If the recent news from Facebook’s F8 developer conference is any indication, the future of online communication between businesses and consumers will occur more often via AI-driven chatbots.
It’s not just Facebook, of course. Chatbots are a staple in WeChat and have popped up across social media messaging channels, like on Twitter and LinkedIn.
While chatbots look to improve customer communication experiences in-app, online and in messaging services, they’re only half of the equation, said Frank Chevallier, VP of Software Products at LiveWorld.
LiveWorld has been in the business of facilitating communication since the days of dial-up. The company broke into facilitating online communication between brands and customers back in the days when those conversations took place on forums, Chevallier said. (There was and is the telephone, of course, though we’re talking about digital communication here.)
Prior to founding LiveWorld in 1996, the company’s CEO was involved even with AppleLink, the tech company’s online software and service offered between 1986 and 1994.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then. The first break for our purposes came from the rise of social media platforms in the early 2000s, which quickly supplanted the classic online forum as a communication channel between businesses and customers.
LiveWorld made the move with the rest of the internet, said Chevallier, growing its platforms to support social channels at scale, enabling large organizations to manage their accounts and foster dialogue.
The next developments, web chat and messaging services, didn’t replace social media channels but instead contributed to a proliferation of methods by which customers could speak with businesses. Likewise, the moves toward faster resolution and personalization that swept across commerce also occurred on the customer service and communication end.
Today, the way(s) consumers expect to communicate and engage with businesses and brands creates a number of challenges on the receiving end.
“Messaging is a one-on-one, persistent communication channel,” Chevallier said. “Brands are expected to be available at all times, at scale and with the level of personalization, resolution and knowledge that I would say is unprecedented. And in real time.”
The latest addition to the messaging ecosystem, chatbots, have enabled some necessary automation opportunities for businesses and brands in the customer service space. But it isn’t as straightforward as flipping on autopilot and calling it a day.
Consumers also expect consistency between channels — that brands will know who they are and their history regardless of where they choose to reach out.
For instance, noted Chevallier, consumers have started to expect frictionless moves between communication platforms — moving from Twitter for brand queries over to Facebook Messenger without needing to reassert who they are and their customer histories.
“Customers also very clearly expect automated and immediate answers for questions,” noted Chevallier. “But at the same time, they expect that automated technology to branch to human agents when appropriate.”
For its part, LiveWorld’s conversation management SaaS platform looks to enable these functionalities for brands engaging with their customers online. The platform allows a single view of customer interactions, both past and present, and enables adaptive cooperation between human agents and bots.
“Humans and digital bots collaborating with each other in a bi-directional flow to resolve particular conversations for the benefit of the customer,” said Chevallier, “can allow brands to ensure their customers get the level of personalization and resolution they expect.”
Most recently, LiveWorld announced its expansion to WeChat, Telegram and web chat. These communications resources are now incorporated into LiveWorld’s single-chat view for brands, joining the likes of YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook Messenger.
As messenger channels continue to gain popularity among brands and consumers, Chevallier notes that chatbots might prove effective as a means to grow the adoption of social commerce, as well as a way for businesses to identify why consumers are so hesitant to pay in messenger apps.
“A way to simplify transactions here is to provide conversational engagement over messaging, for humans to interact with the bot during those transactions,” he said. “This also could allow us to learn in conversation why people are reluctant to finish payments.”