Many businesses have been rapidly deploying chatbots during the Covid-19 crisis into social media, websites and messenger apps to deal with business and customer queries. Repay the earned business and consumer trust in them to improve your service post-Coronavirus to win loyalty and sales.
In the years before Covid-19 (remember them?), there were many arguments and issues about whether people were happy or unwilling to trust chatbots. That issue has been largely blown aside as bots were deployed to help answer the huge volumes of queries, provide support to help customers through the crisis.
For a wide range of brands and companies of all sizes, chatbots provided everything from travel, banking, insurance, sales and advice down to store opening times, along with the latest health and lockdown advice. They were quick to develop, taking hours or days, and instant to deploy. Chatbot development tools like SnatchBot are free and quick-to-learn with no-code design features, useful AI features and templates to help get any creator started.
On the end-user side, for many, this was the first time they will have interacted with a bot, and while many will have been simple interactions, they have opened the door for greater interactions and boosted the level of trust. Modern bots can deliver all sorts of graphical and nuanced interactions that can be used to boost interest and engagement.
One of the major steps forward that many bot operators have been trying is pushing the conversation toward longer-term engagement, such as the UK’s YouGov bot (image below).
Most bot conversations have ended with the last question, a jolly “bye” or other successful conclusions. But, now agencies and businesses are politely driving the agenda forward with follow up contacts (which the user can always decline). Into this decade, bots will be more of a personal avatar, in regular contact and this step is the first down that road, inspired by the need for followups or updates during the virus.
Note that any bots still delivering unsuccessful conclusions will be abandoned by users rapidly, and operators, developers or admins need to ensure their bot meets the needs of users, as there is now plenty of choices available, bots are no longer a novelty, but an expected part of business or consumer online operations.
Chatbots will help with whatever the “new normal” is
Now that businesses are looking at recovery beyond the virus, and customers are eager to get back out into the world, with their own businesses or consumer needs, bots can be revisited with a fresh set of use cases and can leverage the build-up of trust in them to help companies operate more efficiently as the ramp-up from lockdown picks up the pace.
Using chatbots to help in these efforts can continue and expand from their virus-assistance-era roles. They can be updated to provide further support, highlighting changes in operating conditions, or updates to business services or products that clients or customers will find useful in the return to normal.
Bots can also ask questions or be used to take polls about what clients or customers need right now, or what problems they could do with help solving to provide a better picture of the landscape for them, allowing your business to refine products or offers to make them more relevant.
The “new normal” – whatever it turns out to be for you – will be a strange place for many other businesses, consumers and other parties, and they will be used to bots providing some of the answers and further boosting the sense of trust.
Prepare your bots to handle their queries through scenario planning and by looking at bot analytics to see what people are asking. Build up a library of questions-and-answers that you can load into the chatbot at any point as they become relevant and use marketing, social media or other posts to highlight how the bot is there to help people cope.
Also, work with other teams in the business or partners to highlight your success with bots and see where they can be used next. Some teams may not have used bots during the crises or may have had different experiences, sharing that information can build better bots that will help the business in future, and again help to build trust with users.
The future of chatbots and AI is now
Before the virus, plenty of businesses were sticking to their tried and tested excuses about not adopting bots and AI or delaying investment in them. Since then, bots have demonstrated their worth many times over, not just for medical or social advice, to businesses large and small, internally and externally.
Bots are helping businesses in technical areas, like the new AWS bot that provides alerts, can be used to run commands to return diagnostic information, invoke functions and create support tickets. They are also rolling about across more HR departments to help manage and respond to staff still working from home.
Marketing and consumer-facing bots can help with automated promotion and engagement tasks, even as people stay home – and as many are still limited in their movements or isolated will find bots a welcome point of interaction when businesses aren’t running at full strength or have had to reduce their customer-facing staff.
Whatever the interaction, chatbots and the AI tools behind them have proved their value during the crisis, and businesses that took advantage of them are better placed to keep up the momentum. Certainly, compared to those still sitting idly on the sidelines waiting for clients to come to them on quiet phone lines as customers and their business move on with more responsive and active prospects.
Everyone and every business has been affected by the Covid-19 virus. But companies that use Ai and bots to get back up to speed faster will find themselves with a useful competitive advantage, meeting new challenges, events and opportunities, as well as a client base or consumer audience more willing to use and engage with them.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.