Chatbots: The Newest Extension of your Brand

In conversation with Diana Lee, Bot Editor and Customer Experience Coordinator at Wizeline

Shifting customer expectations in a digital world

It goes without saying that branding is an important part of any marketing strategy. Marketers have adapted to the new digital age by implementing strategies that include both the physical and online worlds.

Shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores are carrying the digital universe in their pocket. TechCrunch reported that there are 2.6 billion smartphone users globally, and by 2020, there will be 6.1 billion. Google’s research has indicated that of these smartphone users, a whopping 82% say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.

Customer experiences are arguably the most important influence on a brand’s perception. A study by McKinsey & Co. found that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site after a negative experience. Further, 40% of those spurned users are likely to visit a competitor’s site.

Customers are also increasingly reliant on technology, so it’s no wonder they demand immediate connection and support from companies when they reach out. HubSpot found that 48% of customers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact. Real-time responses from customer support feel more productive to customers than staying on hold with a call center or physically waiting in line.

Big brands and online experiences

Think for a moment about the most famous brands that come to mind, like Starbucks, McDonald’s or Google. You are probably able to quickly visualize their logos and slogans, and you may even recall your most recent experiences engaging with their product or service – whether on a smartphone or in a physical store.

Regardless of whether your experience took place in a store or online, both shopping transactions contribute to your overall perception. According to a GE Capital study, 81% of shoppers research their product online before purchasing. Additionally, those who shop through a variety of promotional channels, including both online and in-person, spend 3x more than single-channel shoppers.

Steve Dennis, a regular Forbes contributing writer, notices how the differences between brick-and-mortar and digital marketplaces are “becoming distinctions without much of a difference” and for consumers “it’s simply commerce.”

Dennis’ explanation may clarify why e-commerce giant Amazon still invests in physical stores. If consumers are no longer distinguishing between e-commerce and commerce, selecting a “one brand, many channels” strategy shows their ability to fulfill customer needs at any place or time.

Branding is ingrained in every move

Branding is part of every move a business makes to distinguish itself in the eyes of the customer – often taking the form of a word, design, symbol, or function. It makes sense why companies experiment with new technologies to stand out among competitors.

Chatbots symbolize the most recent and promising options for digital branding, and household brands are jumping on the opportunity. We have noticed two main trends from these brands when it comes to bots: customer service must be (1) personal and (2) extremely responsive.

Starbucks: driving high-quality service on a bot

As the most ubiquitous global coffee chain, Starbucks is famous for delivering complicated custom orders for its customers. Their attention to detail is why many customers have a favorite location they visit each morning to order from baristas who know them by their first name.

In staying consistent with this brand image, Starbucks released a chatbot named My Starbucks Barista to replicate the emotional connection with those who make our coffee. This bot is much like a human barista: it provides customized drink suggestions based on personal preferences, receives payment, and customers can even add a tip.

In a demo of the voice recognition technology led by the company’s CTO, the bot understands the order for a “double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup” – pretty impressive if you ask me!

Image: Starbucks Chatbot Application

This advanced language capability demonstrates two values intrinsic to the Starbucks brand:

1. Baristas – real and digital – are rigorously trained: Both human and AI-powered baristas work with “unparalleled speed and convenience,” core traits associated with the Starbucks brand.

2. The Starbucks experience is a personal one: Customers can expect pleasant, personalized interactions across platforms – whether in chatbots or physical stores. The company claims it has over 400,000 variations of e-mailed reward offerings. They emphasize that even with over 26,000 stores internationally, each customer can order unique drinks and earn loyalty rewards.

The coffee chain designed the bot to be an extension of their brand rather than a stand-alone product. This bot also shows that the company wants to talk to loyal customers through more channels, beyond the successful Starbucks app that grossed 42 million orders just a year after launch.

Capital One: responsive and willing to learn

Capital One’s branding strategy emphasizes straightforward and transparent communication. Authenticity is especially important when discussing sensitive topics like finances, and they took this to heart while creating their customer support chatbot.

Capital One designed a chatbot named Eno that helps customers find balance and transaction information, and it appropriately responds based on learnings from 100,000 pilot customers.

Through this testing period, the bot learned their customers’ intents from the various ways they sought information. For example, some customers type “bal” while others ask “Hi Eno! How much money do I have today?” to check their balanceAccordingly, Capital One has trained the bot to guide 2,200 different entries towards the same conclusion of providing up-to-date balances.

Image: Capital One Chatbot Application

This extensive training underlines Capital One’s commitment to clear, efficient communication that guides users towards a common goal.

Empathy with customers is the ultimate goal

The underlying lesson from both Capital One and Starbucks is that successful enterprise chatbots must employ language and tone consistent with that of their customers. When done well, chatbots are empathetic helpers and facilitate a positive customer journey – from the first point of contact to the end goal. Good chatbots not only increase the chances that customer requests are understood correctly but most importantly, demonstrate empathy while ensuring positive interactions.

Regardless of your company’s size, chatbots may be a logical extension of your customer experience and help build loyalty across channels. They are also most effective when part of an existing customer success strategy.

What will your bot be?

As a software delivery and product company, our team at Wizeline is obsessive about building engaging customer experiences. We work in teams of copy editors, UX designers, bot trainers, and engineers to craft customized bot conversations for brands. If you’re interested in learning more about Wizeline, check out our website or read our recently published chatbot case study with our customer pmNERDS.

Eric Nakano

Posted by Eric Nakano on January 3, 2018