Maybe Chatbots Aren’t Evil After All…
If you were beginning to do a little research into Chatbot best practices, you might be forgiven if you failed to check out what was going on in the small country of Georgia. There, nestled away between Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and the Black Sea, is a company that is right on a number of levels.
TBC Bank is the largest financial institution in the country. This may not sound like much when you consider that Georgia’s population hovers just under 4 million people, but it’s a mistake to underestimate this company or ignore what they have done.
Generally speaking, innovation is a challenge in emerging nations. The introduction of new technologies needs to be carefully balanced to acknowledge economic, language and social realities. TBC has proven quite agile in this regard, and no more is this evident than in the new chatbot they introduced in 2017. It is the first time that artificial intelligence has been used in the financial sector in Georgia. And all I can say is… wow.
SKEPTICAL ABOUT CHATBOTS
Full disclosure — up until recently, I have been highly skeptical about chatbots. Maybe it’s because I’m having flashbacks to the early adoptions of IVR. Bell Canada’s “Emily” gave me a twitch that I still haven’t fully recovered from.
Emily was the sweet-sounding artificial woman who started fielding all customer calls in the ’90’s. A sweet-sounding, infuriating, insufferable artificial woman who didn’t listen, couldn’t interpret, and consistently tried to solve the wrong problems. I still have a vivid memory of my eight-year-old daughter coming down from her bedroom saying, “Daddy, please tell me that you’re not screaming at an automated machine on the other end of that phone.”
I suspect that my recent skepticism has come from a number of early chatbot adopters — including some Very Big Companies we all know — who have just quietly slid their new A.I. in, hoping that nobody will notice and that the public will be gullible enough to think they are talking with humans. It is a disingenuous approach that takes customer experience back 20 years.
TBC Bank, on the other hand, has taken the exact opposite approach. Rather than attempt to hide their chatbot’s true character, they’re celebrating it — big time. In the process, they have actually turned it into a powerful customer experience advantage. They started by giving it a name: Ti-Bot.
Ti-Bot is the first ever chatbot to speak Georgian and was designed in collaboration with the Georgian-based startup, Pulsar AI. Ti-Bot helps people with their financial questions and transactions, of course, but that’s not all. People also use it to find local events and tickets, ask for weather forecasts, calculate loan terms, top-up a prepaid mobile and much more.
What sets Ti-Bot apart is that the 124,000 people using it aren’t interacting with it because they have to. It’s because… get this… they want to.
How many other chatbots have customers logged in just to wish it a Merry Christmas? How many chatbots have customers taking the time to tell it how wonderful it is? And Ti-Bot replies to customers in the same way , with humor, compliments, animated Gifs and Emoticons. There are actual conversations going on between customers and this unique chatbot.
THE VERY DEFINITION OF “WOW” CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Ti-Bot has its own Facebook page. With 40,000 followers and over 40,000 likes. Engagement? How about 25,000 interactions in just the last month? Ti-Bot is part knowledge-base, part transaction resource, part marketing tool and full-time mascot. In Georgia, where relationships are at the heart of their culture, customer service and customer experience are critical differentiators. Ti-Bot taps into this, creating the kind of positive experiences that customers share with their friends and family. That is the very definition of “wow” customer experience.
A CHATBOT FOR GOODNESS & NICENESS, INSTEAD OF EVIL
Ti-Bot is still in its infancy, but TBC bank is bringing it up right. They are showing us that A.I. and customer service doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’ equation.
Most companies — particularly the social and technology-based ones — have adopted the customer service philosophy of “do as little as possible, and perhaps step up when a customer begins to border on a psychotic episode.” They love this technology because they see it as one more way to avoid actually having to deal with customers. This goes against everything we know about customer experience.
TBC Bank, however, gets it. They are showing us how to use this kind of technology, to quote secret agent Maxwell Smart — “for goodness and niceness instead of for evil.”
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