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What does the future of communication hold for brands and companies in a world of super-sonic automation, innovation, hyper-personalised products and services, content marketing, a ton of competition and algorithms?

We investigate the feasibility of all things bot coms and the pros and cons of automating customer engagement. We were awed and inspired by a recent interview where our Founder Ross Drakes hosted longtime buddy, Nick Argyros Co-Founder and Director of INJOZI Digital Design, Audio Militia and GotBot AI Solutions in a Podcast discussion. In our blog, we feature some do’s and don’ts, practical examples and look into the future.

Let’s talk about Chatbots, machine learning and AI.

Put simply, chatbots are conversation automation tools for brands, staff and consumers used in various scenarios to facilitate uninterrupted customer service. A bot comprises of artificial intelligence (AI) software designed to simulate conversations in a natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps. If you think about it, it is an expression of the interaction between humans and machines. Some cite it as promising, exciting others as frightening potential.

Not only do bots enable seamless interaction between services and humans, but the customer engagement process is also improved by operational efficiency. This provides companies with an opportunity for a reduction in customer service costs.

Interestingly, to be successful a chatbot solution should be able to perform engagement efficiencies and cost reduction tasks. Importantly, human support still plays a key role regardless of the company’s approach and platform used.

We have learnt that there are different approaches and tools that you can use to develop and use a chatbot. It depends on the use case that requires addressing which determines the chatbot technology along with the combination of different AI forms.

A perfect example is GotBot.

It is a fancy and super smart conversation bot that can stream a whole host of conversations into one console. Brands can start tracking conversation transcripts of what people are saying and questions they are asking across multiple platforms (from various web apps).
Gotbot then starts to build responses to clients without code. VERY COOL. From a marketing perspective, you can also analyse how customers connect and engage with the brand, their sentiment and preferences and analyse behaviour and various other data – a strategists’ dream.

There is some sexy automated functionality like sales funnels and applications built into this little machine to automate some mundane administration which enables companies to respond to customer transaction needs, queries, questions and info requirements at warp speed. Voila, everyone is happy, almost. There are the 40 percenters who still favour a human engagement, like some of our dads who would prefer to drive to the company to have a face-to-face conversation over a cup of filter coffee (even if it was stale). Admittedly, some generation Xers still like the phone and emails and don’t trust the bots so much. But the world is changing.

In an interview with Forbes, Bot expert Simon Hudson – CEO and bot expert from Brndstr shared his view that chatbots are the future. He believes bots will be everywhere just like automated phone menus and that it is up to brands to stay up-to-date with the latest technology to stay connected to consumers.

For us, we see Bots as a fast, simple and clever way to deliver convenience to your customers. Think of it as an always-on army of slaves doing your bidding and adding value while you sleep in your luxurious silk sheets.

We have come a long way since 1770! One thing everyone needs to keep in mind is that Bots are only as good as the logic you teach them, that is where a company like Nicework can help you. We are not at the point of replacing people yet but you are able to use them to create less friction in the services that you offer. Now that you stand at the beginning of this exciting journey into the future, we have compiled a few tips on how to and how not to use Bots in your communication.

When should a brand use a Chatbot?

  1. If your business has online sales, it simply makes sense to have a chatbot to automate the sales process. It is called conversational commerce (which apparently is a thing) and the most cost-effective way for businesses to connect with customers to build a brand relationship while being able to use analytics.
  2. Another use case for a bot is for those companies that have interactions with online users other than transactional ones. Chatbots can help improve the experience of the person interacting with your brand by facilitating information with much greater sophistication, which means the user finds the information he or she wants faster, uninterrupted and feels acknowledged by the organisation.
  3. If your organisation needs to handle large volumes of administrative calls through customer engagement, bots are great tools to handle the mundane tasks while enabling your humans to engage more meaningfully on complex conversations, this also creates operational efficiencies and saves costs.

Where should a brand not use a Chatbot?

  1. Do not use a chatbot where there is no need or demand for it, just because its cool or seems to be something to do. If your organisation does not require it and there is no use case – do not use it. It could deter from your brand experience instead of aiding it and you could lose customers.
  2. Do not use automated communication in situations where there is a lot of emotion involved, you need to connect to a real human for a human touch. You cannot step away from a crisis situation or emotional situation with a robot to manage a person on the other side, it risks massive reputational damage.
    We feel that it is usually in these situations when solving unhappy problems efficiently and transparently by people offers a great opportunity for a company to live its values and increase brand loyalty one human to another.
  3. Keep it simple – trying too many things at once may confuse tasks and your customers. Prioritise the use cases in order to offer users the best brand experience without clutter or confusion by too many bells and whistles if they are not required.

