Winning the Brand War with Bots: Seven Considerations

AI, Bots

Winning the Brand War with Bots: Seven Considerations

By 6 Minute Read

Why is brand so important in today’s era of conversational AI?

Brands are at the heart of customer loyalty and trust as well as corporate values and purpose. Leading brands invest vast sums to protect, defend, and enhance their brands. And even though we often associate brands with large companies or consumer goods, brand recognition is also a winning strategy for B2B and even small- or medium-sized businesses. Now, in the age of digital technologies, the concept of creating and maintaining a memorable and lasting brand identity comes into sharper focus.

The Future of Conversational UI has Arrived

Conversational UI represents one of the biggest shifts in user interfaces ever. From the early days of print and telephone to the emergence of the internet and on to smart mobile devices, brands have been able to market to and engage with their audiences via different media, technology, and communication channels.

Now with voice-activated devices and conversational interfaces, user interactions can happen in the form of human chat and fluid conversations rather than clicking on menus or keying in information on a screen. For the consumer this spells simplicity, convenience and lower friction. For enterprises, it means new opportunities but also unchartered waters that could impact their brand equity. The voice revolution is here and for brands it represents a new and intense battleground. 

The power of smart conversations, through either voice- (Siri, Echo, Cortana, Google Home etc.) or message-based interfaces (SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp etc.), is increasingly shaping how businesses engage with their customers and create stickiness and loyalty. Technology advancements now enable brands to have a true voice, to build their identity through chat, and to enhance their conversational IQ through the underlying natural language processing (NLP) and AI capabilities. As such, AI and bot technology is going to be critical not only in winning the brand war, but also in not surrendering.

There’s no doubt that conversational and AI technology is heating up and brands are paying close attention. According to a recent Gartner survey, only 4% of enterprises have deployed conversational interfaces but 38% are planning to, or actively experimenting. The research firm also predicts that 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017. Meanwhile voice search is skyrocketing with Comscore predicting that 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020. And when it comes to voice-activated shopping habits, one in four consumers use voice on a mobile device to shop with 8% using home-based voice devices (Echo, Google Home etc.). The writing is on the wall and consumers are voting with their voices and messages.

Seven Ways to Make your Bots Good Brand Ambassadors

Many brands are in the early experimentation or implementation phases of voice-activated digital assistants and bots. Some businesses have multiple brands and brand identities which further complicates things as each can have a different bot ambassador. So here are seven considerations for designing and implementing bots that reflect a brand identity:

  1. Clarity and Purpose: We’ve all encountered a poor bot experience, one where the bot continues to say “Sorry I can’t handle that”, or gives us inaccurate responses, or directs us incorrectly, or sends us in a never-ending loop. A well-designed bot needs to be primed with different levels of exception handling so that the customer is not left hanging, whether this is via voice or messaging. It needs to keep the user informed of progress if there’s reason to pause while a request is being processed. It also has to be clear about any escalation that is being made, for example passing the interaction to a human agent. Also important, is signaling the conclusion of the intended actions or tasks. By confirming intent, excusing errors, escalating where necessary, and not rushing a conversation to a conclusion, a bot can have positive impact in reinforcing a brand. 
  2. Start Small: The golden rule of implementing new technologies is to start small and crawl before you run. This has never been truer than for conversational bot experiences. Just like when mobile apps emerged, a good bot design should not boil the ocean. A bot project should start small, focusing on a specific use case or customer journey, handling few intents so that it can execute successfully. Here are some examples of bots that are designed for very targeted tasks but that can work together to fulfill activities in more complex customer journeys. The goal is to bring the customer through a chat as quickly and seamlessly as possible, without them having to give too much information. The insurance provider, Lemonade, is a good example of a market disruptor who has a clever bot that guides customers through the process of getting an insurance quote in 90 seconds. Who would have thought this possible in an industry that has been traditionally shrouded in complex paperwork and rules-based processes? 
  3. Content Flow: Conversations need content but in a different form to traditional channels. In a web-based interaction you can step users through menus and click-throughs. In a conversational interaction you need to think more in terms of how humans converse. It’s more fluid but yet needs some structure and guidance. For example, when a bot requests information it shouldn’t ask multiple things at the one time. Our brains have difficulty following too many choices given in a single utterance. Instead, the bot should ask questions that elicit simple but clear responses, such as “yes/no” or “1”,”2″, or “3” to represent a manageable set of options. Message-based chat allows for the use of visuals such as images or videos in new size formats that can augment the content experience. An example of this is the Dominos pizza ordering bot. This all helps drive more guided conversations that can decode customer intents more efficiently and deliver the desired content or outcomes.
  4. Contextual and Smart: There’s a tendency to point customers to where the business wants them to go for more information (e.g. via banner ads, roundels or other calls-to-action), rather than anticipate their needs and offer them more personalized and convenient experiences. In the age of voice-activated and mobile devices, customers expect more contextual engagements. The more conversations a bot has with a customer, the smarter that bot should become, understanding and anticipating needs to ensure that over time the conversations are progressively more personal and relevant. For example, rather than sending your customers to the roundel on the website to interact with the bot, look to integrate it more natively across the page or digital property so that the bot becomes part of the brand and follows or flows with the customer. 
  5. Tone and Voice: Tone has always played an important part in branding as it reflects the core values and culture of the business. Large companies can often have several brands, each with it’s own tone. For example, Johnson & Johnson or Nestle. How employees engage with customers, the language the company uses across their content, and the consistency of brand imagery and messages are all related to the tone of the brand. Now, with conversational and voice-activated interfaces, tone and voice are more important than ever when embarking on implementing bots. Just like our human voices, the voice of a brand carries different emotions, intonations, and characteristics. And these need to reflect and enhance the brand. Established brands need to be mindful of the tone and voice of their bots, as well as any imagery or avatars that accompany them. The tone of a bot can be playful and genuine (for example the Lemonade insurance bot reflects their empathetic brand) or the tone can be more serious yet friendly, like that of the American Express bot, or casual in the case of the Starbuck’s bot. 
  6. Small Talk: Don’t disregard the impact of small talk on a brand experience. After all, we all use small talk in our daily conversations. Small talk is often an untapped branding opportunity and when done right can reinforce the brand tone, create a memorable experience, and even add a quirkiness or uniqueness to the brand that will have customers coming back for more. There are plenty of places in chat where small talk can add emotion and personality, provided of course, that the bot doesn’t lose track of the customer intent and executing on the task at hand.
  7. Minimize the Push: And finally, no one appreciates a pushy service or sales agent. Likewise, for bots. There’s nothing more annoying than pushing content to customers if they haven’t responded or using language that is abrupt or aggressive. Be mindful of tone, cadence, and customer intent and feelings. It’s easy to lose customers if a conversation is too forceful, rushed, or salesy. 

Branding isn’t easy and in today’s digital business environment, the pace of technological change, the ubiquity of messaging apps, the shift in attitudes amongst the millenial population, and the adoption of voice-activated devices are giving brands a run for their money. More than ever, brands can own the whole conversational experience and innovate in new ways to transform how they capture brand awareness, build brand loyalty, and win the brand war.

To read more about how bots can be a simple, yet powerful, way to transform customer engagement. Download our eBook: 10 Use Cases for an Army of Bots in Customer Engagement.

Visit us at ServisBOT to learn more about how we can help you deploy task-oriented bots quickly and easily 

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