Month: November 2017

Five things your customer service chatbot needs to succeed



By the end of 2015, more than half a million Americans had professed their love for Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant/chatbot. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then to learn that in 2016, more than a quarter of a million Americans had proposed to Alexa. Fortunately, Amazon had the foresight to program Alexa with a number of witty and noncommittal answers for just such an occasion. Though silly, this anecdote illustrates an important point: US consumers are becoming more accustomed to and comfortable with interacting with artificial intelligence and brands are paying attention to this trend. Of businesses surveyed, 80% said they planned to integrate AI into their customer service efforts by the year 2020.

Of course, not everyone is in love with chatbots. While humans may not be able to tell the difference between communicating with a chatbot and communicating with a human early on in the conversation, it usually becomes apparent within the first several exchanges. Chatbots seem weird, or even creepy to some and many feel that humans still provide superior customer service. Since getting humans to accept chatbots is a huge step in the chatbot revolution, chatbot developers need to provide them with five key traits if they are to succeed.

Just a touch of personality

Creating a personable chatbot is a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, people don’t like chatbots to be too cold and impersonal. On the other hand, chatbots that are too life-like tend to creep people out. The balance, then, is to create a chatbot that is merely pleasant but not overly conversational. An effective chatbot will efficiently and accurately assist customers all while remembering it’s manners–greetings, please’s and thank you’s, etc…)

The ability to delegate

Artificial intelligence and related fields such as natural language processing simply haven’t come far enough yet to create chatbots that can handle any and all customer service issues. There will be questions that chatbots can’t answer and requests that chatbots can’t fulfill. An effective chatbot will be able to recognize early on in a customer service interaction when it isn’t suited for the situation and transfer the person to a live agent in the appropriate department who is best suited to assist that customer.

A willingness to admit defeat

Along with the ability to delegate must be the willingness to admit defeat. Too many chatbots, when unsure what a customer is asking, get stuck in a cycle of “I don’t understand” or “please say that again” responses.” When a chatbot gets stuck, customers will grow frustrated quickly if there isn’t an option to get routed to a live agent.

The ability to explain what it can and can’t do

As mentioned above, chatbots can sometimes be indistinguishable from humans at least initially. This can cause people to overestimate a chatbot’s ability and will lead to frustration when it can’t do what they expect it to be able to do. An easy solution for this is to have your chatbot provide customers with a list of functions it can fulfill early on in the interaction so customers have some direction about what kinds of things they can ask of the chatbot and which things they might need to talk to a human about.

Access to CRM data

Every good customer service department needs an up-to-date customer relationship management (CRM) database. This is where information about customers such as their preferences or notes about ongoing matters can be recorded so that they are available to other agents who might assist that same customer. Surprisingly, many chatbots aren’t programmed with access to this CRM data. This is a huge missed opportunity because one of the biggest advantages chatbots have over humans is the ability to process vasts amounts of data quickly. There’s no reason your chatbot shouldn’t be able to use machine learning and data from prior interactions to provide customers with the best possible service that is tailored for them individually.

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Five ways chatbots can save businesses and customers time and money

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In all likelihood, you’ve used a chatbot before even if you didn’t know it. Chatbots are the new hype in the tech world just as mobile apps were in 2008 and just like mobile apps, it seems chatbots are here to stay. Hundreds of thousands of chatbots have already been developed and deployed across various messaging apps and websites. Chatbots are helping businesses by driving increased sales and reducing the strain and customer support staffs. They’re helping customers by automating customer service and offering a customized online shopping experience. Here’s a more detailed look at how chatbots are helping businesses and customers alike to save time and money.

Chatbots as personal assistants

The average small business doesn’t have room in the budget for personal assistants and many don’t even have office assistants or secretaries. Thanks to chatbots you don’t need to worry about finding more office space or room in the budget for personal assistants. Chatbots can be programmed to work at every employee’s workstation. They can assist in setting up, modifying, or cancelling appointments, they can manage employee’s calendars as well as remind them of upcoming appointments, they can send and receive emails on employees’ behalf and they can connect employees with the appropriate IT or HR staff when needed.

