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Chatbots: we've come a long way since the Microsoft paper clip
02 August 2017

Chatbots: we've come a long way since the Microsoft paper clip

Centennials probably won't remember the Microsoft paper clip, the little character that used to pop up and help you out with friendly tips. The forerunner of the current chatbot the paper clip was actually quite useful for its time. We have moved on leaps and bounds now though to a space where chatbots are incredibly engaging and an essential part of the customer experience, as well as being a useful tool for your customer service teams.

Chatbots aren't only for big retail or B2C businesses, they are just as valuable in developing the B2B relationship.

We spent a morning with Microsoft a few weeks ago brainstorming the possibilities of chatbots and how we could use them for our clients to aid their customer loyalty strategies.

Within a few days our R&D team had developed three iterations of a chatbot for one client. Although currently crude in design the application and functionality is already incredibly impressive. We can't wait to demo it at the end of the month.

One chatbot enables customer service teams and head office to interrogate data to understand a customers preferences, assist with customer queries and identify opportunity.

Another provides customers with the ability to interrogate their transactions to see where they earned points and how by changing their buying behaviours they could earn more.

The third chatbot is a simple assistant to help new and existing customers understand the programme better, find rewards and request information.

The chatbots use three foundation technologies – LUIS (Language Understanding Intelligence Service), Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. This basically means that the bot keeps learning. It can process natural language and understand the intent of the language used. The more interactions that take place with the chatbot the more it is able to learn. For example if customers always ask for directions to your restaurant after they have asked for opening hours then it can start to automatically ask if customers would like that information so it reduces their need to even type the question.

With the two customer facing chatbots we have enabled sentiment analysis so that the chatbot can identify if the customer is getting frustrated or angry, and either pass them straight through to a customer service person or ask them if they would like a manager to contact them.

We live in an era where we expect to have instant access to bookings, data, information, feedback and customer service. In fact whereas a few years ago you wouldn’t do business with a company that didn’t have a website we now change our buying behaviours to only use companies where we can book online. We lead busy lives and the ability to complete activity, tasks and actions at a time to suit you is invaluable. Unless you have a 24 hour business a chatbot could fill the gaps of the customers’ expectations and needs. A chatbot could also filter out the questions that don’t need to be answered by your customer service teams.