The chatbot revolution is now, what are you waiting for?

The chatbot revolution is now, what are you waiting for?

Today the chatbot market is worth 396 million USD, by 2027 it will be worth 1.953 million. Or in other words, it will have become 5 times bigger. If you are a company that is considering a chatbot or is not sure what this growth means, this article is for you. 

Chatbot numbers have been growing for some time, in 2018 Facebook was already reporting the presence of 300.000 chatbots on its messenger platform and companies like Oracle have forecasted that by the end of 2020 80% of large companies would be using or planning to adopt a chatbot. 

Why have chatbots become so popular?

To understand where this trend comes from and how it is affecting businesses, we need to keep two elements in mind. The first is technological advancements, that have turned chatbots from a weird computer trick into advanced business machines capable of holding conversations, making data easy to access, and interface seamlessly with anything from CRMs and ERPs to booking systems and analytics tools.

The second element is the return of conversational commerce. We analyzed this trend in detail in a previous article but, for now, just keep in mind the following: conversational commerce is not new; at its core, it involves people communicating with sellers through conversations, just like they used to do before the era of e-commerce and large super-stores. 

Conversational commerce is, ultimately, natural human behavior and as such, it is a trend that is likely to stay with us for a long time. Large stores and e-commerce have limited conversations by creating separate channels for customer service and marketing/sales. 

Messaging apps and what chatbots can do for you

With the arrival of social media things started to change, and today the growth of messaging apps has created a single conversational channel where the conversation can take place. Businesses are now being forced to move from mass, topical communication to one-to-one conversations, where the line between sales, marketing, and customer service is blurred

This change has created a serious problem for many companies because all of a sudden the volume of conversations has increased exponentially. Customer expectations have also changed as people, used to a world of instant messages and instant replies from friends and family, have started to expect the same level of availability from businesses. 

Companies are able to provide this kind of personalized, one-to-one, constant attention gain a significant competitive advantage, forcing their competitors to follow. Chatbots make this possible by allowing companies to create a scalable solution that can handle a large number of simultaneous conversations, 24/7 and at a low cost. 

Solutions change from industry to industry, in many cases going well beyond the simple company-to-consumer interactions and into facilitating the work of employees, helping companies collect data, and much, much more.  In this blog, you’ll find many industry-specific examples ranging from travel to the Oil and Gas Industry; from healthcare to banking. t if you’d like to learn more about how your company can get started we recommend reaching out to us directly using the contact link below. 

Managing crises in the travel industry: how technology can help

Managing crises in the travel industry: how technology can help

There are some industries where everything happens online, or inside a building behind closed doors. Industries that, like a can of coke, will taste just as good (or bad) regardless of what is happening outside. Then, there are industries like transportation or tourism where all hell could break loose at any moment due to bad weather, roadworks, strikes, and a whole host of other things. 

For communications, marketing, or customer service professionals, these are challenging industries to work in, where having enough resources to deal with crises can be almost impossible.  Companies put a lot of effort into preparing for various scenarios, but the key challenge of being able to suddenly increase the volume of communications often remains unaddressed. 

When crisis meets seasonality

In industries like tourism and travel, the situation is sometimes made worse by seasonality. When a difficult situation happens to coincide with a peak in the season, a company can find that its already overstretched communication teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on more work. 

In a previous article about seasonality, we explained how its effects could be mitigated by focusing the efforts of experienced customer support agents on the most difficult cases and allow automated systems to handle standard interactions. This system is also effective in some of the milder crises, that in the industry are euphemistically called “contingencies”, but for cases where travelers are stressed or nervous, a different approach might be needed. 

Augmenting human to human conversations

As one of our team members, who worked in travel for more than 10 years, can attest, stressed out passengers can often be hard to deal with, especially in a crisis situation. Their messages are frequently contradictory or incoherent, and an automated system or an inexperienced agent can struggle to deal with them. 

Handling these situations correctly often involves an “anger reduction” stage where the agent works to calm the person down and identify the problem. Once a problem is identified, the agent then needs to multitask and try to keep the traveler in a (relatively) positive state of mind while they work feverishly to solve the problem through the company’s reservations, CRM, and operational systems. 

It can be an incredibly demanding and time-consuming job that can be made a lot easier and faster if the agent only has to focus on the emotional aspect of the interaction. To achieve this, smart companies can use the “helper bot method” where a chatbot is used to interact with the company’s systems and provide draft responses, pre-filled with all the necessary information, that the human agent can then verify and send on to the customer.  