Gathering feedback

Chatbots are excellent tools when it comes to gathering feedback. Helpful feedback is essential for every business and chatbots can aid in gathering feedback both formally and informally. The advantage chatbots have over automated surveys via text is that they can ask follow up questions to better understand customer responses and customer responses don’t have to be limited to numbers on a number scale. Another advantage that chatbots have is they have access to every prior interaction it’s ever had and can access that vast database of information to provide better assistance.

Personalized newsfeeds and reminders

Chatbots that scour the news sites for only the information that’s relevant for the user are hugely popular and are great time savers. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, having a chatbot that can sort through all the news and handpick only stories that you want to see are a huge help.

Automated business processes

Chatbots are great for automating tasks including many business processes. For example, a chatbot can be setup to alert relevant team members when a given task is complete. It could be set up to ask frequently asked questions posed by either employees or customers. Chatbots can facilitate better communication between departments and can even automate a lot of customer service by asking for identifying information, pulling up accounts, determining the nature of the customer’s problem, and routing them to the support staff member that’s best equipped to provide assistance for that customer.

Knowing what customers think

Thanks to machine learning and natural language processing, chatbots are better than any employee can ever be at offering a customized experienced for every customer. With each successive interaction with the same customer, it can get better and better and knowing what the customer is thinking and it can make suggestions and upsell to customers when they think they’ll be receptive to it.

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Top 10 Marketing Predictions for 2018



As the year is drawing close, your business should begin to plan and prepare goals for next year. In that preparation, marketing is of utmost importance since it will be the driving force behind how you get and keep all your customers. Here are the top 10 marketing predictions to consider when deciding what to put in your goals for 2018.

1. Get on board with Artificial Intelligence

A huge trend in marketing is artificial intelligence. The technology has improved drastically over the last couple of years. And while it is still continuing to improve, we are seeing more and more use in the marketing sector. With artificial intelligence, you can focus marketing efforts on each customer individually to give them exactly what they want and improve your chances of getting a sale. Speak with an artificial intelligence company to get everything set up in the most efficient way possible.

2. Start of focus on Gen Z

2018 will be the year that marketers really need to start focusing on marketing to Generation Z. While the last few years have been really focused on trying to understand and market to Millennials, it is time to consider the needs of Generation Z. The group of young people are starting to make their way in the world and are becoming the next big spenders. Gen Z is extremely focused on providing for the community rather than just themselves, so marketing trends will change to be more charitable and value-oriented.

3. Actually using analytics

While a lot of companies have analytics set up, few of them are actually using that data to determine their marketing methods. In 2018, you can expect more businesses to actually start making use of that data as part of the decision-making process. Knowing what is or is not working is a huge part of determining strategy.

4. Focus on relationships

Building relationships with customers is a sure fire way of ensuring a lifelong customer who will forgive small mistakes and keep coming back. While some brands may focus more on creating a brand, most will start shifting to building relationships with customers in 2018.

5. Focus on VR

The future is here, and it is leaning more heavily towards virtual reality. While this may still seem too futuristic, the truth is that 2018 is the year of VR, especially now that it is available on iPhones. It is time to start focusing marketing efforts towards the VR market.

6. Personalization

While personalization has been an important part of marketing this year, in 2018, it will continue to be more important. Personalization to each of your customers is easier with machine learning capabilities. It is what your customers expect and what your business should begin to focus on in the new year.

7. Focus on the social issues

Customers are starting to want answers on how a company feels or thinks about specific social issues. And while many companies will be starting to state their opinions clearly in the new year, be careful about doing this. Some companies had found success with messages of inclusion in love while those who have made clear statements about their preference on specific issues, such as Target, have seen a loss of customers and income. While customers want to see a loving inclusive side of your business, they don’t really want to know all the particulars on every big issue.

