“The conversational channel is exploding,” says Russell Ward, CEO of Toronto-based company Massively.
And while he’s not suggesting chatbots are going to overtake social, email or apps anytime soon, it’s an area that marketers simply can’t ignore. “If you are thinking about reaching an audience, you need to think about messaging. Bots allow you to reach your customers in a native way.”
Ward recently spoke at our breakfast event MarTech Mornings, held at the new Globe and Mail centre. The monthly event series features leading thinkers in marketing technology.
We caught up with Ward at the end of his presentation to ask him a few questions.
Q: As a marketer, what do you need to ask yourself before using a bot?
A: There are three things you need to ask yourself. The first: What’s the right platform to use? Chat, messaging, voice? Who’s using those platforms, what are the rules of engagement on those platforms?
The second: What’s the technology that I’m going to need? Am I going to do a very basic, rules-based, pre-determined automated conversation with my users? Am I going to use it for customer service, where I need to have a lot of confidence that I’m satisfying my users? Or do I need some more advanced AI powering the convos so I can predictively answer questions and understand the language?
And finally: What is it that you are uniquely trying to do? What can a bot do that’s different? Why is it relevant?
I often say to clients: ‘You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be something to someone.’ It’s really a matter of focusing on that one thing you want to do and do it well (and, of course, making sure the technology can deliver it).
Q: What kind of talent are you hiring in this space?
A: It’s a unique space to operate in. We have a team of engineers who work alongside what we call ‘conversational designers,’ who script the experience and understand the user journey. They’re the equivalents of UX experts. We also have a linguist who understands language and how words and phrases are put together and can work as a bridge between our conversational designers and engineers to make sure that we understand the customer’s intent.
There’s a variety of skills that we look for, but there are some unique conversational design skills that ultimately are something that we look for.
Q: What metrics should marketers pay attention to when it comes to bots?
A: Key performance indicators (KPIs) vary depending on case and customer. Sometimes our clients are looking for engagement. Top of the funnel stuff. In other cases, it’s about getting to answers quickly. It’s about the accuracy and satisfaction of getting the answers. We also look at session length and messages exchanged or ‘turns’ (as we call them in the space). We also consider custom metrics in terms of our own ability as a company to learn and get smarter over time. This involves our ability to train the experience for more accuracy and build more personalized and context into the conversations.
With files from The Globe’s Aletta Brandle
Katherine Scarrow is a strategist in The Globe’s in-house Content Studio. She can be reached @scarrowk