It’s not proven that Winston Churchill said “Never let a crisis go to waste.” But whoever said it, they could have been talking about chatbot deployments. Our world is littered with unloved chatbots, useless offerings that deliver horrible experiences and are used by no one. Typically, this is the result of trying to boil the ocean, overthink things, and attempt to create the perfect chatbot right out of the gate. Brands that build their chatbots in response to a crisis don’t have time to overthink anything — they just do it, and this has led to some very successful deployments.

One logical solution to the problem of overwrought chatbot deployments is to start small and grow the deployment over time. We wanted to see what we could learn from companies that started with this approach to their chatbot deployment. An interesting trend popped up from our vendor and brand interviews: Companies that deployed their chatbot in response to some sort of crisis took a focused, practical approach to their implementations and often enjoyed success. This became the premise of our Take The “Crisis Approach” For Successful Chatbot Deployment report.

COVID-19 hangs all over this research. If you talk to a brand that is enjoying a successful chatbot deployment in 2022 or 2023, there is a good chance that their deployment started in response to a COVID-driven crisis. For example, imagine being responsible for tech support for Zoom in 2020. When your company name becomes a verb, you are going to get a lot of support requests. Zoom was slammed and turned to chatbots to help reduce the load on its agents.

This is just one of the many stories that we heard when we started looking into the impact of a crisis on a chatbot deployment. From these, we identified the following set of recommendations:

  • Learn from the success of crisis-driven chatbot deployments … while hopefully avoiding your own crisis.
  • Use a framework that weighs repeatability, the number of exceptions that you will need to handle, and the level of business risk when prioritizing what problem to solve next with your chatbot.
  • Start informational and move to transactional interaction handling over time.

Some of the brands that we spoke with kept a minimalist approach to their chatbots, with minimal staffing and a modest vision. Starting small doesn’t mean that you have to stay small, however. Many of the brands that we spoke with used their initial “crisis bot” deployment as a starting point for building out a larger digital self-service presence. This involved hiring full-time conversational designers to make sure that the brand built chatbots that served their customers well at scale.

For more information, read the full report, Take The “Crisis Approach” For Successful Chatbot Deployment.

If you’d like to talk with me more about your chatbot, feel free to schedule time with me.