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Forget human-like... the goal for bots is to be effective

Not much is new - most 'innovation' is existing stuff repackaged. Lack of novelty doesn't reduce capacity to produce positive results. And similarly being original doesn't imply success.

As bots have developed (including our own) I have studied developments across the industry in the types, choices, providers and issues with implementing bots. I guess I have the advantage of 20 years experience of operations and automation - finding real world solutions that succeed because they give users something better. I am amazed at some technologies that come to market: sometimes not in a good way!

If the objective were to kid a human that a machine is not really a machine (see the Turing test) then natural language is pretty important. Attaching a photo or cartoon face and pretending to have a personality...really? This is only relevant when the bot is infact a toy. To deliver a real world business use case, some would say these are at best unhelpful distractions.

A bot is simply a vehicle to deliver automation

What matters is whether automation works in practice. We need to start to put substance over form.

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It frustrates to see comments such as 'all our jobs will be taken' as this distracts from the core issues. Since the 18th Century machines and automation has been a central part of developed economies. It is what drives productivity and therefore prosperity. It is what drives business.

Perhaps if we moved away from the personification of bots some folk would feel less personally threatened too?

Automate tasks that are difficult or expensive when done by people

I have heard it described by a former CEO at the Co-op, business leaders have three jobs:

  • Make today's business as good as it can be
  • Position so that tomorrow's business will continue to succeed
  • Keep an eye on the opportunity

Investment in automation is fundamental to all three. Invest and cut costs today by automation. Create new capabilities that will generate the biggest returns to be a winner of tomorrow. Understand where your market is moving and make sure you are there. For almost every business, the digitisation of activities - which includes the use of bots - is a critical priority to both drive productivity and more valuably to find opportunity. Let me explain why...

The impact of the Internet on Selling

The consequence of connectivity of data is that information is freely available to those that look, and knowledge that was once secret can be found and learned.

This has enabled buyers to inform themselves of possibilities before engaging with sales. Consumers wishing to make important purchases most commonly begin with online research - from social proof 'ratings' to full blown often professional reviews: Trip Advisor to Which? The same happens in business.

90% of business purchases begin online

It is a challenging statistic - the status quo of business selling has been fundamentally disturbed. The default human pattern has switched to digital first with some form of interaction later.

The corollary of this is that market reach has exploded. Anyone can reach globally.

This is why marketing across digital platforms has become a pre-requisite competency for any business that is to have a future. Not just doing it, but doing it effectively.

What is a website for?

A company website is a key part of the sales funnel to generate business and has three functions:

  1. Impart information including making your company visible
  2. Generate qualified leads
  3. Transact

The effectiveness of your website, as with all communication, involves ensuring that the form and content is appropriate for consumption by the target audience. This can be trickier than it sounds.

Competent visitors self serve. What about the rest?

Even the most basic products require some expertise to understand and choose.

Example: do I need plain or self raising flour? Some people know they need plain flour. Some even recognise they want a premium flour and how to select. These groups self serve and buy. Everyone else is an opportunity but not yet a sale.

Segmenting visitors by competence

A researched and tested model is to consider both the competence and awareness of your visitors.

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The point here is that people that can self serve generally do. The target for assistance is those people that feel they need assistance. These are the groups that either know they dont know what to buy, or those that are not confident enough to order.

Don't assume... ...because it makes an ass of u and me. ASK.

Personalisation of content and website visitor journeys is big business. The context of the need can fundamentally alter both the solution and the sales approach, and ultimately the likelihood of achieving a sale.

When there is big divergence of your audience it becomes more important to tailor the information provided and the delivery. Its an old concept - ask a few questions... That requires developing the capability to engage in dialogue whilst a visitor browses.

What assistance to offer and how to deliver it.

As I said at the outset, not much is really new - but forms of delivery change.

The objective is to obtain the customer need and situation expressed in their language and match it to a product that you sell generating enough momentum to close a sale.

Casting back 20 years, most customers got help by phoning. Organisations delivered through the centralisation of agents into call centres and applied technologies such as the infamous IVR. Calls would then be routed based on new business, problems and customers planning to leave.

Websites provided a new way to deflect problems, and to enable self service, but they have been generally ineffective in handling uncertain buyers. The main strategy has been to inject a person and create a dialogue either by switching channel (ring/call back) or more latterly through live chat.

Most businesses adopting bots have missed the point. They have been used as means of deflecting problems, hence the approach of making them humanlike in an attempt to display empathy.

I repeat: automate tasks that are difficult or expensive when done by people, and automate first in the areas that yield the highest returns

By automating the 'in channel' assistance offered to uncertain buyers organisations are meeting these criteria. Delivering digitally in channel 24/7 on a website is hard and costly with people. Converting uncertain visitors into buyers yields big returns. The use case for bots is very strong indeed.

And this brings us back to the headline. Forget humanlike... the goal for bots is to be effective. The purpose of dialogue is to identify the situation of uninformed or uncertain buyers. Specifically to deliver automated assistance on a website related to the three key functions: convey information, collect qualified leads and transact. Creating this automation is the priority.

Want to take advantage of extensive knowledge of automation (and bots) for your company's successful future, then get in touch.