It is becoming a little cliche in the current business climate to keep referencing how technology is advancing all kinds of industries. It’s s also becoming a little predictable to emphasise the mass impact that technology is having on every job role, business or brand. Well, I don't think there is any need for that now.

You don't need to be told that Artificial Intelligence is getting more advanced, thousands of people are beginning to lose or adapt jobs as a consequence of technological advancements and that the likes of Alexa, Echo and Google Home are being used to track our private conversations - we suspected all that. 

Technology in business, like everything thing that we encounter these days, has a trend. There is always that ‘of the moment’ concept that is set to take the world by storm. In most business sectors, such as commerce, politics, arts and so forth, we tend to embrace the current trends. In politics, Twitter is the trend, with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez banging the tweeting drum. In entertainment, subscription culture is the trend. In start-ups, it is the socially conscious and environmentally responsible that are all the craze. Like everything, business has a fashion. For our business and similar digital marketing outlets, it’s a newfound accessibility.

Ease and accessibility are grabbing the limelight and propelling us towards some sort of customer service perfection. "How" you may ask. Well, the answer is chatbots. Chatbots are the new craze that is piloting this digital marketing revolution. In short, a chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that the customer can interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).

Now, chatbots have been around for a couple of years, so why - might you ask - am I bringing this to light in the spring of 2019? Well, it’s simply because now, anyone and any business can use them. Literally anyone. In 2016, Facebook demonstrated the power of a chatbot at their F8 conference. They demonstrated how there had been a huge increase in people using messenger apps over the last three years., In fact, as of April 2019, this is such the case that more people now use messenger apps more regularly than they do social networks.

For the last few years or so, chatbots have been used, but with some caution. Businesses have been uncertain about the customer reaction and the impact that they might have on their customer service standards. To have an important conversation when you are talking to a human is tough at times, but a conversation with a robot brings a whole new dynamic to the B2C sector. But with chatbots, it isn't necessarily about precision or intelligence. It is, however, about ease.

This is particularly relevant when you begin to break down the types of chatbots that exist. A chatbot is there to accompany and guide the customer through their online experience with your brand. With the basic form of a chatbot, the technology is controlled and its functionality is created around a set of rules, put in place by the business. This Chatbot is limited but offers a quick, efficient response. A store might want to help its customers purchase something, or offer a particular deal with their purchase. A basic chatbot does that and very little more. It speaks to the customer, but the customer can not have a lengthy detailed conversation in return.

On the other hand, you have artificial intelligence chatbots. This is where technology becomes more integral to a brand’s results. AI bots have a working brain that doesn’t just react to commands or specific questions but is able to have active conversations with customers, learning as it works. These bots are becoming more and more popular within the financial and marketing industries, as the process of programming these systems get simpler and much more affordable.

I still think there are some reservations circling the use of this technology, however. For example, those businesses that hold tradition at their heart and rely on face-to-face service may question the lack of human interaction and ask where the good ol’ days of conversation have gone. A survey ran by Destination CRM (a different Destination!) discovered that 84% of 24,489 people suggest that they would prefer to talk directly to a human rather than a computer. Now, to me, this suggests that the business doesn’t just have to worry about the success of the technology, but also the relationship that their customers have with said technology. The customer must be comfortable with the chatbot for the chatbot to have a purpose within a business’s online infrastructure.  

Another major concern is the technology’s ability to answer every question presented to it. Although the AI can learn, it still must be programmed to understand everything asked of it. It learns as it is confronted with new questions and then new answers, therefore the transition period in implementing the technology will take time. In the early stages of use, the chatbot will be prone to misunderstandings and it will be up to the business to correct this and keep a watchful eye over its interactions. Rightly so, there are businesses who don’t want the long-term battle with using AI and question the point. They continue to employ a human to complete customer service tasks.

It seems that the success of AI chatbots is dependent on the users that access them on a regular basis. Businesses have to be prepared to commit some time to a transition period and must acknowledge, that as a human, they must train the AI up. Within a business, the human’s role will change from being customer facing, to being technology support. There is a lot of promise and aspiration that comes with AI chatbots, but us humans must be patient with it, as much as we would do a fellow human.    

So where do we as a digital marketing company and you as the business, go from here? What do you do to keep up with the times, but ensure your business strategy never ‘goes out of fashion’? Well, firstly, chatbots won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, they will improve, increase and indeed be implemented everywhere. I’d suggest you look into them. Even the simplest of technology is made to make life easier.

If you are a small business and worry about the implications of using technology, then using a chatbot both eases the pressures of both the customer service and response time. If you are a large corporation and are just waiting for the right time to access the chatbot market - do it now. They will only get better, more intelligent and more beneficial for the growth of your company. Like a swanky suit or a pair of Adidas trainers, chatbots may just be the technological fashion trend that sticks around.

To find out how Destination has adopted this craze and how we can help you build an exciting new online venture for your own company, get in touch and be our next BIG thing!