A case study of where using a Chatbot was super successful:

A great coffee spot in Melrose Arch – by a rad entrepreneur who invented what we call “coffee in a cone” (it is amazing) needed some help to manage orders that were hitting him from various web and social platforms and streaming into his phone. There was some panic because he could not respond to all the orders flooding in. “DUDE! I need to get back to people!”

The GotBot AI Solutions team looked at how the process could be automated and went about learning natural language processing and machine learning and with all of these components they ended up building a process system for our coffee entrepreneur. The system could load his coffee menu and customers could type into it and order whatever they wanted. It would then post an invoice back to the customer and could pay for it all through messaging.

The mundane administrative and important communication processes were automated and Boom! Brand success for our coffee entrepreneur through seamless consumer engagement.

This is the point at which the GotBot AI team started to build the messaging automation system. It took them over six months due to the nature of their client demands and market dynamics.

They soon realised that though many companies faced similar challenges – each company had its own identity and culture and use cases which affects the brand communication and engagement side of things. They decided to build a system that would be able to customize automation based on client requirements.

What does the future of communication look like?

From our perspective, we agree with Simon Hudson that in next two to three years we are going to see an increase in the automated communication space, which is an opportunity for brands. Whether helping in customer service, booking experience, or general information, we have entered a new decade of tech, which includes the world of bots.

You will find many articles on the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s exponential pace and realise it is not only disrupting nearly every industry globally but also transforming entire systems of production, management, governance and consumer engagement.

According to some, we are living in a world where technology is evolving faster than we are and cannot predict the long-term societal impact of these advancements. As with every leap forward, it does not negate the best practice of the world before. Human connection matters, story matters and most of all empathy matters. We can use this tech to increase augment how we deliver on these in a robust and scalable way. Please remember that just using a bot for a bot’s sake is not going to replace the need for genuine communication.

Over and above the tech explosion, we need to consider the social justice movement by new generations (listen to our podcast with Dion Chang) and the expectation of brands to do good and do right by their value chains, consumers and society (listen to our podcast with Sizakele Marutlulle)

Consumers have taken on their right to choose and will engage brands who are getting real and respect their right of choice and personalisation.

What this means for companies is a change of tone, the way that they engage with consumers and frequency, while being available and accessible. Brand communication is also expected to be more transparent, honest and helpful with as little friction as possible.

Nicework has been facilitating Brand Purpose workshops for companies to understand what sits at their core, in order to offer and communicate their value to their consumers, which in part is brought to life by digital campaigns and bots.

What about the rise of the machines?

People are afraid of the Terminator coming to get them… When singularity does happen and the machines rise up and destroy us all, Ross asked Nick how much of a part he thinks GotBot would have played in teaching robots, what we want, what our needs and desires are and how to hurt us in the fastest and the most brutal kind of way. Great.

According to Nick, they are saying we will simulate the human brain by 2028, now that is a thought. For now, the human brain does many, many things that computers just can’t. “One of the biggest things is EQ, sentiment, touch and feel”.

Remember Tay which was that bot by Microsoft – it basically became a fascist Hitler – because that’s what it was fed on Twitter. Microsoft claimed it was attacked by a people that wanted to exploit the vulnerability of Tay. The bot had not been taught what was appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and posted over 96 000 Tweets, in 16 hours. Microsoft shut down its Twitter account because it basically wanted to kill you.

We are reminded that bots are only as smart as what they are hooked up to, they are algorithms that pick up on certain things and then have a call and response. But the moral dilemma is real and with the exponential advancement of technology, we need to keep an eye on those big corporations that run many, many algorithms while collecting data.

Most of all remember that these are just tools, just really really smart ones. We need to be clear on what we are teaching them and how we are using them. It all comes down to intention just ask Simone Giertz.

Coffee On us!

If you want to know more about brand and bot communications, get in touch with us. Ross loves human and tech engagements and can engage multiple channels seamlessly, his favourite though, is having a great coffee with smart humans.

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