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Botnado: Will the bot explosion help or hurt brands?
While bots have great potential, they could also become the new IVR.
Millennials are more engaged with social communication and messaging apps than any other demographic group. According to a recent Nielsen report, millennials “spent 78 billion minutes in the average week using their smartphones (app and web) in the first quarter of 2017.” A big chunk of that is spent with messaging.
No conversation about messaging and millennials is complete without a companion discussion about bots. Indeed, there’s a perception that millennials would rather interact with bots than humans and are generally eager to have bot interactions.
A 2017 study by Retale argues that the majority of millennials are having positive experiences with bots. It also shows that 71 percent of millennials were interested in accessing bots from major brands. Only 18 percent said they were not interested.
This data and similar data from other studies appears to paint a fairly black-and-white picture of the market, arguing strongly that brands need to deploy bots across multiple platforms — and sooner rather than later. The Retale study does offer advice on areas for improvement (i.e., accuracy and more natural interaction). However, almost nobody is questioning the need for bots at scale.
As with everything, there’s the good version and the bad version. A bot for the sake of having a bot could be more damaging than helpful. Better to get it right than simply “fail fast.”
There’s some evidence that if brands are going to use bots for customer service and commerce, they need to ensure that the customer experience is sufficiently thoughtful and effective or it could backfire. Two recent surveys offer indications of this.
A “global shapers” survey (PDF) of thousands of millennials from around the world, conducted by the World Economic Forum, found that the majority of millennials don’t trust bots/robots to make decisions on their behalf. This question was asked at a very high level of abstraction, but it’s instructive nonetheless and reflects ambivalence about autonomous agents.
Another study from Fetch, Dentsu Aegis Network’s mobile agency, found that consumers have grown increasingly impatient as a result of technology. Millennials were the most impatient demographic group. Just under 30 percent said that they would be most frustrated (among a list of choices) when “making a complaint about a product/service and having to interact with an automated responder/chatbot instead of a person.”
As with all such things, execution is the key. Effective bots can potentially improve satisfaction and boost engagement and loyalty, even sales. Bad bot experiences have the potential to become the “new IVR” (interactive voice response), damage the brand and discourage commerce. Indeed, perfunctory or superficial bot experiences could be worse than none at all.