Chatbots – Maximising the use of AI technology for conversational marketing

Conversational AI technology not only caters to customers but also largely benefits businesses as it helps them gather useful insights on customer behaviour and preferences, says Gibu Mathew, Zoho Corp’s Vice President for Asia Pacific.

Did you know that nearly 40% of internet users worldwide prefer interacting with chatbots to virtual agents?   In fact, chatbots have gone beyond customer support and are contributing to higher conversion rates for businesses in various segments including payment and processing, marketing, and services to name a few.   While the success of these chatbots is remaking the customer service environment, Asian organisations are still lagging behind in the deployment of chatbots despite major success stories by the likes of Shopee, Grab, Tokopedia, GoJek, and others in Asia?  

Gibu Mathew, Zoho Corp’s Vice President for Asia Pacific, has been working with firms large and small in Southeast Asia, helping them with their Artificial Intelligence powered chatbots deployment, integration, and customer service platforms.   He has seen how when SMEs or organisations after deploying AI-enabled chatbots reap significant value, often seeing growth in customer interaction, retention and upsell rates across sectors in SE Asia.

We interviewed him for his insights in the application of Conversational AI technology and how businesses can benefit from it.

How should businesses maximise the use of AI technology for conversational marketing?

Gibu Mathew, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Zoho Corp

Conversational marketing is becoming a growing trend among brands as it enables them to communicate with customers and prospects on an ongoing basis without any disconnect. More importantly, it has given businesses the ability to respond in real-time and personalise customer experiences (CX).

AI-driven bots can give more personal responses by factoring in navigation patterns on the website and past responses by a human agent. These are some ways organisations may optimise AI to incorporate this approach into their marketing strategy.

To leverage conversational marketing, an enterprise-ready chatbot platform can help them achieve this with ease and no complications as it enables businesses to build a fully functional chatbot without writing a single line of code. A reliable platform is deeply programmable that achieves near-human capabilities, securely integrated with any cloud-based applications and functional across different platforms. Essentially, there are three crucial benefits towards conversational marketing that chatbots offer: an intuitive user interface, chatbot support with a human touch and an easy handover to a live agent.

How can chatbots enable customer insights and help analyse variables, to help businesses learn more about the individual customer products and services preferences?

Conversational AI technology not only caters to customers but also largely benefits businesses as it helps them gather useful insights on customer behaviour and preferences. Chatbots are equipped to learn from consumer questions and activities, this data feeds into the AI giving the platform a constant stream of information. With this information coupled with web analytics, businesses can keep track of the website’s high-priority pages, how much time users spend on these, how they reach these pages and how they interact with the brand’s online platforms. This enlightens organisations on rooms for improvement, including how to fine-tune the site layout to enhance customer experiences with the brand.

Understanding consumer needs and preferences help reshape offered products and services accordingly. After all, a good customer experience distinguishes a brand from a sea of competitors with similar offerings.

Please describe the benefits of chatbot automation in streamlining a variety of business processes across various departments and teams?

As the lines between organisational processes blur, cross-departmental workflows are fast becoming the norm. Chat apps have taken over various social media apps as the main avenue of communication for many. In effect, the chat space is on its way to becoming a unified platform for sales, customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing efforts.

The primary benefit is that employees have one interface to everything related to work. That is the biggest benefit of chatbots. If all tools can integrate into a chatbot’s standard integration framework, it becomes a pivot where work and tools integrations can work.

Unlike other mobile apps, as they simply follow the scripts, chatbots are easily deployable across other social media platforms with little to no modifications required.

The faster communication channels with colleagues are, the faster CRM representatives can convert. Chatbots can automate this aspect of the workflow, enabling them to collaborate better and streamline business processes for improved productivity and cohesion. They also provide CRM alerts that enable them to identify and keep track of qualified leads’ activities to close deals faster. Organising such activities makes it easier to allot more time and focus on other important aspects of the CRM process, like campaigns, that will generate increased revenue.

Why chatbots can be an excellent investment for companies seeking to improve their customer relationship management function?

It can be difficult to scale up CX, especially when there is an influx of new leads and not enough staff to handle them. Among the most tedious aspects of CRM are recording customer data, creating reports, and addressing frequently asked questions. Automating these areas can massively improve the workflows of CRM reps and allow them to focus on other tasks that will increase their sales contribution. Many automation platforms have visitor tracking and engagement software that collects information on prospects, including how much time they spend on which webpages and how they reach them.

Alongside the streamlined business processes and customer insights that help refine the customers’ journey, chatbots also help organisations to offer assistance and address inquiries in real-time. Being understaffed compromises the ability to handle customers properly. Up-to-date engagement software, which has predefined answers to routine questions, will go a long way in dealing with a huge volume of customer requests in a short time. It is important that organisations also train their chatbots to converse like humans so customers will be more at ease when inquiring or asking for assistance.

How is the adoption rate of chatbots among businesses in APAC? Do businesses face any challenges in adopting chatbots?

According to a 2020 report by Forrester, 42% of surveyed businesses in Asia-Pacific said that they implemented, are implementing, or are expanding implementation of chatbots as a form of customer service automation and 21% are planning to implement it in the near future.

While applying AI to digital marketing functions demonstrates promising potential, a few firms have scaled up these types of applications in APAC. Evidently, there is a lot of room for growth in the market. For countries in the region, a huge chunk of customer relations is still managed by staff. To successfully adopt automation to this aspect, they need to incorporate a human layer into the conversational chatbots to facilitate a friendly interaction with the users and make them comfortable talking to an AI bot.

Any tips for businesses that want to adopt chatbots? Is cost a big factor, especially for CMOs?

As businesses grow, scaling CRM is crucial to deliver the same level of customer experience. Here are three things to keep in mind for companies that want to adopt chatbots:

  • Invest in the right chatbot platform. Having the right platform is pivotal in the adoption of chatbots. The ideal platform should enable users to customise the chatbots with ease, even without the need for complex coding knowledge, to cater to their specific needs. It should empower effective integration across marketing, sales, and support services to be most effective.
  • Draft the proper responses. A huge part of chatbot adoption is crafting the right answers to the most frequently asked questions, leading to a more interactive experience and a more satisfied inquirer. This will ensure that queries are effectively addressed and will result in more qualified leads.
  • Track important metrics. To ensure the delivery of high-quality customer support, businesses need to track some critical support metrics, this is reflected in the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). These metrics will give a better understanding of their overall performance in terms of CRM to find areas of improvement, continue efforts that are working and stay focused on what matters most.