On Monday March 24th 2017, I have been part of a roundtable in a French communication school, CESACOM to discuss about the possible solutions to fix customers.
On this occasion, I mentionned the existence of behavioral targeting and profiling solutions, both of which allow to get a better understanding of customers and companies. Solutions which are of interest for Customers Relationship Management, through the use of chatbots.
A chatbot, according to Wikipedia, “is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods“. Though this definition seems simple, it opens a window to our coming world.
Corporate & intelligence analysis : their interest for chatbots unveil who Companies truly are
Through their interest for chatbots, companies reveal part of their survival strategy :
strategy n°1 – “Working hard for the money“
The turnover is the key of the company’s survival. Increasing profitability or, at worse, keeping charges and earnings balanced is the company’s main target. This is done through counting and measuring : evaluating the ROI, keeping charges to the lowest level and choosing the strategy through facts and figures. Usually, in such companies, the Finance Department and/or the shareholders rule. On this basis, chatbots are considered as a way to invest in materials cheaper than the wages and social charges paid to men, as well as an opportunity to make salesforce redundant. Not only salesforce, but people in charge of developping websites and mobile aps. And, why not, people in charge of the company’s Digital communication, such as Social Media and Community Managers, some Customer Relationship Management people or some recruitment people as well ?
Strategy n°2 – “Heading for tomorrow“
In this case, the company’s survival strategy is different, as innovation is the main concern. Being ahead of the competition for the years to come through knowledge and innovation becomes the main target. As a result, the protection of innovation with patents becomes the company’s main concern. The R&D Department rules. On this basis, chatbots are considered as a way to improve the company’s performance. But as opposed to the money strategy previously developped, men’s skills and know-how are considered as part of the Company’s quality trademark. As such, a collaboration between men and machines is considered as a key to the success. Which is why people will receive training in order for them to be able to use the machine for an enhanced performance, and to concentrate on complex tasks.
Forensics analysis : what’s next ?
Obviously, future is not a crystal ball where anything can be read. However, from the sources available on the Web, a couple of things can be guessed.
To date, the preference of chatbots for customers services satisfies american customers. However, this satisfaction is based on the profiling of people, which allow chatbots to detect the psychology of customers. This can lead to an objectionable use of neuromarketing techniques. On a legal basis, the increasing use of chatbots might end up bringing the attention not only on the protection of customers’ privacy, but on their free will. What if a B2B or B2C customer was suing a Company in Court to have a sale contract set aside on the basis of undue influence ? For this reason, keeping an eye on Court decisions or laws in discussion limiting the field of psychological profiling and/or informing the customers they might be profiled or that they are in communication with either a chatbot or a human being will allow companies using chatbots to foresee any evolution in their customers relationship management.
On a more technical point of view, and should the legal void remains, some technological companies could develop solutions to protect or clean the customers’ online data, and prevent Companies from using them on a behavioral targeting end. And if, to date, international standards do not seem to exist regarding chatbots, their rise will unmistakably generate a need for either a standard or some “best practice“. Keeping a close eye on the ISO website will allow companies to be advised of any discussion regarding this topic and decide if it is of interest for them to be a part of it.
But the future of chatbots is not only legal or technological, but also economic and sociologic. If some Companies dream to get rid of non-machines elements, what about their online reputation, should a chatbot use racist or homophobic comments learnt from online users ? And will businesses want to put their whole user communications in the hands of artificial intelligence ? To date, and considering the inconvenience Microsoft had to face with Tay, this looks unlikely. But we do not know what future will bring us. For this reason, keeping an eye on employment jobs or high schools programs, particularly for jobs involving online sales, online communication and even online assistance, will be a good way to keep an eye on the market’s evolutions.
“There is no fate but what we make for ourselves“.
Robert DESISTO “The death of the AI-less salespersons“ September 2016
Gemma SPINKS “Chatbots: The future of Social Selling?“ February 2017