/ Leader guide

AI & bots - A guide for business leaders: Part 4 - Is a bot right for you?

A marriage made in heaven or a divorce waiting to happen? How do you know if Smart Machine technology is right for you? If you are looking for a means to automate repetitive tasks or you are trying to reach your customers in a medium that is difficult to access as a person then the chances are a bot can help.

The topic of automation is familiar to almost everyone: software systems are so common place that to a greater or lesser extent they will already be embedded in your organisation. But don’t confuse automation with pushing work to someone else. Web ordering typically is not automation – it is simply a more effective means of displaying a catalogue to a customer. It also takes advantage of the somewhat incongruous belief that self-service is good: it enables a vendor to push the order entry task to the customer under the guise that it is more convenient, saving the vendor time and money in the process.

This is particularly evident in the SME environment, overhead costs have to be tightly controlled. Outside of niche markets, the ‘big boys’ tend to hold a purchasing price advantage, and so account management is reserved to nurture the top 20% of customers. In this context bots can prove extremely useful to automate valuable parts of the sales process and maximise the opportunity from the tail customers. Gains that can be accessed from assisted self-service include:

  • Deploying your organisations know how to ensure customers make the best purchases,
  • Increasing conversion rates with an active ‘closing process’
  • Growing basket sizes through cross sales.

Many organisations have already deployed human-to-human "live chat" to try to exploit some of these opportunities, but bots additionally offer the advantages of reducing costs, improving the quality of these activities, and offering a scalable solution.

Live chat brings us onto the subject of reaching customers. Some ‘new’ mediums are difficult to access as a person. Plainly live chat was created to connect with a customer at the point of purchase on a website.

This can be extended by embedding your bot into an app making it more suitable for mobile. Conversational commerce attempts to take the concept to a new level and move the dialogue into a leisure chat medium. Of course the owner of this medium has a revenue opportunity to connect vendors to potential customers chatting about their products – a parallel to paid adverts in a search engine.

So is a bot right for you, your business and most importantly your customers? That question is easiest answered by considering when you should avoid them. In these circumstances I would advise you spend your resources elsewhere:

  • You sell genuinely custom products and that even the sales process is bespoke
  • Your customers do not want to interact with you on digital media
  • Your people resist technology and will not represent it positively to your customers
  • Your organisation has yet to begin a digitisation journey: catalogues, order processing, communication are still paper based and likely to stay that way

For everyone else a bot is likely an imperative addition to your business.