The details of the solution and the best way to implement it will, of course, vary from company to company, and it is extremely important to have a reliable partner that can create a custom-made system based on a detailed analysis of the company’s situation. To learn more about how your company could improve its crisis response please reach out to our team using the contact link below. 

The Chinese New Year has arrived. What will it bring?

The Chinese New Year has arrived. What will it bring?

The 12th of February will mark the official start of the year of the Ox. Here in Hong Kong, all the shop fronts are filled with red decorations, and everyone is excited to finally say goodbye to a very difficult year. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions that have forced the cancellation of the traditional fireworks display and the traditional night parade in Tsim Sha Tsui, the city is getting ready, the red envelopes are being prepared and everyone is excited. 

New year, new habits

The year we leave behind has been full of difficulties and change for everyone, from getting used to wearing masks to doing almost everything without leaving the house. Businesses have been affected by the dramatic decreases in the traffic to physical stores and an overall shift towards online sales. 

For the first time, even users that had been skeptical about online shopping have been forced to try it due to COVID-19 restrictions and have discovered its convenience. The adoption of tools like messaging apps and other online forms of communications has also increased and, in a way, we have witnessed a forced digitalization of most human interactions. 

In this new year, we hope that the virus will become history and the restrictions will just be a story we tell our kids about. The change they have brought, however, is likely to stick around for longer, especially when it comes to more convenient forms of doing business and acquiring goods. 

Welcoming a new reality

Convenience is hard to give up and, in the future, businesses will need to work hard to improve their online and conversational commerce efforts. Consumers will expect companies to be available on messaging platforms and respond quickly to their questions. 

Convenience & speedy responses will become key differentiators, continuing a well-established trend that we have often discussed in our articles. Chatbots will certainly play a major role in helping businesses to communicate online in a fast, efficient, and cost-effective manner and our team will continue to help customers all over the world to develop them. 

As the new year approaches, we hope that, wherever you are in the world, it will bring you good luck, joy, and happiness. Our teams across the globe are preparing to celebrate at home and wish you a very happy and prosperous new year. 

What do chatbots and shoes have in common?

What do chatbots and shoes have in common?

Chatbots are like shoes. If they fit well, they will make our life easier and more comfortable, if they don’t they will only cause problems and stress. It is important to choose them wisely, making sure they are built well, and that they fit the needs of our company. Bad choices will have consequences that, while not immediately evident, will damage us in the long run.

Just like you wouldn’t use the same shoe to walk on the beach and to climb a mountain, you shouldn’t use a chatbot designed for, say, marketing campaigns, to do customer service. Likewise, it is important not to confuse chatbots designed for short-term initiatives like an ad campaign with those designed to be a permanent addition to the company’s communication arsenal. 

What to look for in a chatbot 

To choose the right chatbots we first need to have a clear idea of why we need one and what tasks it will need to complete. For the moment we’ll assume that this point is already clear, and we will touch back on it at the end of the article. 

Next, we’ll need to think of where the chatbot will interact with clients. Some chatbots are optimized for platforms like WhatsApp, others work best on websites and others still are built to be flexible. Some might argue that flexibility is always better but, depending on the company’s needs, a single channel bot may actually be a better choice. 

Likewise, we’ll need to decide what level of complexity our chatbot needs. An AI-based chatbot capable of reading human emotions and converse in 10 languages may be great, but, going back to our analogy, it may be like using a waterproof high-tech boot to walk on the beach. 

Looking inwards it is important to understand what data the chatbot will need to have in order to do its job. In simple cases, this could be just a series of FAQs. However, most serious chatbots will require some sort of interface with the company’s systems and may even need to fetch some data directly from the internet. 

What makes great chatbots great

In most cases having clear answers to the how, where, and why of a chatbot, will give us a good idea of what kind of chatbot our company needs, but it is only half the story. The other half is having a good understanding of what this technology is and the opportunities that are available. 

Most chatbot clients start off with a simple problem to solve, things like the need to answer some common questions or pre-qualify a lead, but don’t realize that there are a lot more things that the system could do for them. This, inevitably, leads to lower efficiency levels and will likely lead to future expenses as the chatbot is updated to take advantage of other opportunities.

Great chatbots all start with a good analysis of the company that helps the chatbot designer understand how the company works and create a bot that will fit well and take advantage of all available opportunities. 

To get started with this analysis, reach out to our team of experts using the contact link below.

