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Section 508

July 20th, 2017

The Truth about Chatbots and Conversational Interfaces

Human: “I need a flight next Tuesday morning to London from Frankfurt and back again Thursday evening.”

Bot: “Hi! I can help you with your travel booking. Where are you traveling from?”

According to Facebook, 70% of chatbots fail to satisfy customer needs, and that’s probably still on the optimistic side. I was somewhat of a pioneer in –  and have over 15 years of experience with – chatbots, so I should know.

The truth is that customers and employees don’t want to talk to a chatbot. What they usually want is to complete a task whether that is booking a restaurant, ordering a missing screw for an IKEA product, finding tomorrow’s weather forecast, searching the availability of an item of clothing, etc.

The option to complete the task depends on the company, but is usually a combination of what’s easy for the business to handle and what customers choose. This can include website search, forms, e-mail, social media (Facebook and Twitter), customer forums, chat, phone, or even snail mail.

Other than website search and browsing, almost all of them are conversational interfaces. User asks a question and expects to get a response; the communication method really shouldn’t matter.

Example of a Successful Conversational Interface
Starwood Hotels have been hugely successful in launching a chat service for guests to communicate with the reception. Order room service, ask for an extra pillow, book a table in the restaurant, request a taxi, or whatever else you want through WhatsApp. It has been a success and customers are happy.

Naturally, they are also looking at how this can be automated to improve speed, efficiency, and accuracy, but the first priority is serving the guest.

Example of a Failed Conversational Interface
Book a hotel room and receive an e-mail response from the hotel including confirmation details. Two days later, the customer realizes that she would specifically like to know if the room has a sea view. She opens the e-mail again to click reply, but notices it says “Do not reply to this e-mail”. She then spends the next five minutes searching for the contact form for that particular hotel on the website.

Would a chatbot solve this problem? Probably not.

What’s the Solution?
Focus on helping the user complete their task and guide them to go beyond that. Surprise them. Simplify their life. Make them smile. Give them time back by reducing the time it takes to complete the task. Help them help someone else.

Start by improving or even reinventing customer interfaces rather than launching chatbots. Technology including chat, messaging, voice recognition, natural language processing and bots can become enablers to make this happen. But they are not the end goal.

This is not the technologies fault. There are some great examples of bots and AI that have helped improve customer experience. You can read about them in our previous blog posts on conversational commerce and 3 Steps to Success in AI. The issue is that too many organizations start with the solution before understanding the problem they are solving.

In conclusion, forget about chatbots and focus on helping the customer through conversational interfaces. Bots may or may not be part of the solution.

Contact us to learn more about the methodology and insights for success.

Magnus Jern
Chief Innovation Officer

Tags: AI artificial intelligence chatbots conversational interfaces

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