Who isn’t investing in a chatbot right now?

From Mastercard to Lyft, it seems like 2018 will be the year of the chatbot. In fact, of 800 surveyed decision makers, 8 in 10 have said they already use or are planning to use chatbots by 2020. It’s a technology with a lot of potential to remove the friction of the customer experience and reduce support operations costs for call centers.

Is it all hype? Or will it meet this potential?

It depends. A poorly designed chatbot won’t come anywhere close, and will even do more harm to your brand than good. Anyone who has tried to get answers to a simple question from one of the early purveyors of chatbots (not naming names) can attest to how frustrating, annoying and tedious these interactions are.

Part of the excitement around chatbots now is that with the advancements in artificial intelligence and big data, it’s possible to actually deliver a great experience with chatbots (and be light years ahead of those previous poor experiences).  Getting it “right” and actually seeing returns from your chatbot project requires a solid strategy, tech stack and team. It sounds easy, but companies are still stumbling right now with getting those three in place.

Where Most Companies Go Wrong with Chatbots

What will a lot of companies regret a year from now when they review their chatbot project? For the most part, each of these recommendations comes down to not setting clear expectations and goals from the outset of the project with your team. Chatbots are not a panacea and will not cure all of your customer experiences issues. If you’re looking for that, you need to go undertake a top-to-bottom overhaul of your customer journey. A chatbot is only one part of that customer journey, but can become a crucial touchpoint to increase the overall satisfaction of your customers and their likelihood to be loyal to your brand. Just don’t make these mistakes:

#1 You haven’t defined the purpose and personality of your chatbot.

Without a clearly defined purpose, your chatbot risks doing more harm than good when it comes to customer satisfaction. It has the potential to be a really helpful tool, provided that your customers have realistic expectations of its capabilities, are aware of what the limitations are, and when they’ll be carried over properly to a live agent. Even if your customers know they’re engaging with a chatbot, they still want a human-like experience. Take a look at your current customer service interaction to define what conversation flows look like, branching, etc. The biggest mistake would be to treat the project as a technical one rather than a customer-centric one. Pro tip: think “conversational interface” not “bot”.

#2 You’re setting expectations too high.

One day, chatbots may be able to do everything for your customers, from solving complex tasks to taking orders to coordinating delivery times. For right now, however, and for your first chatbot, keep your expectations limited to simple interactions, and make sure that it’s clear to your customers what those limitations are.

For example, chatbots shine the brightest when dealing with low-level and low-risk customer requests. Since I’m personally a bit peckish, let’s talk about Domino’s Pizza, as profiled originally by CMSwire.com.

Domino’s had realized that their customers were constantly reaching out to them on Facebook to query what the deal of the day was. They immediately realized this is a prime opportunity for a simple chatbot to answer the questions for them, instead of taking time away from the social customer support team. They found a simple need, and used a simple realistic solution to save them time. But their chatbot implementation didn’t end there, now you can fully order a hot pie to your door through the bot itself. Keep in mind, they are still simple hardcoded if “X”, than “Y” answers. They aren’t deciphering complex instructions from customers or resolving those last-minute issues with your pizza order.

#3 You’re treating chatbots as separate from the other interactions in the customer’s journey.

For your customers, the interactions with your chatbot, website, call center, mobile app and more all one continuous experience that they have with your brand. If you’re still viewing each of these interactions as separate and not sharing the knowledge and insights gained between these channels, you’re losing the contextual awareness each of these channels need to provide a more personalized experience.

Your customer has recently purchased a product, is viewing page after page trying to resolve an issue with that same product, and now opens up a chat. If your chatbot doesn’t immediately understand that they are most likely resolving issues related to that chatbot and personalize the results to their questions based on their online behavior, you’re creating more friction in your customer experience and frustrating your customer.

#4 You don’t have a roadmap for your chatbot.

What’s the long-term view for your chatbot? How will it grow within your customer experience? If you’re just doing this as a one-off project to solve an immediate issue, don’t waste your money. You’re talking about investing a lot of resources and that investment needs to align with your strategic priorities and goals.

Focus on building a roadmap with small, measurable milestones that translate to quick wins for your customer experience strategy. Be realistic about how the technology is going to mature and where you need it to go for your company.

#5 You’re not using the insights you gain from your chatbot.

This is the most common issue that I frequently see with chatbot investments. This technology is a goldmine of customer knowledge and insights; where else are your customers directly asking for what they need and voicing their concerns? If you don’t have a plan in place to use every single insight to make your products and experiences better, you need to re-evaluate why you are creating a chatbot in the first place.

As you start to see the questions that your chatbot cannot answer, or the ones that generate more questions from the customer, you can use that data to create a content strategy to address those “content gaps” on your website to create a more seamless experience.

Companies can use chatbots to deliver a personalized and relevant interaction that quickly and efficiently solves your customer’s issues, as well as seamlessly integrates with the customer journey and experience. Don’t let the missteps above hold yours back when you’re creating your strategy this year. What has made a great chatbot experience for you?