May I help you?’ is often how we are being often greeted now on accessing a webpage or an app. And the messenger saying ‘Talk to us’ is a Chatbot or an AI-powered software designed for customer assistance.
The service industry that handles hundreds of queries a day has lapped up this software wholeheartedly. After all, an efficient customer service experience, with a 24/7 presence, is rated as top priority for today’s on-the-move customer.
Interestingly, these pre-programmed software tools, which can emulate a live text or voice chat, also have names to humanise a customer’s interaction with technology. For example, MakeMyTrip has Myra and HDFC has Eva.
But Chatbots are no longer playing just the role of virtual assistants. They are a resource pool for marketers and help in winning customer loyalty. Data from chatbots can be analysed to understand customer preferences and profiles, and services or products can be personalised accordingly.
Sensing the immense potential of AI in future businesses, Reliance Jio Digital Services acquired a 87 per cent stake in AI chatbot company Haptik for ₹700 crore earlier this year. Haptik, which boasts of associations with 50-plus brands, designs chatbots as per specific needs of businesses. Their products consist of support bots, lead bots, concierge bots and feedback bots.
A MakeMyTrip spokesperson explained how their AI solutions source information from various data sets and enable them to personalise pricing and sequencing to cater to post-booking needs. “We consistently invest in technological solutions to enhance the overall user experience to provide customers with highly relevant and personalised content. This effort of ours is reflected in our investments in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions and Natural Language Processing which help us create an array of options for our customers – from personalised videos to different listing orders, and hotel and flight recommendations.”
MakeMyTrip’s chatbot Myra has helped reduce booking time by 15-20 per cent and holds lakhs of conversations weekly. Their spokesperson explained how Myra has helped the brand. “Building deep expertise and data solutions in the chatbot space is also of key focus for us. Chatbots are especially important in the travel industry, where customers need their problems to be resolved immediately, even as they travel across time zones. Both our brands – Goibibo and MakeMyTrip – have one of the most efficient customer-facing bot solutions in the Indian online travel sector, named Gia and Myra respectively.”
HDFC’s chatbot EVA has handled more than 16 million queries since its launch with 85 per cent accuracy and holds approximately 20,000 conversations everyday with customers from all over the world. According to their official spokesperson, “More than the marketing strategy, we see engagement through chatbots as one more platform to provide an experience to our customers. The engagement is testament that there are customers who are comfortable with newer tech-based platforms. They provide an experience and customers can do banking as per their time and convenience. All this points to the broader objective of being a lifestyle brand, where the brand is relevant to the needs and desires of the customers.”
Building a brand value is a tedious process but, if done right, chatbots can easily be the instrument that bridges the gap between the brand and the customer through digital marketing, which is why companies should be investing in this technology, say experts.
Niraj Ruparel, National Head – Mobile, Mindshare India said: “A question here – why is suddenly sentiment tracking such a big industry? It is because consumers talk about brands and their experiences to others across various media. Similarly, for any brand using chatbots, chat data is a gold mine. It helps to track user perception, optimise purchase journeys and influence behaviours. Feedback from chat data can be incorporated across various departments – in marketing, product design, pricing etc.”
Chatbots are not only bringing down the cost of maintaining customer care centres but also helping companies understand their customers’ mental model, says Rohan Saraf, Head, Interaction Design, The Minimalist. “This gives access to direct insights like what are customers looking for and how do they go about it. Now a company has to just provide all the relevant information at a relevant time and location,” Saraf added.
Giving an example of how Swiggy has been effectively using chatbots to solve problems for its customers like – delay in delivery or refunds, Ralph Vaz, Founder of Acebot/Snippect, says chatbot-powered businesses are the way to go.
“Companies should invest in that technology as the ROI through savings and customer satisfaction spikes multiple times. Also, chatbots and conversational interfaces prove very convenient and more engaging with the customer. In some cases, like Snippect, businesses can interact with their customers while at their website and in context. The chatbot interacts with the customer in and around the article and understands or profiles why the customer has reached the website.”
If the chatbot is the first point of interaction for customers online, it then has an important role to play as the brand ambassador.
However, given that technology can at times frustrate a customer, marketers should draw the line in overselling the brand through promotional offers, upcoming deals or throwing up options the customer may not be interested in.
Thus, if done right these AI-powered chatbots can be the driving force for a brand’s digital marketing strategy.