August 11, 2017

Can Your Chatbot Pass These 7 Tests?

Messaging and voice-based conversational interfaces can provide enormous value to businesses by creating engaging user experiences that will reach wider audiences, increase loyalty and drive revenue. But to get the most from your investment in conversational AI, it’s important to understand which interactions will deliver the greatest value.

The most impactful applications are those that engage large audiences through intuitive, personalized interactions, and that automate business processes to achieve greater operational efficiency. To facilitate your work toward that goal, here are seven stress tests to guide your chatbot development. If you can craft an experience that passes all seven of these stress tests, your company will be well-positioned for chatbot success.

1. The Tap Test

Text-based chatbots that are being built to deliver utility and convenience — especially for use in e-commerce — should take consumers from point A to point B in fewer taps than the same activity would on your company’s website or app. Otherwise, they’ll likely be discarded for being too inefficient. As Dan Grover aptly points out, nobody wants to carry on a conversation with a pizza chain bot if it takes 73 taps to order a pie.

Conversely, Domino’s pioneered tweet-ordering in 2015, empowering customers to order pizza by sending the pizza emoji via direct message. Companies like ReplyBuy have also perfected the art of low-tap conversational commerce by, for example, texting ticket offers to sports fans who put a credit card on file and respond with the message “buy” along with the number of tickets to complete the purchase.

So take a close look at your bot. Would it pass the tap test?

2. The Humility Test

Know your bot’s limitations and be transparent with users about them from the outset.  There’s nothing worse than a bot that pretends to be smarter than it is, particularly when a simple bot can be perfectly effective provided it has great content, looks great and is fun to use.

The simpler your bot, the more you need to rely on suggested response buttons and app-like functionality, while writing clever catch-all responses alerting users to the bot’s limitations should they attempt free-form conversation. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re building a bot with advanced AI capabilities, inviting free-form chat and making mistakes will always be a necessary part of collecting data to optimize experiences.

Is your bot actually as smart as you’re making it out to be?

3. The Personality Test

Personifying a bot is a great way to build trust and loyalty as you deliver key business functions through customized conversational experiences. Remember that you want your chatbot persona to be:

Recognizable. Your bot represents your brand and company culture. Ensure that it stands out and differentiates you from the competition.

Engaging and friendly. Get users excited about engaging with your brand. Build an ongoing relationship and rapport.

Relevant. Make sure that your bot serves the user’s desired purpose. Nobody wants a Spambot.

Trustworthy. Develop trust and loyalty with users to learn more about them and better serve their needs. Set expectations with them and be transparent throughout all interactions.

Consistent. Reduce friction by engaging users in a consistent and expected fashion. Allow users to develop a mental model of who your bot is and what it can do.

Memorable. Experiences should be memorable enough to revisit and share.

If your bot doesn’t possess all of these characteristics, it’s not going to pass the personality test.

4. The Exclusivity Test

Have you designed a unique experience consumers can’t find on your other properties (e.g. your website) so that they have a great reason to subscribe and then read and respond (as appropriate) to each push message? Your bot shouldn’t be just another place to get the same old information.

5. The Shareability Test

Always keep in mind that first and foremost, users are on chat apps to talk to friends, family and co-workers. A bot that shares great content is powerful, but a bot that helps you share great content or information with others is even more powerful. Does yours do this? Whenever appropriate, you should encourage users to introduce the bot and its content to others.

6. The Audience Test

Have you built the right bot for your audience? Find out which apps your audience uses most, and their favorite features on those platforms.  It’s possible your customer’s top channels aren’t optimized for the specific business process you want to deliver through conversational interactions. For example, if your current audience uses WhatsApp, the lack of chatbot support on this platform will limit your ability to automate and scale interactions. Similarly, if your target audience uses Skype, the platform’s limited security features may make it difficult to develop a conversational banking experience.

In addition, you should understand how different user segments within your audience typically interact with conversational interfaces, be it via text or voice. For instance, your customer base may consist of millions of millennials who regularly use Kik to share experiences with friends via text messages, emoji and stickers. Or it may be a group of baby boomers who primarily communicate about family events via text messaging.  

7. The Longevity Test

Is your chatbot going to withstand the test of time?

To ensure that it does, you need to define your conversational AI priorities and develop a roadmap that will deliver on the highest value opportunities, while evolving the bot to keep it fresh for customers. Once you’ve identified a comprehensive list of opportunities for conversational AI, assign a relative value to each opportunity based on the criteria that are currently of greatest strategic importance to your business. If your business is in a growth stage, opportunities that expand the customer base through outbound messaging and social sharing features may outrank those that increase retention of current customers through personalized engagement.

Is Your Bot Up to the Test?

Although there have been a number of bumpy bot platform launches, the conversational AI opportunities that exist on chat platforms can’t be ignored. Messaging companies are doubling down to make rapid improvements, and given the massive audiences and natural and intuitive nature of the interface, experiences like bots are here to stay.

The artificial intelligence and automation boom is making it possible to carry on unique conversations with customers at scale, delivering increasingly satisfying experiences that drive engagement and loyalty with customers across a wide variety of business functions. There is a growing suite of tools available to support the development of conversational interactions to enrich bots and imbue them with depth. As you start to experiment, make sure your bot isn’t a flop by ensuring that it passes most if not all of the tests outlined above.

For a broader strategy framework to take advantage of the opportunities that conversational AI present, download “The 9 Principles of Conversational AI.”

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