8. Focus on security improvements

The biggest vulnerability in security with most companies is through marketing on the website. That is why many marketing teams will be focusing more heavily on cyber-security and protecting customer information in the new year. Cyber-security will continue to be a hot topic that will continually need to get addressed.

9. Social Media utilization

Most businesses already have social media accounts, but 2018 is the year we will start seeing a huge shift in how those sites are used by businesses to get the most out of it. Those who aren’t using it yet will get on board while those who are using will find more creating ways of using social media including using chatbots, placing location-based ads, and running charitable campaigns through it.

10. Use of Influences

More businesses plan to focus on using influencers in the new year. It is an extremely effective way to focus on pocket groups of your audience. You can easily build your reputation and get new customers by using influencers on social media, as long as you do it properly.

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Four things to know before launching your SMS campaign



Text message marketing is the original and oldest mobile marketing channel. It was around before smartphones and mobile apps, push notifications, and QR codes. While it may be old, it’s not outdated. Close to two-thirds of the world’s population (over four billion people) do text messaging. Three-fourths say that they like to receive offers from brands via text. And unlike email open rates which have dropped to 20% thanks to an increase in spam mail and click-through rates which have dropped to 3%, SMS enjoys a 98% open rate and a 36% click-through rate. SMS has the potential to be your most cost effective and powerful mobile channel; or it might be a drain on your marketing budget and a poor investment. It all depends on how you approach it. Before you launch your SMS campaign for your small business, here are four things you should know first.

Let goal setting guide your strategy

A major mistake first time SMS marketers make is not setting clear objectives for the SMS campaign to begin with. If your reasoning behind starting an SMS campaign is: “everyone else is doing it” and your strategy is to just wing it, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re not happy with the results. Instead, start with some broad objectives. Are you trying to increase customer loyalty? Improve branding? Drive more web traffic to your mobile site? Boost sales during your slow season? From there you can set more specific goals. For instance, if your broader goal was to provide better customer service, a more specific goal would be to send order confirmations via text within three minutes of an order being placed.

With specific goals in place, you have a clear way to measure the effectiveness of your SMS marketing efforts. As you reach, or fall short, of your goals, you can adjust your strategy and keep trying always being sure to improve your strategy.

Building your subscriber list

It goes without saying that the more mobile subscribers you have, the more potential your SMS campaign will have. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires that consumers give you their express permission to send them text messages which means every person you text must opt-in of their own accord first. There are a few things you can do to kickstart your SMS subscriber list. First, it’s a good idea to establish an introductory offer like 10 or 15% off their next order after signing up to receive text messages. You should also be advertising your SMS campaign in store, at the point-of-sale (either online or at the cash register) and through existing marketing channels like email and your company’s website.

Selecting a bulk SMS service provider

You should never try to manage your SMS campaign alone. People will constantly be opting in and out and with an ever-changing list of subscribers it’s extremely easy to send a text to someone who wasn’t supposed to get one which opens you up to a lawsuit or fines for violating the TCPA. Even if you could do it perfectly, it’s a huge drain on business resources to manage a subscriber list and all of that text messaging manually. A bulk SMS service provider will automate the opt-ins, opt-outs, and sending of texts for you. They’ll also provide you with software which you can use to schedule texts and view various metrics to let you know how effective each individual text message is. Some SMS bulk SMS services will offer a free trial. Some will have more advanced analysis tools than others. Which one you choose will depend on your budget, the size and scope of your SMS campaign, and your specific goals.

Providing real value

Getting people to opt-in is the easy part. A great introductory offer can get a lot of customers to sign up to receive your texts but many of these people will opt out if they’re not seeing the benefit of remaining on your subscriber list. Since it’s easy to opt out at any time by simply texting the word “STOP” it can be hard to retain subscribers. The key is to find ways to improve the lives of every subscriber through your text messages in some small way. Great SMS-exclusive offers are just one way to do this. Making their lives easier by giving them the option to receive order notifications or shipping updates or appointment reminders via text gives them added convenience and they’ll be less likely to opt out. Showing appreciation by sending personalized messages and birthday offers is another way that you can help subscribers see the value in not opting out.

