ITL #367 To bot or not to bot: that is the question

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Bots are helping organizations boost performance in many remarkable ways, but they still have their limitations. By Ramya Sahasranaman.



We wake up to the Alexas and Siris of the world, informing us about the weather outside and the latest news that occurred while we were sleeping. Our wearable devices ensure we drink enough water, watch what we are eating and exercise sufficiently to reach our desired fitness levels.

Our work emails and calendars remind us about our schedule for the day. And let’s not forget how easy it is to capture a memory using the cameras of our smartphones and share it with the world instantly. There’s no way you can remain untouched by technology. Unless you are living the life of a monk in the Himalayas!

Technology has swept the world of corporate communications and led to a complete overhaul of the function. In order to engage with an audience that has a ‘seven second’ attention span and looks for crisp, punchy posts with profound messages, communications professionals have had to don a new avatar. They are nimble, fast thinkers, creative and always have an eye on what’s trending.  

Driving high engagment levels with customers and employees has been a major challenge for communications professionals. Encouraging employees to log in to the intranet to view content is indeed a Herculean task. Communicating key business updates over emails is also ineffective as these emails often end up cluttering mailboxes and yield no results.

Bots to the rescue

In today’s world of instant noodles and instant loans, there has been a natural shift to instant communication. With the emergence of bots integrated with messenger apps, businesses can push messages to their targeted audience – employees, customers and other stakeholders – and also provide them with the information they seek, whenever and wherever they want.

There is a visible shift from social media to messenger apps that support one-to-one interactions and conversations across smaller groups. Bots enable businesses to interact with their customers and employees through messaging. Depending on the goals, businesses can choose from 3 types of chatbots:

       1. Rule-Based Chatbots

Rule-based bots are best suited for businesses that can pre-empt conversations and train bots to respond to queries using simple rules. They work on if/then logic and create the flow of the conversation. These bots use Natural Language Processing and conversations with them are very structured and succinct. However, they are not suitable for elaborate two-way conversations.

       2.  Chatbots

Intelligent bots, on the other hand, are powered by AI and are more complex, interactive and sophisticated. They keep improvising responses with time and make use of natural language and predictive intelligence to create a personalized user experience.

       3. Hybrid Chatbots

A hybrid approach provides the flexibility and speed to develop chatbots that enhance customer experience. In this, statistical algorithms, linguistic conditioning and machine learning integrations make chatbots function in line with business expectations.

Word of caution

It is necessary to take cognizance of the limitations of chatbots.

  • Conversational Understanding – Pure machine learning bots may not have the conversational understanding that human beings have. They may not be able to create a consistent brand personality either. This is because their learning and responses are amassed from various sources, that may be fragmented.

 

  • Global Effectiveness – For global enterprises, chatbots need to be fluent in various languages and this may not be supported by most solutions.

 

The bot industry is maturing, and solution providers are coming up with enhanced features that are overcoming challenges that earlier versions of chatbots had. While chatbots may not be the only option for optimizing business communications, they have proven to be effective. 

Bots for corporate communications

By creating bots that reflect the brand personality, we can use them to enhance the brand image. Bots can also help with sentiment analysis and give you a good understanding of people’s perception of your brand. Not only B2C, but even B2B businesses can leverage the benefits of bots for achieving their brand goals.

By integrating bots with your website, you can gain valuable insights about the users visiting it. Calendar syncing allows these bots to schedule calls with sales teams once a lead is identified. With a constant drop in click-through rates pertaining to email marketing, chatbots are poised to become a popular choice for lead generation.

Chatbots & internal communications

Most enterprises have messaging apps for employee communications. Integrating chatbots to these messaging apps can help improve employee productivity. Chatbots can answer common employee queries like those pertaining to their leave, company policies, etc., syndicate news and share company updates.

These bite-sized interactions are highly engaging and are a great tool for internal communications. For detailed content, a link to a document can be shared on chat for the user to view it on the intranet. Chatbots can trigger interactions at the perfect time and are measurable making them a great choice for improving employee productivity and engagement.

Successful usage of bots

Many enterprises have invested in bots for their business communication and have experienced huge benefits in terms of ROI. Amtrak has increased bookings by 25% through AI based chatbots that help visitors plan and book their rail travel. Perfect Mobile increased their visitor-to-lead conversion rate from 6% to 20% within six months by introducing targeted chats with prospects.

Bupa, an international healthcare company has integrated chatbots to their messaging system to address employee queries, helping them become more efficient. HDFC Bank, a leading Indian private bank, has introduced EVA, an AI powered chatbot that uses text messages and voice interactions to respond to user queries and enhance customer experience.

Popular chatbots

Drift is a popular chatbot that can be integrated with your website to increase conversions. It interacts with users based on their behavior and helps create a personalized experience for them. Flow XO is a solution that is best suited for companies that interact with customers and employees across multiple platforms. Amber is a chatbot that has successfully helped curb attrition by identifying unhappy employees before they quit their jobs. There are many such chatbot solutions that are helping enterprises achieve their business goals. If you’d like to introduce bots to your communications strategy:

   1. List out the challenges faced by your teams in achieving business goals.

   2. Start exploring use cases for improving the effectiveness of your team using chatbots. You will need to understand the features of available chatbot solutions, test them extensively and experiment a lot.

   3. With the results, convince your executive board about the effectiveness of the chosen solution.

In conclusion

“By 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis.” (Source - Gartner

Enterprises are looking at bot technology to enhance the experience of employees and customers. With every new tech innovation, it has become indispensable to learn new ways of managing corporate communications effectively in the digital world. From print adverts to digital newsletters, intranet, to podcasts, video bytes and chatbots, it has been a very dynamic journey for communicators.

To be effective in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, we need to have the capability ‘to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’ as Tennyson wrote in Ulysses. Chatbots can aid us in this endeavor.

 


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The Author

Ramya Sahasranaman

Ramya Sahasranaman is a marketing & communications professional with diverse work experience across various industry verticals. She has worked with leadership teams to create and execute communications programs that support organizational strategies. Currently, she heads the Corporate Communications & Marketing function at MindCraft.

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