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BOTS? What are they and how can they help your association?

Membership Marketing |

There’s no denying it, apps are extremely useful. It’s likely you use a number of apps on your smartphone on a daily basis. But if you think a little harder, it’s likely that actually there’s only a handful of apps you actually use on a regular basis.

Research shows that 25% of installed apps are never used, and 26% of installed apps are abandoned after their first use. And almost half of all smartphone users don’t download any new apps in any given month. It’s getting increasingly difficult to download, set up, manage and switch between so many apps on our mobile devices; resulting in users only using a few different apps every day.

App developers are also under strain. Ensuring your app works across all devices is a very costly and time consuming exercise. With Apple software being updated on such a regular basis, maintaining your app is also exhausting for all involved. Building a business case for a native app is extremely difficult as the ROI isn’t clear.

"Apps used to be the big thing," says Kriti Sharma, head of mobile development at accounting software firm Sage. "But many more people are messaging than are posting on social media these days." As a result, there has been a rise in messaging apps that enable interaction with third party services within the messaging interface – examples include WeChat, Facebook, Line, Slack and Telegrams. Each of these allow developers to build messaging bots to provide automated services through the messaging interface.

A messaging bot effectively reads and writes just like a human would. They are programmed and designed to carry out automated actions, such as:

  • Enabling the purchase of goods and services
  • Sharing relevant content (such as the news and weather)
  • Notifying you when specific events occur, (e.g. your train is delayed or your boiler needs servicing)
  • Carrying out financial transactions on your behalf, such as authorising a payment or transferring funds across bank accounts

As well as initiating actions, bots can respond to requests from other users. They can automate conversations, transactions and workflows.

Bots are gaining in credibility due to the progress that has been made in writing artificially intelligent software. Combined with the large amounts of data many organisations have on their customers and stakeholdes, means bots can be deployed extremely effectively. Many organisations are now using bots to help streamline the interactions between customers and companies.

Chris Topping, from Silverbear recently gave a presentation on bots at TechSmart 2016 and said “We’ll soon see bots helping out with member engagement, enquiries and membership queries”. With member engagement a leading strategic focus for many associations, it’s likely that they’ll be keen to understand how they can utilise bots to improve engagement and communication with their members.

Unlike apps that push interruption based alerts out to the member, bots stay invisible until needed. When a member wants to know something or needs to respond to something the bot will send them a message. There is no new technology that the member has to learn or understand – they just send and receive messages. Members can interact with bots just as they do with their friends. It’s an extremely natural way to communicate and interact, and so will be much more likely to be warmly received and used effectively.