About Automated Conversations

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Today, we are going to discuss what automated conversations are, how they work, and how they can benefit your company. Self-guided conversations are great for people not quite ready to have a conversation with your company even though they are looking for specific information. Typically, the type of content these customers are looking for is more transactional or informational in nature and generally it’s content that isn’t meant to engage with a customer emotionally. Emotional engagement usually occurs in an in-person conversation or through an automated or in-person experience. We’ll discuss why shortly.

As with the automated digital individualized experiences video, this is not an insights video where you can discover the connection between ideas and get a revelation or epiphany. This is a resource video to guide you when you are creating your plans. It will provide instruction about what these types of experiences are, how to use them, and how to measure their effectiveness. 

This video includes information found in the book, Revenue or Relationships: Win Both, to guide you in using different communication methods to achieve specific goals as defined in your customer relationship lifecycle strategy, which will help you and your company build better customer relationships.

Automated conversations represents one of four quadrants I outline. The quadrant chart presents how you can look at communication approaches as conversation methods to engage customers and build customer relationships in business. You could say that this quadrant chart helps you develop a content or customer communication strategy because what is content but a way to have a virtual conversation with a customer?

The quadrant defines these conversation methods using two axes.

On one axis, we map the delivery method of a communication, which could be anything from an in-person interaction between people to an automated or digital experience with a system. On the other axis, we map if an experience is immersive where an individual experiences people, a collection of content, or a product or service directly or has a direct individualized experience with a single other entitya person or a systemwhich allows for a greater personalized experience.

Automated conversations are self-guided conversations that the user has with a system. The user initiates the conversation by entering keywords or a statement and the system responds with results or options from which to select. The user chooses the conversation topics in which to participate. Alternatively, someone could select keyword buttons that answer questions initiated by the system. Based on algorithms and programming, the system displays what it determines as the best results for the inquiry. Solutions are not provided through people collaborating to fully understand a problem that needs to be solved; solutions are provided using if/then thinking. There is little identifiable emotion expressed in this communication type. And if emotion is expressed and communicated by a human inputting data, then the system responds with a pre-constructed, pre-defined statement. It is almost impossible to include spontaneous empathy or compassionate responses for customers through this communication method. Empathy and a compassionate script or experience needs to be incorporated in the design of the chatbot or search functionality and programming. It really is an informational and transaction method of communication.

Such automated conversation experiences can be branded, unbranded, or presented by a third-party. 

Some examples activities include search engines where the user enters specific keywords, and chatbots. This area doesn’t hold many customer generated content samples unless a customer creates his or her own bot. I would like to note how social media posts are an example of a hybrid quadrant between automated and in-person conversations and that will be addressed in a future video. 

Mainly, this type of communication is an industry’s first attempt at allowing a computer to have conversations with people. You could say our current search engines are a type of bot and chatbots are a primitive type of artificial intelligence that can have informational or transactional conversations. But higher conversation levels aren’t available just yet. There is work to be done there for an AI to interact with a human regarding prioritization, reasoning, and collaboration. 

Automated conversations can provide a great way for companies to encourage customers to discover information without engaging with a person. It can encourage information discovery with an audience not yet ready to fully engage with your company, giving them the space to discover ideas and points on their own and get the answers they need. The customer can also have conversations with an organization in a more removed and casual way than a phone call, live chat, or email. It’s a little less intimate. The customer or prospect initiates the conversations or responds to an online system. 

Additionally, there is also a technology “cool factor” associated with this method of interaction and conversation. Who isn’t up for chatting with a bot?

The challenge with these activities is the same as what is challenging with the automated experience activitiesa user can only select conversation topics and options that your company makes available to them. The communication sequence is pre-planned, and it is difficult to address spontaneous questions or concerns outside of that defined path. What’s ironic is that this similarity makes tracking quantitative success almost identical to how you track success on automated experiences: you look at the interaction and engagement level on the medium such as clicks, keyword searches, the number of repeat interactions, conversion rate, such as if a chat conversation converts to a conversation medium with greater connection like a phone call or meeting, and similar metrics. 

When it comes to content analysis, the user can review the results of these searches and chat conversations and determine the popular topics and keywords that are most engaging for their customers.

Regarding qualitative feedback, you could conduct surveys or focus groups and inquire which topics, content tone, and which solutions paired with specific keyword strings are appropriateor not. That may inform you about what people want to find and if they are in fact successful. You may see that in metrics, but you may not. A search result could drive traffic to your page, but the page may not have the information expected. That can be assumed through a high bounce rate, but that can only be confirmed through a survey or focus group conversation about the interaction and engagement.

What you can discover from this communication method is the content topics that people want to learn more about and understand how customers perceive your solution.

People may have specific questions to ask your company about your solutions, but they may not be ready to talk to employees and engage with them. They want to maintain some distance and connect with your company in a guided way without an active emotional connection—yet. They want to discover information on their own and contemplate information more specific to their situation on their own time. It’s a transactional and informational method of communication. It’s also not a method that exists on its own. It needs to be used with in-person conversations or experiences to provide additional information. Together, such experiences allow a customer a way to understand what a company is and how it works for their specific situation. Alone, this method provides answers to questions in the same way you can order items online and receive them in days. It’s transactional and informational, but it also is a bridge to build a stronger customer relationship through a different method. There is nothing wrong with a bridge, except if the bridge leads to a communication experience that is less than optimal to engage the customer emotionally.

More to come. I hope this is helpful. Thanks, and have a great day!

At-a-Glance Summary of the Four Quadrants

Automated, Digital Individualized Experiences

Automated Conversations

In-person Conversations

In-person Experiences

Potential Content Creators

Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (analyst firms, review and content creation companies), press, potentially customers

Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (search engines, social media, chatbot companies)

Customers and influencers unlikely

Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (call centers), customers

Word-of-mouth activities

Mainly companies and third-parties (event hosting companies, analyst firms, store fronts)

Less likely: customers, influencers (e.g. Meetups)

Goal

Customer discovers general information

Customer finds information that solves their problem

Customer gets referred to a person or resource

Customer discovers specific information that solves their problem

Employee can connect emotionally with the customer

Customer discovers how a product or service could help him or her

Employee can connect emotionally with the customer

Level of Emotional Engagement

Medium

Low

High

High

Constructed or Spontaneous Experience?

Constructed

Constructed

Mostly spontaneous

Both

Types of Conversations

Informational, transactional

Possibly decision making and influential

Informational, transactional

Possibly decision making

Informational, transactional, decision making, influential, relationship building, collaborative

Informational, transactional, decision making, influential, relationship building, collaborative

Conversion Experience

Customer needs to access 11+ pieces of content to build trust and move to in-person conversations or sales

Interactions online build the relationship

Conversion moves the customer to engage with automated experiences or have in-person conversations

No direct employee engagement

Guide/direct customers to build a relationship with a company

Drive to a sale or conflict/issue resolution

Conversations often build a relationship between a customer and employee (more than just the customer and company)

Can be used to establish an early stage relationship between a customer and company and further build a relationship

Drive to a sale or conflict/issue resolution

Conversations often build a relationship between a customer and employee (more than just the customer and company)