Archive for category: Mobile

Can Customer Service Bots Ever Be Empathetic Enough?

21 Dec
December 21, 2016

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be one of the keynotes at the iMedia Brand Summit where I talked about the social media journey my company has been on, and in particular the part customer service plays.

I touched on a few forward thinking points at the end, one of them being the possible role of bots. I got a lot of questions afterwards about how and where it can be applicable for different types of business. With the recent announcement of Twitter’s customer service tools, as well as Facebook’s earlier announcements of messenger bots, there has been a tremendous rush towards trying to apply them.

I think the opportunity for messenger bots is huge. I’m a firm believer in customer service at the core of any social media and content strategy. It must be easy for a customer to do business with you and find the answers they need quickly. Bots can fulfil this need – to a degree.

The real litmus test though (and let’s face it, the business case for investment) will come down to what your social interactions are like as a whole.


If you’re tagging your social interactions correctly (that is to say aligned to other business functions), then you should have a solid foundation of what your customer queries are about. From here, there are two things to consider when analysing them.

Firstly, what are they actually relating to? If you map them to your customer’s lifecycle, how many could you consider to be general questions (possibly pre-sales or account maintenance), vs the amount of customer service queries and more specifically, complaints? Bots will excel in providing responses to questions that are frequent and general. As the conversations become more personal, will they be the right thing to be putting between you and the customer?

Secondly, how personal is the customer service and complaints? I use the word personal as opposed to specific because there is a lot of variance between the two. A broken dishwasher is a very different level of personal to something like an insurance claim. When interactions get incredibly personal, they can be heavy on the emotion and detail, requiring a level of emotional intelligence and empathy that simply can’t be provided by a bot.

If I look at my previous area of financial services, social interactions were largely straightforward – it was all about stock prices and account management. I see tremendous opportunity in things like share trading, where a bot can fulfil (once your ID has been authenticated) a number of functions, like live quotes, and simple buy or sell orders. These functions are very specific in nature, and I think that the first online broker to crack this will have a distinct advantage.


So with that considered, would a bot help or hinder the discussion around a claims complaint or anything involving an impact to finances or lifestyle, for instance? Think about how frustrating it can be to work your way through the automated phone message to find someone to speak to.

Here in Australia, 46% of us are more likely to go online to complain rather than praise*, and I believe this to actually be much higher for regulated, service-based industries like financial services. Social is an escalation point, where brand and reputation management is on public display, so it’s important to get it right.

While messenger bots will excel at the beginning of the customer journey, if you interactions lean heavily on complaints and are very personal in nature, there is a point where this interaction needs to be handed over to a human.

*Lithium Technologies 

When QR Codes Attack

17 Jan
January 17, 2012

I’m just back from summer break and while I was on holidays I picked up a copy of the Social Media Monthly at the newsagent. It was more curiosity than anything, and at $17.50 despite a $6.99 USD cover price and above parity exchange rate, I now consider that curiousity satisfied and probably won’t be doing it again. But I digress…

Something that really struck me was the inordinate number of QR codes in the magazine. Front and back cover, and nearly every ad and article inside had a code attached.

I think QR codes can be a very useful and valuable tool. But as with most things I talk about here, they’re only good as long as they are easy to use and provide value for the customer.

In a bit of an experiment, I scanned all 20 QR codes in the magazine – only two went to a mobile optimised version of their site. One didn’t work all together and the kicker for me was the one for a business that specialises in mobile applications that went to their standard web site.

While a normal website can be viewed on a smart phone, the experience is not awesome. Images and text become small and illegible, and you have to drag around the page to navigate it all. If a site is optimised for mobile however, the experience is much better.

Experience is everything.

Secondly, you need to think about WHY you are using the QR code. Are you offering anything of value that might make it worth their while? As an example, all I landed on when I scanned the magazine’s QR code was a non optimised subscription page. No value to me.

Think about what you want people to do when they get there. It’s like building Facebook fans – awesome to have, but what are you delivering to them in terms of value?

Remember – value and experience – these two things should be the foundation of everything you do.

Yes, that QR code above does actually work. It’s a little gem from Scott Stratten on bad use of QR codes – plenty you can learn from here. And for those of you who don’t want to scan it, you can watch it below.