The Customer Is The Channel

The customer-centric blog of Linc Global

All Posts

The New Job on the Block: Chatbot Strategist

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?
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
 
Automation Experience
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.

Related Posts

New Feature Alert: Intelligent Promotion Botlet

How do you promote products without large advertising budgets and over-saturating email inboxes?  This is a common problem many marketers face when looking for new and innovative ways to promote products and services.

Turning Touchpoints into a Journey

Every interaction with your customer is important, and maximizing the effectiveness of touchpoints has been a valid business concern for some time. Research from McKinsey, however, highlights the blind spot in this kind of thinking -- true leading brands have moved from a touchpoints-focus to a focus on the holistic customer journey.

Designing a Customer Experience Strategy for Conversational Commerce

When you master conversational commerce, you’ll deliver experiences that make your customers feel as if you hired a personal assistant to help each of them.  There are several key strategies, smart brands need to think about as they go about creating their conversational commerce strategy. Don’t Forget The Data If conversational commerce is the new paradigm of customer experience, data is the engine that drives all those delightful interactions across touchpoints. Your customers are creating data every time they click, swipe, and like --it’s up to you to find it, analyze it and use it to inform customer engagement. Nordstrom, for example, uses sensors and Wi-Fi to track who comes to the store, wherein the store they shop, and how long they stay. They also incentivize their Nordstrom’s credit card and rewards program to gather data about their clients. Target is also known for its data-collecting. The mega-retailer assigns every customer a Guest ID number, which is linked to their credit card, name, or email address. This Guest ID number becomes a repository of info on a shopper’s past Target purchases and any demographic information the company has collected about them and/or bought from a third-party source. Target’s data is so accurate and fine-grained that they were even able to determine a teenage shopper was pregnant (and send her the appropriate mailer filled with baby items) long before her father ever knew. Collecting relevant data, analyzing it and using your learnings to inform which conversational channels make sense for your brand and what types of experiences your particular customers seek to have on them is the foundation of your conversational commerce efforts. Focus On The Highest-Value Activities Put your energy toward meaningful services that customers already care about. Look at service-oriented features, such as notification capability and on-demand service and support capabilities, to guide the customer journey. Don’t just focus on the “Checkout.” The main benefit of service-oriented conversational channel offerings is the ability to organically drive usage into new channels. For example, a customer might place an order on your website and learn that she can subscribe to order status updates through Facebook Messenger. What she sees as taking advantage of a perk will benefit you by encouraging her toward a channel where your chatbot can take over. ChatBots are best for organic conversations with common use cases, but also provide a sense of personalization and convenience for the shopper. Customer service should be your core use for this technology to start. Be Prepared For Bot-to-Human Handoffs The great thing about a conversation handled over text or Messenger is that the customer doesn’t have to know when they might be switching from a bot to a human. Bot design in the future will focus on what they can do, knowing what they can’t do, and designing a bridge to employee assistance that feels seamless to the customer. It’s not just the customer that will be helped by the bot, but the employee. It will provide faster information and better analytics in real time, perhaps then parsing information to pass on to the consumer. The most important aspect of innovation is convenience for the shopper. They should never have to explain their request twice. Start Simple and Grow to Brand Management You can start with bots as a single voice in the chorus of messages from your brand. The long term will have bots as representatives of your entire brand, managing relationships with your customers. You can start conversational commerce, however, with just a single entry point. You can get your customers used to interacting with you on the same channels they use to chat with their friends. You can piggyback on the culture of quick and informal communication, but be ready to meet their expectations for highly personal and meaningful results. If your bot can’t meet that expectation, your customer could walk away disappointed or annoyed. As the technology improves, and it is, even as we write this, you’ll be able to put more and more of your brand management in the hands of the bots. Authentication Giving your bot a way to confirm the customer’s identity is key to a truly intelligent communication that can leverage data from across your other channels. If this isn’t done right, your bot will see each customer as a stranger, negating the opportunity to provide personalized service. Focus On Concepts Rather Than Solutions Your customers might be on Kik today but head over to Facebook Messenger tomorrow. Focusing on the concepts of conversational commerce rather than today’s hottest medium will help you keep your sanity and provide an agile approach that can be applied to meet your customers wherever they migrate. Try not to get bogged down with the details of how to build for one particular channel, and look instead to use-cases. You can learn more about conversational commerce and engaging your customers at every touchpoint by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.