I occasionally meet with a company that worries they’re not ready for bots. They think of bots as an emerging technology fraught with complexity. In some cases, they worry they don’t have the skill set to deploy the technology and get a return on their investment. Others want the technology to “mature” a bit more before they place a bet.
But if you stop to think about it, “Are we ready for bots?” is really a ridiculous question.
Do you have customers and employees? Do they use computers and smartphones? Does your business depend on IT? If you said yes to those three questions, then you’re probably bot-ready.
If you stop thinking about bots the way the tech industry talks about them, or the way AI is often depicted in movies, you’ll find that you have everything you need to be successful in today’s bot-friendly world.
It’s not just about tech, it’s about experience
The tech industry would have you think that bots are fundamentally changing the way we interact with the web. Some argue that bots mark the end of the era of mobile apps. I argue that your business shouldn’t care about what bots mean to the tech world. Focus on what they mean for your customer’s experience with your brand.
It’s common sense, really. Your time should be spent on your core business, not chasing trends in the technology industry. Bots are simply a more natural and authentic way to connect with your customers, employees, and various stakeholders. Put simply, bots offer a better customer experience — whether for making a purchase or getting support.
Temkin Group’s 2016 study said moderate improvement to customer experiences generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues. They also found that emotion was the most influential factor in determining a customer experience.
Think about that for a second — according to the Harvard Business Review, emotion is the new battleground for customer loyalty and repeat purchases. You can try to build emotion into your website, or maybe your shopping cart can use a heavy dose of empathic design. But the best way to connect with consumers is through conversation. If the experience isn’t conversational, you can’t come close to delivering an emotionally resonant customer experience. For this reason, the bot delivery medium is the ultimate interface for human emotion, whether it’s through text or voice.
If you already obsess over your brand experience and connecting with your customers, then you’re ready for bots. With the right “brains” powering bots behind the scenes, they’re the ideal delivery mechanism for the experience you’ve worked so hard to create in an authentic and approachable manner.
Endpoints and paradigm shifts
Thirty years ago, customer interactions primarily happened in-store and on the phone. Twenty years ago, we shifted toward email. Ten years ago, we shifted toward live chat. Today, we’re using bots to connect with customers on multiple messaging platforms everywhere.
IRL, phone, email, chat, bots — they’re all just delivering an experience at different endpoints. While the tech world perpetually bemoans “digital transformation” failures, I remain impressed at how even the most non-technical businesses have evolved to keep pace with customers demanding new forms of engagement at new endpoints.
Most businesses that stand the test of time do a good job of meeting their customers’ needs, especially as those needs change. But every business cares deeply about meeting customer needs. You could say that’s the fundamental function of a business.
The tech industry wants you to believe that each of technological changes represent a paradigm shift, no matter how big or small. Software may be eating the world, but the fundamentals of your business have not changed. The tech industry’s “paradigm shift” is often just a new endpoint that presents an opportunity to connect with and serve your customers. Used responsibly, bots are a remarkable tool to help you do just that.
It has already happened
Customers have already made the leap to messaging. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, chat and social media are already the top channel for customer support among millennials. Meeker’s report also points out that over 60 million businesses have active accounts on WeChat and Facebook, showing that businesses are making the move now, as well.
Are you ready for bots? If you’re just worried about buying the latest technology, maybe not. But if your goal is to better connect with your customers and grow your business, and you’ve got the foundation in place, then you’re as ready as you’ll ever be. Is there ever a good reason to hold off when your customers are waiting for you?
Ben Lamm is the cofounder and CEO of Conversable, a conversational intelligence platform.