As a specialist in Digital Media, I am constantly bombarded with information about the next new shiny thing – and right now there is a lot of noise surrounding Chat Bots.
At their simplest, chat bots are the voices that you are confronted with when you call your bank and they ask you to respond to questions about what you want, and what your account details are. Depending on whether they have been programmed to recognise your particular accent, and whether your call fits the categories that have been laid down, you may get through successfully to a real person or have your simple question answered by the computer’s alogorithms.So what are they, and do they make any sense for your business?
This is chat bot by Rules. The bots respond to certain commands and are limited in what they can do, which can be very annoying.
AI: better than old-fashioned I?
The big development area now is chat bots (text or voice-based) with Machine Learning, or Artificial Intelligence (AI). Siri from Apple is the best-known application. It (he/she) understands language, learns over time and can improve its responses to you.
What purpose does it serve? Well, whereas you now search for answers yourself, potentially the AI Bot can serve up those answers immediately from a simple voice command. This could be a product or service that you want to buy, or a solution to a product problem. The commercial potential is clear – a retail store can offer you a relevant selection of clothes, shoes or electrical goods according to your spoken parameters. (There are many non-commercial applications, such as ‘befriending’ lonely people).
Facebook is serving up a Bot Store on its Messenger service and other bots inhabit social networks like Slack and Telegram. With the use of messenger services overtaking that of social networks in 2015, you can see why Facebook and others want to get on board.
But for me, and most of the predominantly B2B companies that I work with, there are problems in using such technology. It’s different when you are a private consumer, you don’t have industry knowledge and you may be happy to have some assistance in making choices – even though those expensively-programmed assistant bots are directing you to selections that suit the supplier.
If you are employed to make educated, hard-headed decisions about which products and services your organisation should buy, then it’s a different matter. You will (statistics show) have done more than two-thirds of the buying process before you approach a sales person. You will do your homework based on suppliers’ websites, other published data and reputation: and you will be reluctant to engage in a conversation with a robot.
Contrast that with genuine contact, with real, trained people, directly accessed from a website. Not a faceless call centre – a bespoke team, trained to act as your telephone sales operation, 24/7.
Unaffordable? Not any more.
With Hannon Sales, we have created a new solution that combines account management in the UK with a highly-qualified telephone team in South Africa, where we have recruited talented, articulate people to converse with your clients and prospects – in their idiom. We can handle all kinds of calls.
This is crucial for new business nowadays. Hannon Sales will take calls, qualify leads, explain your products and take orders, make appointments or pass on messages – we go as far down the sales funnel as you wish us to.
This is an area where it is really hard to see AI gaining traction. Who wants to be called by an avatar to be sold to at work? Do things our way, and you can have our genuine sales people trained in your processes, your products and your services. Our Sales Process Engineer visits you, works with you and ensures that the team perform just as you wish them to.
Customer Relationship Management
Probably far more important to your business than AI will ever be is CRM. The quality of your installation and how it used is critical. We have the expertise to help you get the best out of your system.
Whatever you do, some buyers are resistant to telephone calls and they prefer to operate through texting and emailing. The solution is our Live Chat service, which appends an invitation to your website so that visitors can elect to start a chat.
Unlike text-based AI chat bots, this is not just in development and subject to technical glitches – it’s here now, it’s real and it works. We have real operators who respond 24/7 – and you are only paying when they deliver qualified leads to you. We agree the definition of ‘qualified’ – parameters can include:
- Email address
- Telephone number
The operators are trained and supplied with your FAQs. The system is easily installed and it provides a proven boost to your website’s effectiveness – we convert up to 40% of all chats to genuine leads.
This is a mile away from the experience suffered by Microsoft earlier this year when they launched an AI chat text service for Twitter users: ‘she’ was rapidly taught by malicious users to learn to defend Hitler and hate feminists. She was taken down within hours and has not been seen since…
Whether you want live calls or live texted chat, we are so confident of our service that we only require one month’s notice if you want to stop. And you can run a pilot campaign to see how it works for you.
Until the day that bots get degrees from leading universities, I will continue to back our highly-qualified team to provide real services using real people, every time.