In this age of ever-changing tech, consumers want a quicker, easier and more personal experience when dealing with brands.
Now, consumers are enjoying the fastest way to reach a brand the world has ever seen - chatbots.
With iconic fashion magazine Vogue, popular pizza restaurant chain Pizza Express and even PG tips' Monkey being turned into a chatbot, companies and consumers alike are realising that AI is powering one of the most efficient platforms for customer interaction.
New customer demands
Right now, convenience is king. We expect taxis to turn up at the click of a button and our food to arrive within moments. People no longer want to look for answers - they want information on-demand and hassle-free.
As technology develops, it can match and even exceed consumers' expectations of how brands should interact with them. For brands, this adds pressure to solve customer service problems quickly and efficiently in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Consumers are turning to chatbots for customer service answers because AI and messaging services improve consistency. Chatbots can answer enquiries and provide information 24/7. They never become grumpy with you, drop the call on transfer or ignore you.
As for the fear that AI will replace human to human interaction, these concerns are unfounded at the moment because the technology simply is not advanced enough to have the complex conversations humans can.
Customer service staff will benefit from the extra time businesses can set aside for them, having the freedom to deal with more complex enquiries. For now, chatbots will be left to deal with the more common, simpler problems.
Chatbots need to 'delight' the consumer
While of course chatbots must make the customer experience efficient, reliable and hassle-free, the best ones also delight users. For mass-adoption by business, they must provide an experience not seen in any other form of digital communication.
People are already using chatbots to engage in two-way conversations with brands online. For example, we built PG tips' Monkey as a chatbot for Red Nose Day; he tells jokes and chats to people in a bid to raise a million laughs.
By bringing a brand persona to life, we can have conversations that seem more personal. This, in turn, makes the consumer experience more enjoyable, and perhaps more importantly, memorable.
Looking ahead, chatbots are in a prime position to replace traditional apps
Chatbots, using a web view as an interface, can do most things an app can. There are only a handful of apps that people really can't do without, for example, their banking app (although large financial institutions are testing the waters, like Capital One and their Eno chatbot).
As Mark Zuckerberg stated at last year's F8 Facebook developers' conference:
"I don't know anyone who likes calling a business. And no one wants to have to install another new app for every business or service they interact with. We think you should be able to message a business and brand in the same way you would message a friend."
The West is still playing catch up with countries like Japan and China where people have been using this form of AI-driven service delivery for a while. Over time, we will become reliant on chatbots to provide information in the same way.
As more brands adopt messaging channels, it will increase the level of service people demand of brands. Ultimately, people will become reliant on talking to chatbots or 'bots' and will expect instant answers from every organisation. It is happening already; surveys show millennials prefer messaging and texting over phone calls.
Next time you have a question for a brand, see if there is a chatbot you can talk to first. See if your problem is solved quicker and if you enjoy the experience. After all, the best chatbots are raising the stakes in customer experience, and brands should iterate quickly to keep up.