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Are robots the new face of customer service?

In a world where we can order gourmet meals at the touch of a button and chat to friends around the world in real time, it’s no surprise that consumers also expect brands to be readily available 24/7. So how are brands using social technology to rise to the challenge?

Chatbots

The kind of innovation that signals the beginning of the robot takeover for many, Chatbots are forms of artificial intelligence integrated with messaging apps like Kik, WhatsApp and Line that create personalised one-to-one interactions. These automated messaging bots help consumers do everything from ordering food to paying bills.

Chatbots are a new kind of communication that diverge from social media mass messaging to automated personalised communication.

“Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites,” said Ted Livingston, founder of Kik.“This is the beginning of a new Internet.”

Taco Bell, for example, eliminated the need to download the Taco Bell app to order food. Users are able to TacoBot on messaging platform Slack, and can even receive recommendations while they place their order.

This kind of ‘at your fingertips’ access to information is what makes Chatbots such a revolutionary social technology. They allow brands to be there for every part of the consumer journey, meaning an opportunity to interact with customers is rarely missed.

Platform innovations

Facebook

A brand’s Facebook business page is the equivalent of a business shop front across social media. Recently, Facebook launched a new look for business for brand pages, a cleaner look akin to a webpage which makes the page’s call-to-action button – like “Sign Up” or “Shop Now” – much more prominent.

These new features bring avenues of communication to the fore and make it easier for consumers to converse with the business or brand, highlighting the shift in consumer expectations towards personalised interactions across social platforms.

Twitter

Many businesses across Twitter use the platform as a customer support service. It’s not uncommon to see users tweet to a brand about customer service issue with the expectation that the brand will respond with a solution.

This method of communication has recently changed, with the introduction of a new feature that foregrounds a “Messaging” button, thereby encouraging consumers to start their conversations with brands via direct message instead of on a Twitter public feed. Personalising the communication between consumers and brands will do wonders in terms of removing angry Tweets from a brand’s profile, yet also highlights the consumer’s craving for personalised service and communications.

Brand Integration

Customer conversations are more than an opportunity for brands to strengthen their relationship with consumers, these interactions are also an invaluable source of data. Integrated forums are rising in popularity as a tool for brands to gain insights in consumer sentiment. Often integrated with a brand website, these forums enable consumers to hold brand-related discussions amongst themselves, giving the brand the opportunity to closely monitor sentiment and jump in only when they deem necessary.

The global outdoor clothing brand, Patagonia, collaborated with Vanilla to create an integrated forum that allowed ambassadors to provide feedback about Patagonia products. Condensing the feedback into one channel enabled Patagonia to easily monitor consumer sentiment rather than trying to coalesce conversations across an array of channels. This tactic also created a direct pipeline of communication between the brand and consumers.

The kind of information gained from these forums is invaluable for brands looking to improve their service offering and gain a competitive edge. For example, Dell’s IdeaStorm website has generated more than 420 customer ideas that have been implemented, contributing to the final design of Dell Mini notebook.

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