Remember the days when news and correspondence arrived in the mail? As if snail mail didn’t take long enough to arrive, you then had to spend time sorting through what was received, filing it accordingly and discarding or taking action when necessary.

Then came electronic communication, which changed the way we interact with each other. Even more importantly though, email completely changed the way companies communicate with their customers. From financial statements, memos, newsletters, and promotions, to daily correspondence, it’s now all done almost solely through email.

Taking it a Step Further

Beyond email, today we have messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and Slack, many of which support chatbots. One of the biggest messaging platforms out there is Facebook Messenger, which enables thousands of companies to proactively and directly communicate with their customers at scale.

Massive growth has been seen in both the use of messaging platforms and bots, as tools to engage with current and potential customers; and they’re being adopted by companies of all sizes. This is the future of communication to such an extent that, some say, will one day replace existing methods such as email, web and mobile applications. According to a survey done by Oracle, which included responses from 800 top-level executives, 80% said that they’re already using or plan to use chatbots by 2020.

(Image source: BI Intelligence)

Though they’re a new and revolutionary communication channel, bots, like any other platform, have their pros and cons.

A Comparison to Email

One major benefit that bots bring to the table is in the engagement sphere, as a message is not static, rather it’s the beginning of an interactive conversation that assumes back and forth interaction between the user and the bot, or, “the brand”. Communicating through a bot is quick and to the point, while the chat offers the consumer the exact information they’re looking for. A bot offers more opportunity to engage, as opposed to communicating through email, where the discussion can become laborious and lengthy, due to the time it takes to receive an answer and devise a response. But, a challenge that many marketers face with regards to using chatbots to engage consumers, is ensuring that they don’t come across as intrusive. Since bot messages directly to a person’s messaging application, many view them as too direct or in your face. Imagine a courier arriving unannounced to your home and knocking on your door to deliver a message or package. To some, this may seem intrusive, while to others, this may seem like a help, as having someone show up is convenient and makes things easier for you. It’s for this reason that bots are context and scenario dependent.

One company reaping the benefits of chatbots is Uber, which has a chatbot that allows its users to order a ride, wherever and whenever, straight through Facebook Messenger. Just open the bot and have a full conversation where you can request a ride, give pickup location information to, and more. The bot will also provide you with real-time status updates on your ride, so that you always get to where you need to be, on time.

     (Image source: https://newsroom.uber.com/messengerlaunch/)

Strategy Goes a Long Way

Chatbots must be used wisely in order to not only be effective, but propel businesses, sales, and customer support efforts forward. Marketers must strategize and devise a plan before implementing a bot, as they can seem invasive. How often will they engage with their audience? What are the main goals of the bot and the desired outcome of a conversation it has with a customer? These are all questions that must be asked in order to lessen the chances of the bot appearing invasive and avoiding user dissatisfaction.

A Future of Bots

There are many differences between how users are accustomed to interacting with brands, and how they will be interacting and engaging with these brands in the future. When used correctly, chatbots open new opportunities and possibilities for a more personalized communication channel between a user and a brand. Not only does this satisfy users, but it allows for relationships to grow and convert customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

When you think about it, at times it is quite fine, and even exciting, having someone knocking on your door to deliver a message directly to you.

 

Want to find out whether all conversational user experiences are equal? Click here