. A perceived lack of human interaction can be damaging to brand image, so be sure to enable a seamless handover to your support team when necessary.
Integrate, integrate, integrate
Chatbots are useful little tools on their own, but it’s as part of a holistic online strategy that they really shine. Messaging apps have now surpassed social media platforms in terms of daily use - with Facebook-owned WhatsApp by far the most popular - so find out which platforms your audience is using and make sure your bot is on there.
Evaluating Omnichannel Performance
In order to reap the benefits of your new chatbot, the next step is to ensure that it’s getting the results you want. The problem is, evaluating and monitoring omnichannel performance is easier said than done. While an uptick in sales, customer satisfaction, engagement, page views or other metrics is encouraging, it doesn’t reveal if and how individual channels contributed to that outcome.
Accurately measuring benefits and performance of omnichannel functionalities involves assessing each touchpoint as part of a whole. This may involve re-evaluating the way certain KPIs are measured in order to take into account new ways that customers are interacting with brands.
Start by defining common metrics for each channel and normalising data. This is where Big Data truly comes into its own, with sophisticated algorithms employing user data drawn from a variety of sources to flag up correlations between platforms and provide valuable insights.
Marketers have long employed strategies to measure the return on investment of marketing plans involving a variety of different platforms. “Top down” analysis tends to measure brand loyalty and awareness, while the “bottom-up” approach is more granular and takes into account KPIs such as click-through rate and downloads. Combining the two take into account every step of the buyer journey and provides insights as to the role played by every channel, ultimately helping you pinpoint issues and find out what’s working - and what still needs some tweaks.
While there are no set guidelines that will help you design and implement the ideal omnichannel experience, developing a detailed, company-wide strategy and identifying the right metrics are key to successfully migrating your customer base towards new digital mediums such as chatbots. 90% of businesses report faster complaint resolution thanks to bots, making them an undeniably beneficial addition both for your customers and your company.