What Tech Marketers Need to Know About Chatbots

August 17, 2016

What Tech Marketers Need to Know About Chatbots

Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) have begun to empower many aspects of the customer experience in both B2B and consumer marketing. But what is all the hype about? What do today’s tech marketers need to know in regards to how chatbots might impact their business?

To get the details, we recently sat down with Christian Monberg, President and CTO of Boomtrain, to discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by chatbots for technology marketing leaders.

Monberg is passionate about using technology to make people’s lives better. He started our conversation with some context: “For every ten articles I’m seeing about chatbots, I’m starting to see one article that says maybe it’s not all it was cracked up to be. There is no doubt that chatbots in general can be additive to experiences, but they can also be like greeters at big-box retailers — catching you off guard with an overwhelming ‘Welcome to our store!’ Customers don’t want to feel that way. Instead, their experiences should mirror the feeling of walking into a Nordstrom, where the scenario revolves around shoppers.”

Chatbots: What are they and why should tech marketers care?

By definition, chatbots are computer software programs designed to simulate artificial intelligence via text. They vary in sophistication and, ideally, are designed to converse with and “learn” about users by crunching algorithms that output information within chat interfaces.

Today, seven big technology players are leading the chatbot-charge, including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. The goal for these innovative enterprises is simple: leverage chatbot technology to deliver heightened customer value, extract meaningful data, and enhance marketing potential. These interfaces can be constructed in many ways — thus, opportunities for 21st century marketers to leverage chatbots are bountiful.

As documented by Business Insider, more time is spent in messaging apps today than in social media. This creates great potential for marketers to leverage chatbot services and better handle customer inquiries, answer client questions, and pool common customer escalations.

For tech marketers in particular, chatbots are best suited for routing customer conversations to respective answers or escalating inquiries and feedback to a representative at the appropriate time. This can be especially useful for strengthening relationships, satisfying buyer expectations, and tackling post-sale support. And from a data perspective, chatbots can provide deeper knowledge of customer preferences and engagement patterns, enabling marketers to understand buyers in a more meaningful way.

Getting started with chatbots: It’s all about the customer

According to Monberg, determining whether chatbots are actually right for your needs comes first, and performing this assessment is a valuable exercise that will provide you with key information about potential gaps in your customers’ experiences.

To begin, Monberg recommends “drawing out your customer journey — thinking about why and how you’re communicating with a client or prospect and when.” He cautions building chatbots that provide mere answers to things that are not questions, or that simply distract users.

In the complex world of technology purchasing, you should be assessing your users’ entire experience — from the buying process to post sale and product support — and considering chatbots as a potential tool for simplifying specific tasks within that complete lifecycle. Your customers are already inundated, so chatbots should always be deployed alongside a thorough, holistic communication strategy.

Enhancing and enabling a holistic journey

What AI and chatbots do best, when smartly deployed, is take all of the grunt work out of the mundane and repeatable tasks you’ve been doing — in marketing, customer support, sales and finance — allowing you to focus on overall strategy. As Monberg says, “Your biggest capital is human capital, and humans should be thinking about strategic things, not deploying tactics.”

When designing for an experience, Monberg says you look for latent needs, and chatbots can address these in an additive way, noting that he would love to see chatbots help with everything from product marketing to onboarding users. “You send out an email every week on updates, for example. Why couldn’t those updates of the product be sewn into the conversation that you’re expected to have with a chatbot when you’re inside of your application?”

Monberg has different recommendations for tech startups vs. and enterprise companies. He says that small startups should resist the temptation to use bots because customer feedback is the most valuable asset you have. Compromising that nuanced and open flow of communication can be a detriment to your business. For enterprise business leaders, there are great opportunities for bots to fill communication gaps, but you shouldn't automatically use a bot just to use it for technology's sake.

And, as a rule, Monberg emphasizes that “when evaluating chatbots, you should assess their use as you assess your own technology: is it enabling an experience? Or, is it forcing an experience in and of itself?”

Takeaways

Enterprise leaders often think AI is intimidating, but Monberg simplifies: AI is a broad term, algorithms are the specific application. There are challenges in user experience — customers want autonomy, so AI and chatbots need to be properly designed and sewn into the fabric of the experience. However, products and services with longer sales-cycles and more complex transactions cannot and should not try to replace the necessary human interaction with chatbots.

Today’s B2B buying process is an ongoing cycle, and if you’re doing it right, you’re deploying the right technology at the right time to enable a more personalized experience for your customers — and personalization requires empathetic design. Following a thorough evaluation, chatbots might be just the right thing to help enhance your customers’ experience.

Are you considering or using chatbots with your tech customers? We’d love to hear about your experience @LinkedInMktg.

For more insights for today’s savvy tech marketer, check out our devoted content on the LinkedIn Marketing blog!

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