I remember sitting in class one day at University, and the plucky, outspoken prof announced to our lecture that most of us would be doing jobs that don’t have names yet. As a concept, this seemed to make sense, but as a reality, I couldn’t imagine how jobs could materialize from thin air, at least with such a lack of predictability that we didn’t even know they’d be needed. Fast forward to today, and I’m fairly certain my prof would be ready with a warm-hearted ‘I told you so’, if I explained what I’ve seen develop this year.
From the murky depths of customer experience, ecommerce and marketing has developed a brand new role, the Chatbot Strategist, and it is emerging as a key to brand succeeding in delivering better customer experiences across the channels that customers love using every single day. The closest similar roles may be customer experience, customer journey analysis, and perhaps marketing automation, but this new role focuses in on a new and important facet – real-time, automated experiences that are personal and highly engaging.
Is this the first time you’ve seen the title?
You might have already sent your best UX or CX practitioner down the rabbit hole of analysis, or you may have a product manager doing double-duty to assess the opportunity. In previous years, it may have been a project off the side of a marketer’s desk, or sitting with an innovation team on the roster of ‘weird new things’. But this year, this concrete, and necessary role has crystallized, and the practice of strategizing the orchestration of chatbots developed into a real, tangible thing.
Back to my university prof for a moment. She had the tenacity, the willingness, the bravado, to throw out some wild suggestions back then - web designers would splinter into many different roles, marketing would change due to technology such that some marketers would look more like developers, and some of the roles that were lauded as being critically important would decrease in need based on commoditized skills, and access to education. Pretty smart prof! But how does this relate to the ecommerce world?
We see that email engagement is waning, and the channel that was once ready to refill your conversion quota is now facing challenges. Not a big surprise here, as email inboxes are overflowing, and people just don’t make a beeline for their email app like they used to. They go to more casual, timely channels like chat apps.
Other new roles have emerged over recent years, in recognition of the fact that the customer journey is a holistic one from the customer’s perspective, and it is important to develop a more integrated approach to provide a more consistent and seamless brand experience, regardless if it is pre-purchase, post-purchase, or a branded touchpoint unrelated to purchasing behavior.
At Linc, we’re creating new ways for brands to serve, engage and sell to their customers, via an automated assistant that is equipped to provide a wide range of services, that knows the customer and is ready to engage in a range of different channels that customers love to use every day. This approach offers a blend of service, merchandising and engagement that is unlike conventional digital experiences and touchpoints, and offers a far more organic, human experience, akin to shopping with the help of an in-store associate. Leading brands recognize that to meet customer expectations and to differentiate from competitors, they must offer more to the customer, in a scaleable way, including convenience and real-time engagement, but also providing value-added services that leverage their unique expertise, to give the customer a holistic experience that is unmatchable, and cements loyalty for the long-term.
The Chatbot Strategist
The chatbot strategist is the key stakeholder in assessing, driving forward and measuring how an automated assistant is adding value to both the customer, and the brand. Their role includes developing the roadmap of the most important use-cases and services to be offered, and how these experiences integrate with conventional touchpoints already offered today. In the future, they will look further into creating experiences that are completely unique, and unrecognizable when compared to the digital touchpoints we rely on today, but to take a leaf from my prof’s book – I don’t know exactly what that will look like, yet. Of course, in many cases today the work of a chatbot strategist is done by other people, as brands adapt to the changes in customer behavior and expectations, and recognize the new opportunities to serve, engage and sell.
We’re seeing more companies recognizing the importance of this kind of thinking, and now there’s a move to resource this need with more than a side-of-the-desk project. Though in many cases today, executives and team members are fulfilling the needs today as an additional effort to their core focus, the elevating importance of these initiatives, and the gravity of the opportunity on offer is causing more brands to carve out full time roles for someone to focus wholly on automation conversational opportunities, and drive more momentum.
Delivering Seamless Experiences
So, to really focus in on the Chatbot Strategist role, we chatted with some of the leading thinkers who have already implemented automated assistants in their business, and worked with them to further understand what’s needed. As we dug deeper, we came to understand that ‘chatbot’ is a loaded term, and one that has different meanings for different people. Likewise, in some cases, some may imagine someone using a point-and-click flowchart or decision tree tool, however it is important to recognize that there is a more strategic, more impactful opportunity. If the technology questions are removed, the strategist can focus on what is going to add the most value for the customer and therefore this needs a role can do the thinking and planning required, and to achieve the results desired, use specialized technology that goes beyond a decision-tree model, to achieve truly seamless automated customer experiences in real-time.
Launching Without a Strategist
If you’re not quite ready for a full time strategist, not to worry, as many brands have already successfully deployed sophisticated automated assistance across channels without a full time team member leading the way. Working with a partner like Linc, the heavy-lifting is taken care of, and recommendations are made to focus in on what the best use-cases are, how they can be launched quickly and measured, and how future expansion can be roadmapped. In this way, any brand can get deep expertise without having to hire someone onto their team. Once deployed, insights and ideas are shared, in collaboration, so that further opportunities can be leveraged to boost results across customer loyalty, conversions, engagement and care. The additional benefits of data enrichment can be used by existing systems and specialists across marketing and ecommerce teams, offering additional benefits that has far-reaching impact.
One surprising thing to note is that developing the skills and knowledge may take you on a broader journey than some other initiatives; if you have a brick and mortar channel, you may be discussing this with folks that design the in-store experience, as there are parallels that are stronger than conventional digital experiences, also, if you don’t already, you’ll most likely find yourself collaborating with your customer care team - after all, they have been having real-time conversations with customers for a long time.
In the future, we expect this role to evolve, and would suggest that a more all-encompassing term will be used, such as ‘Automation Experience’ Strategist/Designer, to capture the full spectrum of the research, decisions, strategy, and design efforts that are part of crafting automated customer experiences. Though related, today's UX practitioners tend to have a focus on visual experiences, and the AX experts would complement this, with a focus on the conversational, with collaboration together. For now, we’re excited to see brands implementing automated assistance solutions, and adapting how they view customer engagement and care, to provide the services that customers are looking for, in the most convenient ways.
To learn more about how Linc can help to provide a turn-key automated customer care and engagement solution for your brand, please visit our website here.