Georgie Starkey

6th May 2020 by Georgie Starkey

Is a chatbot right for your brand?

Chatbots have become popular in the last two years.

According to smallbizgenius, 1.4 billion people now interact with a chatbot regularly. It is predicted 85% of customer interaction will be handled by chatbots by 2021.

Thousands of consumer-facing brands, such as energy companies and telecom providers are successfully using chatbots to communicate with their customers. But does a chatbot have the human touch and is it right for your brand?

man interacting with chatbot on his phone

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a software application used to conduct an online conversion via text or text to speech. It is an automated service powered by rules and artificial intelligence (AI). A customer might not know they are interacting with a chatbot, such is their development.

How does a chatbot work?

A chatbot is a computer program that simulates a “natural” conversation. Users communicate with a chatbot via a chat interface or by voice. The chatbot then interprets and processes the user’s words or phrases and gives an instant pre-set answer. 64% of internet users say the 24-hour service is the best feature of chatbots. Chatbots can be rule-based, intellectually independent and learn via machine learning or AI-powered.

How do chatbots affect your brand?

For many brands, chatbots work well but you should ask the question of whether it’s right for your brand. Do this before you spend time, money and effort correctly installing software. Competitor brands might be using chatbots but don’t let FOMO take hold, their use of one doesn’t mean you have to.

2020 has seen a shift in brands showing their human side. Campaigns such as the global “Be Kind” movement and HSBC’s “Together We Thrive” sparked brands to show that behind logos, there are teams of people doing their very best to please customers.

man looking at his website on his laptop

Case study

For example, a client of mine is an online, B2C e-commerce company with over 10,000 SKUs on their website. The intricacies of the questions that come in via social media make me wonder whether a chatbot would be suitable. Not only would it be fair to say it would struggle to answer the questions, it would not have the human touch customers have grown to love. 

As a brand, one of their core values is to connect with customers, getting to know them and their habits. Yes, we get to know their data, average order value and the product they are most likely to purchase, but it’s more than that. It is getting to know their likes, dislikes and sense of humour as a person. We want to get to know them as much as they get to know us. 

It’s no secret that people buy from people they like and as a result of focusing on delighting customers, we have seen a 15% increase in loyal customer spend. Furthermore, loyal customers are 65% more likely to recommend your brand to friends and family. Getting to know your net promoter score might help you understand your loyal customer base and their likelihood to refer. You can then focus more energy on this segment of customers knowing you’ll be rewarded for it.

Service with a smile can get you a recommendation, can this be done on social media?

man using chatbot on this tablet in the garden

What does “being nice” look like on social media?

It’s a fact, it takes (and costs) ten times more to win a new customer than it does to retain one. So why do so many brands overlook being nice to their current customers? One of my favourite pieces is titled “Be Nice” by Richard Templar, tweaked to be relevant in the B2C world, the words should help inspire your approach to making your brand human:

“In the hurly-burly of modern life and the complex sparring of the day to day relationship, juggling work, friendships and financial pressures it is very easy to forget that our customers are real live human beings and not just someone we expect to purchase our products. It is easy to take them for granted, to think we’ve thanked them or praised them or said please when instead we ignored them, were rude by the guilty sin of omission, disregarded them and generally behaved like they were pond-life by default.

To make your customer relationships go with the zing, go back to square one and start being courteous again in the old fashion sense of the word. Be pleasant, kind, civil and polite. Say please and thank you for how many times a day it is necessary. Be thoughtful. Be complimentary. Give gifts without there being a reason for doing so and ask questions to show you are interested in your customers day.

Be solicitous of their health, welfare, dreams, hopes, workload, interests and pleasure. Take time to help them, to focus on their needs and wants. Just be there for them, listen, show an interest, show that you appreciate them. After all, they are the most important person in the world to us. Be sure to show them this is true every day.”

So how can you relate this to your brand?

It’s simple, engage with your customers. Reply to comments, ask how they are, follow your loyal ones back on Instagram and add their story to yours if they have tagged you.

Repost their pictures (with permission), flatter them, support them and comment back on their posts. If they mention buying from you, thank them, then message a few days later and ask how they’re getting on with the product.

And if they’re in the top 5% of your loyal customer base, occasionally send random acts of kindness – a small product or gift voucher that they’ll love. They’ll tell friends and family how nice it was that you sent something for no reason. This will help improve your net promoter score. 

Most of all – be you. Whatever your tone of voice is, embrace it. Ensure it shines through on your social media, your website content, your blogs, your packaging and any other customer-facing touch points. Be pleasant, kind, civil and polite. Your customers will thank you for it. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. 

Chatbots are a long way off having this skill and until it becomes part of their repertoire, you should weigh up whether installing a chatbot is right for your brand.

Hold on to the human side of your brand, your customers value it more than you know.  

Georgie Starkey

Georgie is a freelance creator of content for social media and websites, putting ten years of experience in the B2C marketing world to good use. Georgie creates content for clients that engages and delights their customers.