Your team might know how to build websites, set up digital marketing plans and perhaps even design apps, but chat is another world. Combining strategic marketing channels with AI-driven conversation, chatbots are a growing necessity in the modern digital realm and it’s important that your business is ready to adopt them. In fact, if you aren’t, you’ll soon lag behind – 80 per cent of companies will use chatbots for marketing interactions by 2020, states an Oracle report (36 per cent of companies already use them).

Yet, establishing a chat strategy is not as simple as just turning on a Facebook Messenger bot. So is your business ready for chatbots? Use our questions and insights below to find out.

Is your team ready for chat?

If you think you can pass the creation of your chatbot to a small team and forget about it, you’re in the wrong mindset. Chat should be seen as a major investment in your company. It can streamline your customer channels, improve satisfaction and reduce costs – Business Insider’s Chatbots Explainer states that chat can cut contact centre costs by up to 30 per cent. All of this makes chat worthy of getting full company backing.

So what should a chat team include?

  1. Design/ development experience: This includes business analysts and developers working alongside conversation designers to create a useful chat system that can communicate effectively with customers.
  2. Maintenance skills: Chat must be maintained over time (which we cover later in this article). Thus, a maintenance team of conversational UX designers who retrain the natural language processing (NLP) model on a regular basis is essential.
  3. Human agents: Not having qualified humans on hand to deal with escalated problems is a major failing of some chatbot implementations. In findings from a major chatbot firm last year, it was discovered that most consumers prefer dealing with a human for complex tasks, so you must always have agents ‘in the loop’ for a chatbot to escalate to when in need.
  4. Outside vendors: You do not have to go it alone. Enabling your internal staff with a third-party chatbot vendor can save you hiring new talent, while still empowering your internal team over time to eventually inherit and own the system in the long run.

Key takeaway: Don’t take shortcuts when sorting out your chatbot team. Ensure you have full cross-department expertise embedded within your company, and if you can’t afford the talent, consider an external partner to assist.

Do you have a chat strategy in place?

A chat initiative without a strategy is like driving a car with no steering wheel … or accelerator pedal or even dashboard dials. All you’ve got is the handbrake, and there’s a good chance you’ll pull it at the first sign of failure. This is because you didn’t set yourself up for success; you had no means to guide your initiative, no way to give it some gas and no way to measure how it was going.

Your chatbot needs a strategy, and here’s where to start:

  1. Goal: What do you need to achieve? Is it resolving customer issues faster? Generating leads? Find and establish set goals – make them clear, as everything else must fall under these. Consider both business needs and those of the customer. It may be more pertinent to solve customer concerns before generating more leads, for example.
  2. Scope: How much do you want the chatbot to do? It’s easy to say ‘give that task to the AI, it’ll handle it’, but the more you wave chat around like a magic wand, the less effective it’s likely to be (and it could get harder to manage). So, identify a limited scope at first to test your chat strategy and see how it goes: maybe your chatbot handles only account cancellations to start, or customer FAQs. Whatever fits with your goals.
  3. Metrics: Like any other digital strategy, you must establish how to measure success. These should be hard numbers – something objective that clearly shows changes in chat effectiveness. Monitor these over a set chat testing period and see how it performs.

Are you ready to maintain chat over time?

As we mentioned, chat should be seen as an important long-term investment. That means your team and strategy must be capable of evolving over time, to keep up with changing demands. This can help stave off what some people call ‘bot rot’ – that is, a chatbot becoming outdated and less effective.

Here are some important maintenance considerations to think about:

  1. Is your bot upgradeable? Technology is going to change over time, guaranteed. Can your bot be upgraded with new features as they become available? Features could include sentiment analysis, more advanced machine learning or NLP,  and so on.
  2. Will you continue to train your AI? AI will only get smarter over time if you’re investing in training. If you aren’t training your AI models on a regular basis by providing updated training data, your investment may never reach its full potential.
  3. Will you regularly measure the system? Measurement is key to evaluating success and, as a side effect, creating actionable next steps to improve the experience. Regularly review customer interactions and other metrics to monitor the system’s performance. This might mean examining each time the bot misunderstands someone, or looking at each time a customer disconnects while chatting to the bot, to see if there is a pattern.

To learn more about implementing an effective chat system and strategy in your company, talk to the experts at Stackchat today.