In an era where texting reached a new level, chats and message apps have emerged as the latest marketing engagement tool. People are more and more on their phones, checking them 58 times a day, and are even more embedded in their apps’ interfaces and designs. That is why businesses have increasingly begun to use bots (AI) as an efficient way of replying to their customers. Its goal is to gain efficiency for the customer and the company.
As we can see from Gartner, e-commerce has been growing strongly during the past 8 years. The coronavirus and lockdowns that came over the past months only accelerated the trend. It is, therefore, necessary for brands to be able to interact with customers through other means than physical interaction or slow and inefficient e-mails or phone calls. Companies are now fighting to offer the best CX (Customer eXperience) or TX (Total eXperience) to the consumer in order to gain online market shares.
There are more and more companies, especially in e-commerce, that use chatbots to streamline their customer services. And for that, they need people to create and develop this new system. Many might ignore it, but there are data analysts behind these chatbots who analyse customer requests and trends. Employees are therefore not condemned to lose their jobs, but rather to acquire and develop new skills and adapt to these new digital trends.
To help you understand their impact on your job, let me tell you the story behind the creation of chatbots:
In the beginning, the idea was to create a friendlier and more comfortable space for the customer. So, businesses began to think about how the customer would interact in their daily life. Messaging apps were popping up everywhere with the idea of creating a chat between a company and its clients — a less formal way to exchange than the classic email or phone call which can be oppressive. But, originally, the technology just did not allow it. Chatbots were only able to answer according to a defined tree structure thanks to the different prerecorded discussions, this remained very basic and had its limits.
The technology soon developed and created a more advanced type of chatbot called “messenger chatbots” capable of mimicking a real discussion with a human being. For sure “mimic” as it had more options to answer and solutions to propose, but it was still unable to use the things we take for granted, such as intuition, to go “outside the box”. The system is based on keywords and its ability to recognize them to lead to a solution. It was a real revolution allowing people to get answers to their questions quickly and efficiently. For customers who were still unable to find conclusive answers with technology, human operators were indispensable.
Finally, the last evolution was the fusion between chatbots and AI (such as IBM’s Watson). This mix allows a chatbot to be not only a library but also a bookseller. However, even with today’s improvements, chatbots are not enough advanced to understand human nature to react “naturally” to customers. Machines always need Humans to create them and still now, they can only support us to improve the quality of our work or service. This is the belief of Mathieu Mouton, specialist in conversational marketing, COO and co-founder of eKonsilio, a chat solution for the automotive sector.
According to him, the GAFAs are still struggling to deliver good customer service with this technology. He remains convinced that we all need human interactions and real experiences to make the right choices in terms of consumption.
It can be confirmed by the famous Gartner hype cycle. Chatbot technology is soon to be facing the harsh reality of its limits. For many, it is a few years away from being able to be used efficiently by companies.
If you are like Mathieu and believe chatbots have a way to go, you might want to consider the alternative proposed by eKonsilio. They designed a different way of chatting and helping customers to find what they are looking for and, in the case of eKonsilio’s clients, that is usually a car. A team of 30 eKonsilio engineers are dedicated to online chatting to create leads for brands. Once a need is defined and the data collected, the human salesman takes over to close the sale.
We have all heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal regarding the protection of personal data online and the resale of collected data. Some people still, understandably, feel concerned about the security of data collected from customers. However, companies like eKonsilio are very aware of this and go to great lengths to comply strictly with the GDPR laws and also the French CNIL regulations. They also have a Data Protection Officer to ensure the legality and security of all operations. If you are simply looking for information without purchasing, no problem, your choice will be respected! Indeed, 80% of their online conversations are not converted into sales and are simply searches for information.
Building customer relationships through live chat is the key. According to Mathieu, at some point, most interactions will become digital, live chat will prevail over phoning. He is not saying that phoning will completely disappear, but that customers will always need a connection with a human being. It will therefore go through the chat human aka “chatmans”. This will be the best way to create a deep bond between the salesman and the final customer, something that chatbots using AI cannot build. An added bonus is that the conversational marketing solution proposed by eKonsilio creates jobs since behind each technology there is a human without whom the chat could not work.
Is there an ultimate winner in the battle between chatbot and chatman?
90% of businesses reported that chatbots helped them solve complaints much faster than any other solution. Another obvious advantage of using them is that it increases customer satisfaction. It constantly replies to common questions from the clients without ever having those emotional moments that humans cannot avoid! A Chatman might not be able to cope in the same way with a hyper-charged day.
However, while a Chatman can easily understand and even predict what a client might want, a chatbot cannot show empathy, understand the customer’s misspelling or be capable of building a emotional relationship.
Interestingly, when the team who wrote this article were looking into the company, they tested the chatbot present on the website. They were convinced that they were talking with a robot, whereas during the interview, Mathieu confirmed that it was indeed a human being — meaning that humans aren’t always good at telling the difference. This experience reminded the team of this famous Turing Test.
‘The Turing test, originally called the imitation game by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.’
Mathieu believes that for certain sectors of industries such as automotive or luxury sectors, a chatman and a salesman are indispensable. Customers tend to prefer talking to human beings rather than robots. The chatbot has a completely different mission than the salesperson. It has to do the tedious work the salesperson is not willing to do, nurture potential clients for them and finally let sellers convert the leads.
Now, we can assume that chatbots are not meant to steal our jobs. Don’t forget that when the first industrial machines appeared, everyone thought they were going to lose their jobs. Then computers came and, today, it’s time for artificial intelligence!
Chatbots can improve the selling process by valuing time efficiency and preparing the field for the seller. Computers remain machines: they cannot (yet?) feel the emotions human can go through.
Chatbots evolve from day to day but there are always flaws. So, what are the next steps? It is important to highlight the possibility of combining technologies. Smart assistant like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant can be a good solution to recycle chatbots.
Except for the fact that Siri can do beatboxing and Alexa can replace your old toothpaste, what can chatbots and smart assistants do for our society in the future? They could perhaps be used in areas such as education. Could an interface be the missing part of the puzzle enabling the Internet’s knowledge to be shared around the world?