Business Chatbots and The Race to Better Web Content

November 13, 2017
Chatbots Illustration

It’s tough to argue with the fact that today’s chatbots are simplistic, clunky, and annoying to use. With faux personalities and canned responses, they’re just no match for the inquisitive, impatient nature of human beings. The more real we allow ourselves to be, the faster the conversation falls apart.

And yet a brief web search will turn up hundreds of articles on why the Conversational UI is the future of the internet. Voice-activated task assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google are in a marketing battle royale for control over our homes. Factor in the seemingly unlimited potential of artificial intelligence, and all signs suggest that something big is about to change.

​Chatbots may be imperfect technology, but the conversational insight they provide will be the driving force behind the next phase of the information revolution.

For many digital marketing leaders, this contradiction isn’t something to reconcile right now – it’s safer to allocate dollars toward last year’s marketing fad than it is to move boldly into the future. Assuming that’s you, and you’re struggling to see the potential in chatbots, I invite you to reconsider your perspective.

Forget the interface, this is about a new level of content.

Today’s chatbots may be severely limited, but it’s not just because of technology – it’s also because of a huge lack of content on the web itself. Lack of content on the internet? That may sound crazy, but think about it: Aside from the most popular wikis and forums, the vast majority of websites provide one-directional, summary-level information. This is especially true of B2B digital marketing.

Forum communities like Stack Exchange set themselves apart in their ability to crowdsource detailed answers to very specific questions. Your company's product page with specifications and FAQs may be helpful, but it isn't the same as talking to an experienced sales representative who has actually solved problems. The sales rep, too, is able to draw from a deeper well of experience in order to provide detailed answers to very specific questions. The broader internet doesn’t operate on this level yet, but it could, and it will.

Chatbots are the best way to develop this new content.

Compared to lead forms or email inquiries, chat as a platform offers a higher frequency of explicit, contextual customer input. Where an email might contain a question or two, a five-minute chat can just as easily contain 10-15 questions at varying degrees of specificity, offering far more insight into the hurdles your customers are facing.

Human-powered web chat already succeeds in streamlining the sales process but falls short in its lack of automation and integration. It’s easy to subscribe to a web app, place a snippet of Javascript on your site, and pay a human being to start chatting with customers. It’s harder to recognize the problem for what it is – a failure of content – and harder still to figure out how to integrate and deliver this content automatically from your existing content management system. Chatbots are the only tool positioned to tackle this challenge.

You already own the content, you just need to document it.

A chatbot initiative may feel confusing, but rest assured that your organization already knows this content inside and out. For instance, it’s likely there’s not a question I could ask about your products or services that the right sales representative or veteran executive couldn’t answer. The only problem is that the answers are stuck in their heads and not readily available to your customers. It’s time to recognize that making every answer accessible all the time – in a low cost, intelligent way – is no less valuable than documenting your other business processes.

Today's content strategy focuses on the big rocks, the major pain points that are easy to address. Chatbots can uncover the tiny questions, like pouring sand in between to fill the gaps.

There will always be the big rocks in content strategy – major pain points that are easily understood and best addressed with flagship articles. What chatbots offer businesses is an automated means to uncover and eliminate the hundreds of smaller sticking points that stand in the way of total customer satisfaction. In other words, if today’s internet is filled with big rocks, the next information revolution will be the sand poured in-between. Organizations that recognize it and start today will own the customer conversation – virtually free of competition – tomorrow.