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Source: customerthink. com/4-things-to-consider-before-starting-sms-marketing-for-your-business/

How to Improve Content Marketing: The Stats

CMAs the Internet and how people use it evolves, so does the way you are marketing. And while a machine learning consultant can help with the more sophisticated parts of marketing, you can also make huge improvements by changing your content marketing efforts. The new stats of 2017 will help you see exactly what you need to do to up your content marketing game.

How often should you post?

The stats are in, and there is definitely a correlation between a blogger who posts more content on a regular basis and the positive results they want. Interestingly, reports show that while a couple of years ago businesses would post at least once a day on their blog, now it is more common to post closer to once a week or a few times a month. However, the bloggers who are professionals are still posting more than once a day and are getting fabulous results. The key here is that your content needs to be high-quality, and if that means you can only post a couple of times a month, then leave it at that. But if you can produce multiple posts a day that are all high quality, then do it. You will yield better results for high quality content.

A note on quality content

About 49% of bloggers who said they spent 6+ hours on an article reported strong results from that particular article. It is important to note that spending quality time on an article has become more common as the average amount spent on an article has increased from about 2 hours to 3 and a half hours.

How to market the content

So, you’ve written an amazing article that people need to see, and you know once they see it, they’ll be hooked. Now how do you get that information to them? Here are the most effective ways of marketing the content and how many bloggers reported using them:

  • Social media (95.9%): If you are not on social media, get on it. It is an extremely effective way to get customers practically for free and to stay in close contact with them.
  • Influencers (25.4%): While fewer bloggers are actually using this method of marketing, those who do are producing very strong results. It works, and you should focus on it.
  • Paid services (20.6%): Bloggers are also reporting very strong results from paid services, and it is expected that this number will increase significantly in the coming years.

Check your results

Only 32.2% of bloggers are always checking their analytics reports to determine how effective their marketing is. They are also the same bloggers who are getting strong marketing results. If you aren’t checking your analytics, how are you supposed to know if your efforts are effective? If you don’t have analytics set up at all yet (5.5%), it’s time to get started and checking it all the time to determine what you need to change and what you are already doing right. It will go a long way in helping steer your efforts for your specific audience.

Ultimately, content marketing is still an extremely effective way of reaching current and new customers, though you need to focus on providing high-quality posts. If your blog is something people want to read, then you’ll have more effective marketing.

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Ten mistakes brands make when developing a mobile app

image7By the end of 2017, the global app market is expected to reach $77 billion. Once a mobile strategy only the major brands employed, now many small businesses are benefitting from developing their own mobile app. If you’re thinking of doing the same for your small business, consider the following ten mistakes that many brands make so you don’t make them yourself.

Trying to do too much

Less is definitely more when it comes to mobile app design. Many brands want their app to be able to do everything their mobile website, but that’s not a good strategy. The reason people seek out and download a brand’s mobile app is because it’s more convenient and streamlined than the brand’s mobile website experience. A simpler app is less expensive and easier to design and it will actually be more effective.

Not understanding customers’ needs first

Building off of the last tip and the need to be selective in choosing which features to include in your mobile app, it’s important to prioritize according to customers’ needs. Don’t assume you know what your customers want and don’t go about developing your app just to create another channel. You need to survey customers and find out what they really want out of your mobile app before you waste money building in features nobody asked for.

Insufficient testing

Every day, more than 1,000 new mobile apps land on app stores. With so much competition, brands are in a hurry to get their app to market. But you can’t afford to rush the testing process. A buggy mobile app can turn off a lot of users and they won’t re-download it even after you’ve fixed the bugs. Better to do extensive testing before release to make sure your app is running as smoothly as possible.

Focusing on downloads and not retention

Here’s a startling fact: more than 75% of apps are never opened a second time. First time app developers are often too concerned with getting a lot of downloads and they don’t think enough about retention. Repeated use, not the number of downloads, is the measure of an effective mobile app. So while it’s important to market your app to get downloads, you need to work even harder to make your app relevant and useful so that the people who do download it continue to use it.

