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What makes a great chatbot? Laser focus on customers

Clint Boulton | Aug. 11, 2017
Chatbots are all the rage right now but they’re virtually useless unless enterprises nail the customer experience. Here’s how to ensure your chatbot initiative pays off.

"While every customer is a little different, we stick very closely to this process because it consistently gets us in production in weeks rather than the many months of development you can see elsewhere," Lamm says.


Pitfalls that lead to bad chatbots

What makes a bad chatbot? One that tries to boil the ocean, Lamm says. "I'm amazed when companies launch their first chatbot and it claims to have functionality ranging from customer support across a giant product portfolio to e-commerce capabilities," Lamm says. "Then it's pushed live on six channels the company has little experience with, and the problems pile up at an exponential rate."

Moreover, Lamm says the proliferation of general purpose bots littering industries does a major disservice to businesses and their customers. "Narrower applications of conversational AI ensure the experience is accurate, consistent and scalable," he adds.

Rob Harles, Accenture Interactive's head of social media and collaboration, says the consultancy does as much as he can to help clients pump the brakes and avoid chatbot pitfalls. Some clients want to rush out a chatbot because it's cool and because a client wants to automate something to avoid dealing with customers. Others, echoing Lamm's comment about "boiling the ocean," try to apply automation technologies to as many things as possible right out of the gate. Both approaches are recipes for poor user experiences.

Harles asks clients to take a step back and understand the fundamental pain points they have and the discrete tasks they are trying to accomplish. Accenture will dive into a client's customer journey to understand whether a task can in fact be better performed by algorithms, machine learning software or a good old-fashioned human.

A laser focus on the customer experience may offer enterprises the best recipe for a successful chatbot, the technology must be expertly built. That means adhering to design thinking principles for building the software with the human-centric approach. But the reality is few IT departments are equipped with enough design thinking specialists, let alone software engineers who have built chatbots before.

That's why CIOs are turning to startups such as Conversable and consulting giants for help. What does a successful chatbot look like? Accenture's interactive and mobility units in late 2016 rolled out a chatbot on behalf of Avianca, Colombia's national airline. Built in six weeks on Facebook Messenger, "Carla" enables passengers to access information about check-ins and flight status and request seat changes from their smartphones, eliminating the need to make a separate phone call, download a new app or visit the company's website. "[It] was designed to help passengers answer some of the more basic questions versus trying to do everything for them," Harles says.


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