Since founding it in 2011, I’ve run one of Israel’s largest crowdfunding platform, which has afforded me a front-row seat to thousands of fundraising efforts. Over that time, I’ve noticed that the key challenge crowdfunders face is not preparing the necessary assets (such as media, text, and perks), but rather marketing their campaigns broadly and effectively.

Except for some niche verticals like gadgets, most people do not browse crowdfunding sites looking for projects to back, the way they would peruse flights on Kayak or books on Amazon. The onus, therefore, falls to the campaign owners to market their efforts and attract followers. This singular aspect can make or break a crowdfunding campaign.

In order to help our fundraisers succeed, and in an effort to streamline our support activity, we focused on educating them on how to market their campaigns through a curriculum of video tutorials. While we saw promise in the direction of our initiative to teach crowdfunding marketing, we discovered that the bite-sized videos were simply not enough, and we had not materially reduced the requests sent to our user support team.

Through discussions with our users and data analysis, we discovered that there was a thirst for ongoing, real-time coaching. With that in mind, we turned our attention to creating a sort of “MVP” course — essentially an elaborate blog post serving as a 30-day marketing program, with tips and daily tasks. Like people given a new daily diet plan by a nutritionist, our users flowered with this newfound structure and discipline. Encouraged by the results, we turned the program into an interactive timeline, which yielded excellent engagement.

Still, things felt kind of “static.” We noticed users would often trail off before completing their 30 days campaign. If only there was a way to keep in touch with our users directly, where they spend most of their time, without overloading our support team!

And so, a chatbot was born.

Sonya was the natural next step in the evolution of our marketing education work. Rather than waiting for users to come to our site and check in with us for their next marketing assignment, we figured we would bring the party to them. Users can now interact with it directly via Facebook Messenger — getting their next lesson while catching up on their newsfeed. We’ve even recently started endowed Sonya with a “Perk Bank” that offers ideas for perks across different domains (will be available for music and video related projects this week). And soon, we’ll be able to notify users when they’re ready for their next assignment.

Since its launch (two months ago), we see more and more users, from all over the globe, get comfortable with the idea of a “bot coach” — and more are completing their 30-day marketing course than ever before. Although not all users appreciate the bot — they still prefer that human voice — those who have worked with Sonya have seen improved crowdfunding results, and we’ve noticed a significant reduction in our need for human customer coaching, freeing our staff to tackle new and more exciting opportunities.

Recently, I spoke with someone who offered a ballpark estimate of his company’s annual spending on customer service. It represents a significant expense. “How templated is the agents’ work?” I asked. As I expected, the answer was: “Very.”

Very quickly, we began drafting out a possibility to reduce CS load and expense by “outsourcing” many support needs to bots — especially for the more common service scenarios. Every minute a CS rep spends answering the same repeated question is a wasted resource.

Of course, we still need human support, and we will for a long time to come. But as we discovered with Sonya, there is an opportunity for every company to incorporate bots into the mix. True, they might start with more trivial tasks, but soon they will learn about your customers, offering you valuable insights that will help transform your support department — and your entire organization.

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