Chatbots. We’ve all heard about them and most likely interacted with some in the past. Seems like nothing new then right? But actually, there’s plenty of new news. Because once everyone starts using something, companies have to find a way to make their use of it stand out. Businesses push each other to constantly improve their features and tools and as such, companies have been finding unique ways to integrate bots. To highlight the versatility of chatbots and the distinctive ways they can be adapted to fit a company, I found a few that are relying heavily on the use of chatbot technology to succeed.
One app, called Penny, is a personal finance app that helps you spend smarter and save more. Now I know we’ve already talked about a personal finance app when we heard Lindsay Sutton talk about Twine. However, Lindsay mentioned how the emphasis of that app is on investing and saving with a significant other. We even saw some of the ads that John Hancock is using to market the app and how they try to draw in couples specifically. But there are plenty of other customers out there that may not be at that stage in life where they are looking to save for a vacation for two but might still want a personal finance coach for their little goals. Penny appeals to them with its use of a chatbot interface to create a more natural budgeting experience. The app follows a process where the user feels like they having real conversations with a coach and even incorporates jokes. In this way, it eliminates the scary nature that is associated with money talks and pushes informed financial decisions into their everyday lives. The conversations are all in the app but resemble a standard text conversation. It also provides easy to understand charts and graphs. We have come a long way with chatbots and this app is a great example of a way a company has personalized the experience to lure a specific group of young customers.
The app was created in 2015 and since then, has been empowering users. A friend who has been using the app for almost a year now told me how she felt the app made financial planning seem simple. When she graduated college and started her first job in New York City, she felt she needed help managing her spending because New York City can really take all your money in the blink of an eye. Penny forced her to be mindful during this new stage of her life. She really appreciates the motivational messages she gets from the app when she has stayed within her spending goals and the friendly reminders that let her know how much is left of her budget in order to stay on track. Each notification shows up like a quick text as if a coach was actually checking in and helping you make purchase decisions. Obviously, users are well aware these messages are coming from an automated robot but the personalized nature makes it seem less robotic and allows the users to really connect. Nonetheless, my friend did also mention that there are still some downsides to this app. There are times where you have to go through the formalities of a conversation just to find out one thing. In those times, you are reminded that it is nothing more than an automated process. For example, finding a chart of her monthly food spending requires two or three conversational responses before completing this simple request. This means the technology still has some room for improvement in order to make the process entirely seamless but it is clearly on its way. (It is important to note that Credit Karma recently bought Penny and will be integrating the technology into their platform to provide these features for their customers but it has not happened yet).
Another company that has taken this chat approach and applied it to their customer service and selling process is Dirty Lemon. This brand sells beverages designed to improve consumers’ everyday lives. These specialty beverages contain natural ingredients that address different wellness trends. One example is their collagen drink, which is formulated to hydrate skin, increase elasticity, reduce wrinkles and trigger new collagen production. The other options address trends like improved digestion, improved metabolism, natural energy, better sleep and less stress. Despite the unique ingredient blends and health promises, the most distinctive part of this company is their ordering system. It is challenging the way we see retail. Customers only use the website during their first purchase to enter their delivery and payment preferences and afterward, order strictly via text. This text message-based payment and customer service platform was developed by Dirty Lemon founder Zak Normandin and has really added a new appeal to his company. Customers simply text their orders or questions to the Dirty Lemon number and receive a confirmation or response back. It is incredibly convenient. They don’t need to visit the website, add to their cart or go through entering delivery and payment information each time. It’s a whole new twist to online shopping. You could order your drinks while walking to work in the morning and not waste more than a minute. It also decreases the chance of putting something in your cart only to never buy it. They have even added emojis to their automated messages for a special touch. With this company, conversational language is used in every interaction from both ends. You can text the number in a completely informal manner and still receive the response you need. As opposed to Penny which still requires a sort of process when looking for a specific response, Dirty Lemon is facilitating customer service and getting you straight to what you are looking for, removing any friction points. Normandin believes the future of commerce is conversation based but after observing how many different ways this conversation based technology can be used, it seems it won’t just apply to retail. It will be interesting to see how other industries successfully integrate automated but natural like conversations into their core business.