Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To compliment the new Emerging Media classes in our updated catalog, he joins us today to explain the way chatbots are changing CRM, and how companies can benefit.
Because the chatbot is associated with a long history of frustrating and sometimes humorous responses to human questions, many Internet users roll their eyes when they hear the word chatbot.
And while some searchers ignore chatbox pop-ups habitually, many users fight the urge to close a window or end a phone call when they know a chatbot is on the other side.
Nowadays, some of those users are pleasantly surprised to find that chatbot technology has come a long way in only a few short years. In fact, marketing teams might go so far as to say that chatbot technology has matured into the full-fledged industry called conversational commerce.
Because conversational commerce technology has emerged from its novelty phase when chatbots like Microsoft's Office Assistant and AIM's SmarterChild were cutting edge, and now it's —and it's riding a new wave of interest.
Source: Google Trends
In no small part, this chatbot renaissance is due to the proliferation and popularity of messaging apps which - along with brand name chatbots and personal assistants like Google Now and Amazon Alexa - have seen the marketing and AI potential of chatbots grow immensely.
Source: BI Intelligence
In addition, the modern marketing team's demand for 24/7 brand messaging and the ability to deliver a message when no one's available to take a call has worked double time to generate big waves of chatbot interest in platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Source: Google Trends
This means that the modern marketing team's demand for constant messaging has made the online environment ripe for innovation in chatbot marketing technology.
And while the most obvious function of chatbots may be in the realm of customer relationship management (i.e., attraction and retention of customers) the role of chatbots is expanding to include other realms for innovation in marketing: most notably, corporate productivity.
Here's why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot.
Big Customer Service Potential
Customer service, and specifically customer retention, is arguably the biggest, best, and most time-tested reason to invest in chatbot technology for your marketing team.
Over the years, customers have grown begrudgingly accustomed to going through the menu-items listed by interactive voice response systems (IVR), the ancient ancestors of the chatbot, that direct customers to the appropriate party via telephone keypad.
Source: Rob Guilfoyle, CEO Abe AI (LinkedIn)
Ask almost any customer what they think of interactive voice response, however, and you'll find that it's not a very good tool for retaining customers, much less maintaining customer satisfaction.
Today, free-flowing chatbot technology enables customers to interact with an AI system that - like a real employee - creates a conversational experience and learns a customer's preferences. Fostering such a natural language exchange rather than forcing a rote, numerical interaction is much more likely to meet modern consumer expectations, which increasingly depend on our ability to query interfaces like we would Google.
This is why adopting chatbot technologies early, and especially those that can handle customers' natural language queries, is likely to pay off in the long run—or in the words of Rob Guilfoyle, CEO of Abe AI, "likely [to] see quick and demonstrable ROI by getting ahead of the adoption curve."
Even Bigger Corporate Productivity Potential
Perhaps for the obvious reason that chatbots can avoid the complications that arise from human error, chatbot technologies have the potential not only to revolutionize the way we think about corporate productivity (i.e., as a means to the end of "the bottom line"), but also the very fabric of corporate productivity itself.
After all, if chatbots can take care of all our customers' service needs, could it become more productive for marketing teams to channel their energy into higher order, less tangible concerns, like accomplishing acts of social good? Could productivity become less defined as a measure of quantity than of quality?
Barring immediate answers to immaterial questions such as these, the prospect of a non-human future where someday, somehow, chatbots could replace human marketers is both frightening and exciting.
This prospect is frightening because chatbots really are beginning to spell a monumental change in the marketing profession for customer relationship managers. It is exciting because chatbots have the potential to more easily automate a processes that annoys customers at the same time as they develop more productive relationships with them.
All that is to say, good chatbots with good AI will make good customers, giving users and consumers the cutting-edge experience they crave with a company that is future-oriented.
And what better way to retain customers than to impress on them that you always have their interests (and their future) in mind?
Need more reasons why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot? Take OMI's newest classes on Emerging Media to see how chatbots are changing online marketing.