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Technology is once again rapidly changing the role of customer service. In the past two years, social media bots and voice-controlled skills have grown exponentially, with over 100,000 bots on Facebook and a 600% growth in Alexa skills between June 2016 and January 2017. Customer service interactions over Twitter increased by 250%, which is largely attributed to people wanting to receive help on their own preferred platforms, as well as the personalization of “talking” to an actual human. 

This person-to-person dynamic will evolve as bots and skills are more integrated into the customer experience. For brands, creating bots or skills provides a sense of tech-savviness. However, if they’re implemented incorrectly, negative interactions could hurt your brand. As a vocal proponent of using technology to enhance brand interactions, I’ve come to believe there are three ways to ensure you can add these new tools to your toolbox without alienating your customers.

Accessibility/Usability

Humans are creatures of habit. If it takes too much work to figure out how to access or use a service, or we do not understand why we should use this service, most will not even try, or only try once. This is why there is a 97% drop-off of voice app users who download skills, only to not use the skills after just one week. When developing a new technology platform or tool, we need to ensure both the accessibility and usability matches the experience customers have come to expect.

Stop Pretending to Be Human

The point of a voice app or social media bot should be to make the life of your customers easier, no matter what format the information is in. One of the biggest flaws of current automated “phone tree” customer service systems is that, in an effort to mimic human interactions, these systems miss the mark of giving customers a satisfying user experience. This knowledge can be a huge asset as IT pros work to develop new tools for customer service—as long as they don’t pretend to be human. The success of programs like Siri and Alexa show that we are willing to talk to computers as humans, but research shows that customers will get annoyed if they think they are speaking to a human, only to find out it’s a program.

A great example of a company that successfully created a social media bot around the idea of human interaction is CoverGirl’s Kalanibot, which invited users to interact with a chatbot version of Kalani Hilliker, a 16-year-old dancer, model and TV personality. Even though CoverGirl made it clear it was a chatbot and not Hilliker herself, the bot had 14 times more conversations with fans than the real-life Hilliker.

Make It Exciting

We are still a long way from skills or bots completely taking over customer service. In fact, we’re a long way from established technology like social media taking over customer service completely. For now, bots and skills shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for services, but an enhancement to them. Just like social media teams didn’t fully replace customer service teams, technology will not replace all of the above.

While it’s still too early to tell where the next big thing in technology advances for customer service will be, your new service needs stand out to attract customers. Don’t create a skill every competitor can make (e.g. a trivia or fact skill that Amazon gives templates for). Create a skill that is unique to your company, that will entice customers or future customers to try it and see why your company is different. Before development begins, make sure to ask yourself:

  • Has this been done before?
  • Is it useful to our client’s customers?
  • Is it new and exciting?
  • Why will people continue to use it?

What questions can you add that will make your voice app or chat bot stand out from the crowd? That’s the first step to success in navigating this new technology as a customer service platform.

For a deeper look at how Best-in-Class companies leverage cutting-edge technologies to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations, check out this comprehensive research report by Aberdeen Principal Analyst Omer Minkara.

 

Heather Whaling  is the founder and president of Geben Communication.

 

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