Will the WABA pricing test in Mexico affect chatbots?

Will the WABA pricing test in Mexico affect chatbots?

WhatsApp has recently announced that on the 1st of February 2021 it will test a new pricing system for the Mexican market. The test will only affect messages sent to WhatsApp users with a Mexico phone number, regardless of the company’s location. At the moment, it is impossible to know if the results of this test will lead WhatsApp to permanently change its policy, but it is still worth taking the time to analyze the impact that it will have on chatbots and businesses that use them. 

 

What will change in Mexico

 

At the moment WhatsApp allows businesses to respond to incoming messages for free and only charges for the template messages that are used to start conversations. This means that, as long as the customer writes first or keeps replying to messages, the company can use WhatsApp’s Business API’s for free. 

 

During this test, WhatsApp will do away with its old pricing strategy and charge its business API users by “24-hour conversation sessions”. According to the official documentation, a session will start when: 

 

  • A business-initiated message is delivered to a user, outside of a 24-hour window
  • A business reply to a user message is delivered within the 24-hour window

 

During this test, businesses will also have an allowance of 1500 free sessions per month.

 

How it affects Mexican businesses

 

From a business perspective, the most important change is that responding to a customer’s messages will no longer be free. At least not once the 1500 session allowance is used up. 

 

As a consequence, chatbots that were previously used only to respond to incoming messages and operated at near-zero cost will now become more expensive to operate. The change is unlikely to be dramatic since the sessions only cost 0.0140 USD and are only charged after the allowance is used up.

 

Small businesses are unlikely to notice the effects of this short-term test. For larger businesses things may be different, especially if they receive large numbers of incoming messages and, if the changes become permanent, may require some adjustments in their strategy. 

 

Using different channels

 

If the changes do become permanent and are extended to other markets, one way to get around the problem is by using a wider range of communication channels. Chatbots are highly adaptable and most of their programming is independent of the platform they use for communication. 

 

As a result, it will be easy for companies to extend their chatbot’s domain beyond WhatsApp and into platforms like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or WeChat. If WhatsApp costs become a problem, chatbots could start any WhatsApp conversation by asking what is the user’s preferred messaging app and use the question to move some conversations to other channels. 

 

For the moment the impact is unlikely to be significant but if you’d like to expand your chatbot into new platforms or create new ones, our team of experts will be more than happy to help you. You can reach out to them using the link below:

Differences between omnichannel and multichannel chatbots?

Differences between omnichannel and multichannel chatbots?

There is a lot of confusion around the words “omnichannel” and “multichannel”. They sound similar and both involve chatbots that communicate on multiple channels, but there is an important difference. Omnichannel chatbots can track a user across multiple channels and keep the same conversation going, multichannel bots cannot. 

How many channels do you need? 

The answer to whether you need an omnichannel chatbot or a multichannel chatbot is (drum roll please): it depends. To help you make the correct choice we first need to look at what each type of bot is capable of. 

The simplest chatbots can communicate on only one channel. They are often found on websites or on social media pages and work quite well for many tasks. They are by far the most common, in part because they were the first type to be developed and in part, because their simplicity makes them easier to develop. 

If you are designing a FAQ bot for your website a single channel is probably what you need. However, if you are designing a more complex bot and would like to use it on more than one platform a multi-channel bot may be a better choice. You could, of course, design many single-channel bots to fit each platform, but it would result in more work to update them and a less consistent experience for users. 

When to use an omnichannel bot

Multi-channel chatbots can communicate on multiple channels but lack the ability to track a user across them. This may not be a problem for many applications, especially simpler ones like marketing campaigns, but could be a serious issue in some. 

Let’s take customer service as an example. In some industries like aviation, customers tend to get very stressed out when things go wrong, especially if their flight gets canceled, or they cannot find the right gate. In these situations they tend to reach out to the company on all available channels simultaneously and being able to trace back conversations on multiple channels to a single user becomes an important ability to have. 

On a less dramatic note, a customer may start a conversation with a chatbot on the company’s website and then leave the computer. An omnichannel chatbot may be able to continue that conversation on a mobile messaging app and give the company a much better chance of closing the business. 

What to choose? 

The opportunities and contexts in which each type of chatbot could be used are endless. Making a good decision depends on having a good understanding of both the technology and the company. To help you make these important decisions we have decided to make our team of experts available to you. Reach out to them using the link below. They will be happy to analyze your company and help you make the best choice.