March 2017

Chat Bots: Customer Service or Creepy?

Customers thrive on real-time, personalized interactions and they are quickly becoming an expectation with every brand engagement. When it comes to customer service, the expectation is no different. From every point of the customer journey – purchase, confirmation and support – customers expect the highest quality service from the brands they love.

But, when customers get that personalized experience, it can be a reminder to us customers of how closely brands can get to us, and chatbots are a perfect example of this. Last year, Facebook announced that it was turning its Messenger app into a platform that would allow brands to develop chatbots to talk with customers.

In the agency world, we’re all about finding new ways to personalize the customer experience. We actively explore new technologies such as AI and chat bots, but it wasn’t until I experienced it as a customer that I started to think about the customer service implications, and of the areas where brands need to tread carefully.

My first-hand interaction with a Messenger bot happened when I purchased a gift and received a shipping confirmation message from the brand on Messenger. Although customers have come to expect personalization, there is a point where it begins to feel like an invasion of our personal space.

Facebook is a platform that customers use to connect with friends and family. So, when a brand’s bot reaches out via Messenger, it feels much more personal than a standard email correspondence. It also feels more real-time, since the brand can see that I am online and viewing the message at that exact moment. Through this, it almost feels as though Messenger bots are taking over “my” platform and imposing themselves while I’m connecting with my friends. One second I’m talking to a long-lost friend, and the next I’m talking to Pizza Hut or Uber.

I don’t react out of the norm when brands reach out to me via email or their website, but when they communicate with me via Messenger, it’s a stark reminder that they have easy access to my information (and Facebook profile) and can quickly connect with me on a more personal level.

Given that Messenger is one of the most popular digital communication channels, it will undoubtedly change the way brands communicate with its customers. Bots allow brands the opportunity to reach and market to new customers, as well as to communicate with current customers. It’s become a support channel that is “ always on,” and now we’re seeing it develop into a primary driver of customer satisfaction.

So, the question for marketers is: how do we maintain a level of formality and anonymity, while still achieving the right amount of personalization with a messenger bot? I’m eager to see how it all unfolds – and which brand I’ll be chatting with next.

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