Wilco de Bie, 1 May 2019

Voice leads to better customer experience and more engagement

Conversational interfaces are popular. Because of Alexa and Google Assistant, the focus is now on artificial intelligence solutions. However, cheaper ‘scripted’ chatbots are also very effective. But be careful: before you know it, your chatbot will be lost for words.

CES (Consumer Electronics Show) officially deemed 2019 ‘The Year of Voice’. They lost count of the amount of washing machines, televisions, espresso machines and other devices that listen to Alexa or Google Assistant. Something every electronics manufacturer should be familiar with, as well as many other brands. An espresso machine able to make the perfect latte macchiato on request is nowadays also able to order new coffee beans right away.

Market researcher Juniper forecasts this by 2021, 4 billion digital butlers such as Google’s Assistant, Apple’s SIRI and Alexa from Amazon will be in use. As a result, OC&C strategy consultants expect that, among other things, American retailers will generate a turnover of 40 billion dollars within the next four years with voice commerce through digital assistants. Ten percent of the Dutch retailers are already working on their own voice assistant.

Easy ordering

Main motivation: making the ordering process easier for customers. Retailers’ own loyalty apps are an excellent forum for this. A great example is Dunkin’ Donuts, who added an Alexa-skill to their DD Perks-app last year. After placing a simple order (‘Alexa, order from Dunkin’ Donuts’), customers only need to choose at which location and at what time they want to pick up their donuts. And of course it is also possible to make a repeat order.

Using voice can also make interactions with the loyalty app more user friendly. Checking your accumulated points, for example, or what those points can be redeemed for. With a daily or weekly spoken overview of the most important offers, you can inject moments of engagement into your program. With voice commands of course, which allow for users to directly save the corresponding coupons.

Interactive guest room assistant

Voice is also ideal for the improvement of user experience with repeat customers or guests. Interactive guest room assistant Angie focuses on hotel guests. Upon request, Angie can adjust the room’s features such as the lights, heating, favourite channels and playlists, and remember these for future stays. Based on guest tastes and loyalty status, Angie also provides personalised recommendations and offers for the restaurant or wellness centre.

However, voice is far from applicable to everything. The development and training of the required artificial intelligence technology is expensive and requires a great deal of data. Even organisations with very large databases full of client interaction can at present form no more than twenty percent of their conversations with that data. That is why a ‘scripted’ or ‘rule based’ chatbot is often a lot more practical. These chatbots work with prefabricated scripts based on anticipated questions or keywords.

The well-known speech bubbles

The conversation usually takes place in the well-known speech bubbles that you know from popular chat apps such as Messenger and Whatsapp. Both apps offer very accessible opportunities to develop personal chatbots on their platform. This very natural way of exchanging information is therefore very effective for the on-boarding of new loyalty members, for example. It also offers numerous other interesting opportunities to increase engagement.

For example, the Gap chatbot regularly asks customers about their user experience. Apart from a better engagement, this also generates a wealth of valuable data on customer preferences. Levi’s Virtual Stylist gives customers personal fashion advice, and helps them find clothing that best matches their flavour profile. In a similar way, the chatbot of makeup brand Sephora shares beauty tips with customers, and immediately invites them afterwards to book a makeover. The booking rate was increased by 11 percent since the launch.

Storytelling campaigns

The implementation of scripted chatbots is also very suitable for storytelling campaigns. For example, for the promotion of the hit series Westworld, HBO introduced Tes. This mysterious chatbot not only caused a sharp increase in visitors of the Westworld website, it also seduced regular HBO viewers in a very sophisticated way into sharing more interesting information about themselves. Besides sharing exciting inside facts, Tes also regularly shares new content tips and offers.

In this manner, both artificial intelligence and scripted conversational partners can make it easier for customers and greatly improve engagement. Be careful, however, because it is still a tool and not the goal: a good FAQ page is often at least equally effective. That is why you should only implement a chatbot when you exactly know the added value you generate for your customers and why you should distinctly define the subject of discussion. For no brand has the need for a chatbot that is lost for words