AI Bots: Should Brands be Concerned? Yes, Very | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Today, users can ask Amazon Echo or Google Home to pay their bills or check their account balances with simple requests following their respective “Alexa” or “OK Google” wake words. Outside the home, various banks are piloting Alexa integration to engage with customers.

Flash forward to tomorrow, when users can launch Amazon’s, Google’s, or another company’s artificial intelligence (AI) bot to book a shared ride car. The users will be impressed when the bot tells them “your car is on the way,” “your car will be there in three minutes,” and “your car has arrived.” They will also hold the AI bot accountable for delivery of the service (even though they ideally shouldn’t.)

But notice I didn’t say launch or hear from Didi Chuxing’s, Lyft’s, Ola’s, or Uber’s app. Indeed, here, the interaction is through the AI bot, and not directly with the brand itself.

While brands spend a fortune on creating exceptional experiences for customers at all touch points, this type of scenario, which will happen, eliminates most, if not all, of those touch points.

So, how should the “brand experience” change?

First, brands should not fight a losing battle. They must understand and accept that AI bots are here to stay, and design their user experiences around them. Brands need to consider AI as their new, or at least a potent, customer engagement model. And, even if brands create their own AI bots to engage with customers, they must align themselves to the market leaders, as users will only have an appetite for a limited number.

Second, there must be a consistent engagement experience, whether the user engages with a bot or directly with the brand. Moreover, frustrated customers will typically blame the brand, not the bot, if things go wrong. This is a concerning reality that brands need to accept and effectively strategize.

Third, this involves significant technology investments. The investments need to drive simplicity in the way services are designed and consumed. The bot world runs on simplicity. It runs on a catalog of services that are fungible, developed on open standards, and demonstrate integration fluidity. Technology that does not cater to this requirement will fall short in the new world. Though some brands may believe that closed-door development creates a better user experience, this won’t be the case in the increasingly complex bot world.

I understand that technology disruption that creates havoc with capabilities and initiatives to drive ideal customer experiences can be overwhelming for brands. And years of investments across channels, touch points, and journeys may appear futile if the bot indeed becomes the customer. After all, machines don’t really care much for “experiences.”

However, brands cannot forget that, irrespective of technology evolution and customer engagement model, they are in the business to create an exceptional customer experience. Brands that understand that their primary, or possibly their only, responsibility is to create customer delight will thrive in this mad digital world.

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