Last week Lauren Kunze of Pandorabots wrote a great article for Techcrunch On Chatbots. If anybody knows a thing or two about chatbots, it’s Lauren. I like the analogy she uses at the beginning of the article. Chatbots, she writes, are like the proverbial ugly duckling. Suddenly out of nowhere these much maligned creatures are taking our messaging platforms by storm and strutting about like beautiful swans.
Kunze goes on to address and debunk several myths of chatbots. One of the myths she confronts is the notion that chatbots are the same thing as bots. To be honest, the distinction between the two species had started to blur in my mind.
For Kunze, chatbots are first and foremost conversational. They exist to interact with humans in a conversational way, whether that be in the form of text or speech. So a bot that does things but isn’t conversational doesn’t fit well into Kunze’s chatbot category.
And just how easy is it to build one? There may be more work involved than you’ve been led to believe. There are tools to support your efforts, though, if you know where to look.
Can chatbots really provide value to businesses and their customers? What tasks are they well-suited for and where do their weaknesses lie?
I highly encourage you to read the original article to learn more about misconceptions you may have about chatbots and to understand why you may be missing a golden opportunity.
IPG Media Lab hosted a panel discussion on the topic of Conversational Interfaces. The panelists included representatives from Msg.ai, X.ai, and SoundHound. The general consensus among panelists was that messaging is solidifying its place as the preferred mode of mobile communication. It’s true that voice interfaces are rapidly improving and gaining traction. And email is probably still the channel that businesses use most often to schedule meetings. But consumers are flocking to messaging platforms to communicate with friends and, increasingly, even to do business.
Companies like Msg.ai and Imperson are popping up to help brands design conversational characters that can interact with consumers via popular messaging platforms. During the IPG Media Lab panel, Msg.ai founder and CEO Puneet Mehta spoke about a campaign his company worked on for Sony Pictures to promote the Goosebumps film. Msg.ai created a conversational chatbot to represent the snarky Slappy character from the film. This promotion was similar to the one involving Imperson’s promotion of The Muppets Show that I wrote about a few months ago.
What are the compelling reasons to start looking at shifting brand promotion to messaging platforms? How can you leverage existing intelligent assistant technologies to get a leg up on conversational interfaces? I examine these questions in more depth in my recent post Messaging: The Future of Brand Engagement? on the Opus Research site.
A few weeks ago, Nellie Bowles of the Guardian wrote an article called With love from my robot: virtual assistants may secretly be emailing you. Bowles focused on technologies from X.ai and Clara Labs. Both companies offer virtual meeting coordinators that use natural language understanding and machine learning algorithms to coordinate meeting times by emailing all meeting participants. People who receive the emails often aren’t aware that the email was written by a bot.
This past week I had an opportunity to talk with some of the team from Conversica. Like X.ai and Clara, Conversica offers technology that uses a smart virtual assistant to carry out routine tasks using email. In the case of Conversica, the assistant focuses on augmenting a company’s sales staff. The virtual sales assistant contacts leads by composing, sending, and responding to emails.
Conversica has designed the technology to be so personable and effective at crafting emails that most people assume they’re interacting with a human sales associate. The bot never writes the exact same email twice, but varies greetings, phrasing, and other aspects of each communication to give them a spontaneous and genuine feel.
Having a virtual sales assistant offers many benefits to a company that lives or dies on how well they follow up and close leads. In some cases, Conversica’s virtual sales assistant actually has an edge over its human colleagues. The fact is, Conversica’s bot never gets its feelings hurt when a prospect ignores its emails or says no. As a result, the virtual sales assistant is remarkably persistent.
The benefit to the prospect is that, no matter how far they are down in the lead queue, the company genuinely cares about winning their business and follows up with them. If they’re truly interested in the product, the sales bot connects them with a real person and makes sure that person doesn’t drop the ball.
To find out more about the history of Conversica’s company and underlying technology, see my full article Conversica Ramps Up Its Virtual Sales Assistant To Keep Tabs on Prospects on the Opus Research blog.