When it comes to customer service interactions, one starts to consider the qualities that make the positive interactions shine and the negative ones irksome. Responsiveness and speed matter; so do knowledgeability and general helpfulness. As social media channels and messaging platforms continue to see widespread popularity, they offer brands a strong opportunity to display the above qualities during interactions that happen quickly, on a conversational level and in a place where consumers are. Mintel Trend ‘Talking Shop’ looks at how companies across the globe are taking advantage of this opportunity.

It’s not uncommon to see a chat window on a telecommunications provider’s website or an invitation to chat with a hotel chain on Facebook Messenger. In the retail space, Amazon’s Outfit Compare feature allows Prime members to seek fashion advice from Amazon stylists via its mobile app. This signals to the world that if the online behemoth is providing chat-based customer service available 24/7, the expectation is becoming such that companies in any industry will do the same.

As a result, this type of customer service is now of utmost importance – especially during these uncertain retail times – when it comes to helping consumers deciding where to shop, what to buy and how to use their purchase. That being said, staffing company headquarters enough to meet the high expectations of today’s always-connected consumers presents a lot of pressure. Money, space and training time are required.

Enter chatbots: algorithm-powered software programs that can have intelligent and intuitive conversations with people. These smart computer programs are learning quickly and, in turn, growing in functionality. They operate well on their own in some cases, while in others, they pair perfectly with a human to ease customers’ troubles. Expedia’s chatbot accessible via Skype that serves as a travel agent and can help with hotel bookings, itineraries and flight confirmations.

Functioning alone, chatbots can play a number of roles in order to help brands meet specific goals:

Manage accounts

  • Capital One’s chatbot Eno is SMS-based and can speak emoji. Eno responds to text messages regarding account balances, recent transactions, credit card bill payments and credit limits.
  • Lemonade aims to revolutionize the insurance sector with its web-based services, which are driven by always-available chatbots and mobile technology. The tool also uses artificial intelligence to create personalized policies for each customer.

Help consumers tackle tasks

  • Captain is a Yahoo chatbot that serves as a family’s text assistant. It can create lists, set reminders and send notifications to help streamline communication, productivity and keep everyone in the family updated in real time.
  • Resistbot helps Americans find elected officials and communicate with them about the issues they care about.

Offer guidance and answer questions

  • Diageo has partnered with malts.com to create a whisky-recommending, Facebook Messenger-based chatbot called Whisky Matcher.
  • The Mall of America chatbot offers shoppers store suggestions based on how much time they have to spend, what they’re interested in doing and what they’re shopping for.

Be a companion

  • BBDO and Buenos Aires’ Museum of Modern Art are using chatbots to give modern art a voice and a personality, making the interaction between art and visitors to the museum easier.
  • Atticus from US-based AT&T is an entertainment chatbot and TV-watching companion that can test users’ knowledge and share interesting facts about television shows as they watch.

Make promotions and events more engaging

  • Heineken’s latest campaign saw the brand brew personalized beers for tourists before they arrived in Amsterdam and alert them via a chatbot in a bid to compete against the growing popularity of microbreweries.
  • Wimbledon introduced an AI assistant called Fred to its official app for this year’s tournament. It allowed on-site visitors to ask it questions, like directions to a court or where restaurants are located.

When developing a bot, it’s crucial to create a friendly, knowledgeable tone of voice that’s appropriate to the brand’s identity. What would your chatbot sound like?

Stacy Bingle is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

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