Developing for multiple platforms simultaneously

Since you’re investing money into developing a mobile app, it’s understandable you want to reach the widest audience possible. But you should resist the urge to release your app on multiple platforms at least at first. Cross platform tools that allow you to build an app for multiple platforms simultaneously aren’t as effective as building a new app from the ground up for each new platform. Many brands prefer to start with iOS since there are far fewer iPhone models than Android phones that have to be tested for. Whichever platform you decide to go with first, make sure it’s running smoothly and you’ve got all the kinks worked out before moving on to the next one.

Giving up too early

Less than one percent of apps make a profit. If your objective in building a mobile app is strictly monetary, or if you’re expecting an immediate return on your investment, a mobile app may not be the right direction for you. Mobile apps have a lot to offer beyond ad revenue or revenue from in-app purchases and seeing those results will take time so you need to be patient if you decide to proceed.

Ignoring negative feedback

Many brands think their job is done when their app is deployed. Smart app developers keep an eye on feedback in the app store, especially the negative feedback. Not all of it will be particularly helpful–some people just like to gripe–but there may be some valuable insights in negative feedback that will help you to improve future versions of your app.

Doing it the easy way

Great apps take lots of time and money to develop. Drag and drop app building software might be a good way to get your feet wet with app design but in the long term, you’re going to want to build a professional app from the ground up.

Failure to consider hidden costs

The cost to develop an app is only the start. Testing, maintenance, app upgrades, and marketing for your mobile app all cost money so you need to allocate funds for those things as well, not just the initial development costs.

Not marketing it

Don’t assume that customers will seek out and download your mobile app. Many of them will assume you don’t have one since many smaller businesses don’t. You should be advertising in store and using other marketing channels as well to market your mobile app. Mobile channels are especially important. If you’ve got an SMS campaign, chances are those mobile subscribers are already among your most loyal and will be a great place to start in getting your first app downloads so send out the occasional text message complete with a download link to your app.

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Building a chatbot for your brand is easier than ever


As is always the case with new technologies, chatbots have become more affordable and practical as their use has become more widespread in the business world. When chatbots first became a thing, the cost and difficulty associated with designing one made them prohibitive for all but the biggest brand names. Today, even the smallest small businesses can benefit from a chatbot.

Why you need one

Chatbots are useful even for smaller businesses. For one, they free up human resources. People who want to ask a question about your business or inquire about an order, or complain about issues they’re having with a product you sold can initiate a chat session with your company’s chatbot over SMS or a social media messaging platform. For smaller businesses that don’t have 24/7 support, this chatbot could, at the very least, acknowledge a customer’s inquiry and submit a request ticket to human support agents to handle during business hours. A chatbot will also be able to resolve easier issues and answer frequently asked questions without any assistance from humans thanks to machine learning and natural language processing.

Chatbots also have a lot of the same functionality that mobile apps offer but with a number of key advantages. Chatbots are easier to develop and maintain than a mobile application and chatbots don’t require users to go to an app store and download a file which takes up space on their phone since chatbots operate solely on chat-based applications that most smartphone users will already have.

Open-source chatbot projects

Open-source chatbot projects are chatbots that anyone is free to use. The only problem with open-source projects is that they’ll most likely need to be modified in order to work with your company’s vision for the chatbot. Modification will require some knowledge of coding and most small businesses would have to outsource that to somebody for a cost.

Chatbot maker software

Recently, chatbot maker software has been springing up. This software operates a lot like website builders like Wix or Weebly. An advantage to this method is that it requires no coding whatsoever. The software takes care of the coding part for you. You simply use their interface to design your chatbot the way you want and it translates your design into code. This too will require an investment but it will cost a lot less than developing your own chatbot from scratch or modifying an open-source chatbot. Functionality will be more limited than these options however but probably sufficient for the average small business.

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