Driving commerce and sustaining relationships across sectors and business
Three scenarios showing how conversational commerce is helping in driving business and sustaining relationships across sectors.
Scenario 1: Retail banking
Bank of America, DBS, MasterCard and Wells Fargo are among the institutions in the financial services sector that are already employing chatbots to service their retail clients. In this space, chatbots are programmed to be able to give advice (RoboAdvisor), search and execute transactions, make payments, check balances and pay down debt, focusing on building banking products around the customer while creating a positive service experience.
Scenario 2: Public sector and life sciences
Chatbot usage involving medical and pharmaceutical information is often perceived as more controversial than other chatbot-employment areas. Yet, in January 2017, the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK launched a six-month trial involving 1.2 million residents in north London.8 This chatbot will be provided as an alternative to the NHS telephone helpline that patients can contact to receive health care advice and be directed to local and after-hours medical services. Even within the pharmaceutical industry, there has been increased interest in employing chatbots, allowing companies to take on a more digital and agile approach to their business strategy.
Scenario 3: B2B
Application of chatbots in the B2B sphere is equally viable. Research has shown that only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged with the companies they do business with, while 60% are indifferent and 11% disengaged.9 B2B bots can be used in a variety of ways, from product information to checking inventory and shipping status updates, requesting invoice copies and filing complaints, allowing for a potential cost reduction and improvement in customer relationships.
The “three Cs” of conversational commerce
The areas where conversational commerce can be employed most effectively and enable a great customer experience are within commerce, content and care:
- Commerce (purchase and reservations) examples: placing an order, booking a car service or purchasing event tickets
- Content (information and availability) examples: obtaining information such as interest rates, flight schedules or special offers
- Care (personalization, convenience and loyalty) examples: checking eligibility for benefits, filing a complaint or checking for a weather warning in the area
Given these examples, a business-to-consumer (B2C) scenario may seem the most obvious employment area for chatbots, yet the same opportunities exist in a B2B environment. Typical use cases can be found in the order-to-cash (OTC) process or in interaction and communication between suppliers. Significant potential can also be found when examining the corporate applications for chatbots.
Chatbots could be an ideal way to overcome employee reluctance to take full advantage of corporate intranets and to reduce the time wasted by IT and HR departments on routine and repetitive queries.
For companies, it’s more than cost savings
The most obvious benefit of chatbot employment for organizations comes in the form of cost savings. As chatbots take on more of the routine tasks and queries, humans are left free to tackle more complex service issues.
But, in addition to the operational value created by reducing or reallocating staff hours, conversational chatbots will create value by shifting the dynamics of consumer engagement in five key ways:
- Accessibility: Chatbots can aggregate huge ranges of services and information onto one intuitive platform. A chatbot for an airline, for instance, could check flight times, buy tickets, and book transport and accommodation, all as part of one command rather than consumers having to perform each function separately.
- Efficiency: According to findings by the Baymard Institute, 69% of online transactions are abandoned in the shopping cart.10 Chatbot shopping assistants could help drive those sales and provide on-demand advice for customers who are confused or put off by lengthy checkout processes.
- Personal touch: Customers know what they want and, thanks to the likes of Netflix and Spotify, it’s easy for them to get it, with algorithmic predictions and recommendations selecting songs and movies with very little input necessary. Chatbots could similarly learn users’ preferences and evolve into a digital concierge service. This will drive the sales of goods and services, and increase overall ease for the customer.
- Improved understanding of customers: Properly implemented, chat conversations can provide a wealth of data about customer preferences. Tracking customer queries has long been done by businesses to improve their products and service offerings, yet turning this into a dynamic, digital conversation can provide far more detailed data for more rigorous analysis. By tracking factors from the level of detail within questions through to tone of voice and speed of response, greater insights into the customers’ reactions, decision-making and behavior can be gained.
- Greater consistency of brand experience: Humans can be highly inconsistent, afflicted by mood swings, fatigue and errors — be those factual, grammatical or typographic — while chatbots provide an incredibly continual and reliable experience for the user. Crucial elements, such as tone and brand language, can be designed and set to provide every customer with the same high level of experience, allowing for greater satisfaction.
The human touch
Chatbots could be a hugely powerful tool for brands, but “engagement” is the key word to remember here, not “displacement.” Chatbots should reduce the friction that slows down a consumer getting what they want and need by understanding, anticipating and predicting that particular user’s behavior. If you want to maintain and build customer loyalty, automation, algorithms and analytics can only take you so far. The best, most trusted relationships aren’t solely built on conversation but on a sense that your interests are being truly understood and respected, and that your opinions matter.
While we cannot predict how the world will function in five years’ time, we can assume that chatbots will play an integral role in customer engagement, across sectors and for years to follow. Chatbots are a highly efficient and cost-effective way to create a consistent experience for the customer, creating benefits for both the end user and the company employing them.