Bots: engaging in dialog with Alexa, Tinder and Lego Ralph

Robots are relieving people of a lot of work and this also applies to customer communication. They can be used to generate sales and even reach new target groups.

Bots: engaging in dialog with Alexa, Tinder and Lego Ralph
© 2018 The LEGO Group

Nobody likes to listen to music while on hold. If they then hear a busy signal, the connection is not the only thing lost. The caller also loses trust in the brand. Companies are now increasingly seeking to pick up the thread again with chatbots. The bot used by the Dutch airline KLM, for example, answers millions of user queries in ten different languages. The KLM Messenger Bot on the website and WhatsApp communicates booking confirmations, personal offers, check-in notifications, flight status updates and boarding passes. Google Home users can even get help packing via voice control. If the chatbot cannot answer a request, then the user is forwarded to a human employee. Service is the best marketing.

At least that’s how it’s been so far. Bots were initially used as customer service assistants. With the automated live agent, which is in use around the clock, companies can save up to 90 percent of their support costs. The bots are programmed in such a way that they know and can answer the frequently asked questions beforehand. Information about what the user is interested in can be obtained via keywords in SMS messages, chat windows on websites and social messaging services such as Facebook or Twitter. Customers generally like the fact that their minds can be read like this. According to a Facebook study, 53 percent of consumers prefer to buy from companies, to which they can write. This is also supported by the fact that 56 percent of consumers prefer to write rather than call customer service. Not least because they have to put up with waiting times.


How companies use chatbots to boost sales

This is one reason why bots are now finding their way into almost every industry. At Starbucks, users can order and pay for drinks and snacks using the Barista Bot. The digital assistant is built into the Starbucks app and works with both text and voice. The clothing store H&M offers a styling assistant on Kik messenger. Teenagers especially like to put outfits together and share them with their friends. If they want to buy an item, the bot forwards them to the online shop. This shows how sales are generated from service, as bots increasingly become sales machines.

For this purpose Lego created the bot “Ralph”. As Lars Silberbauer, Senior Global Director of Social Media & Video, explains, Ralph’s success is due to his efficient way of communicating as well as his personality. Consumers don’t just get help with shopping. The conversations with the bot are fun and witty. This is an important characteristic for reaching consumers. Then bots become suitable for all industries. Even financial institutions like the German Savings Bank use bots to seek dialog. The bank launched the bot “Der Bote” especially for its young target groups. This bot is bald with muscles and tattoos, and is there to demand money from debtors. The language he uses is uncomplicated youth jargon peppered with a lot of emojis. To collect the money, the user can create a video together with the bot. The aim of the messenger is to increase interaction with the Savings Bank app Kwitt and thereby increase customer loyalty. The strategy seems to be working: in the first six weeks, people talked 22 percent more about Kwitt according to the Savings Bank.


From Alexa to Tinder, people are using more and more channels to chat

In addition to the usual messengers, an increasing number of channels like Amazon’s Alexa and even Tinder are being included. Domino’s Pizza used the dating app to boost its sales on Valentine’s Day. In Ireland, the pizza delivery service even created the bot “Don Juan” for this purpose and positioned it as a normal profile among those seeking love. When a match was found, Domino’s helped its Tinder user find a date. They gave him lines like: “I pepper-only have eyes for you” and “You’ve stolen a pizza my heart”.

This is no longer just a service concept. It has become a full-fledged marketing strategy. Apart from the Valentine’s Day campaign, those who are hungry for pizza have the usual service functions at their disposal. They can use the bot to order their pizza, pay for it and follow in real time how their dough is being prepared and delivered. Ongoing contact strengthens customer trust and brand loyalty. And they don’t ever have to be put on hold.


The bottom line:

Bots were launched as a chat service and are now used in multiple ways. They are also becoming increasingly important touchpoints on websites and messaging services. The benefit is obvious, as ongoing dialog strengthens the positive experience customers have with the brand. As part of a true marketing strategy, this approach can even be used to reach whole new target groups. What is important here is that, in order to be accepted by users, chatbots should not simply answer questions, but closely emulate natural dialog.