BC tip: Coca-Cola – Virtual agent falls flat

Interactive Q&A feature shows the dangers of a poorly executed chatbot

coca_cola_chatbot.png

The feature

Coca-Cola invites users on its Contact page to ask the company a question, via a simple ‘Ask Coca-Cola’ panel.

It is in effect a basic chatbot, introducing itself as ‘your virtual agent’. There is a 110 character-limited field for the user to type in their query, with a ‘Send’ button to submit it.

Answers are logged above in a transcript of the chat, and the agent lets users know that it is ready for more questions if required.

Results were mixed when we tested it again, as they have been when we have reviewed the site for our Index. Requests for information on the Annual report and jobs elicited helpful links, but queries on the company’s position on water consumption or the share price produced nonsensical answers.

The takeaway

Through its unreliable performance, the virtual agent could well lead to an increase in the very enquiries we suspect the company is trying to reduce. The fact that the bot does not seem to be ‘learning’ over time suggests this technology has not had the post-launch attention it needs to develop into a truly helpful feature.

The agent also distracts the user from some of the more useful material in the ‘Contact us’ area, including comprehensive FAQs and pages dedicated to confronting rumours about the company and its products.

The Deutsche Telekom chatbot we wrote about recently is a much more successful example of chatbot deployment, primarily because backup options to contact humans are better integrated. It also does not present itself as ‘human-like’; Coca-Cola’s choice to call its bot a virtual agent, and have it respond like a person, might set up higher expectations from users which it fails to meet, as a recent study suggests.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: Enel - Facebook Messenger news bot

Enel offers a news bot through Facebook Messenger which shows some promise for corporate communications

elen, Enel’s Facebook Messenger bot, introduces itself

elen, Enel’s Facebook Messenger bot, introduces itself

The Feature

Enel, the Italy-based power company, offers a Facebook Messenger news bot which it has named ‘elen’.

 The bot is accessed via a Facebook Messenger icon in Enel.com’s navigation, positioned prominently next to the hamburger menu icon on the right hand side of the header. It can also be reached via the group’s Facebook page.

The bot begins by introducing itself as a news bot and informing the user that they can tell it what topics they are interested in, or use a menu presented in the bot, which is a series of links to areas on the corporate site such as news, press releases, and stories.

It also offers an introduction to the company and its sustainability activities. Users can ask elen questions or type in topics, and the bot automatically produces basic answers or links to the corporate site.

If it gets stuck, as it did on a question about the company’s position on global warming, elen allows the user to request an answer from a human – which we received promptly.

The Takeaway

Elen will be useful to audiences who want basic, general information and news, and the informal tone helps to humanise the company. It also sends a signal about the company’s innovative approach, but those wanting more detailed information are still better off sticking with the corporate website.

Ultimately, the bot works best as a way of funnelling Facebook and mobile users back to the corporate website, and presumably deflecting contact about basic company information (but still needs humans for more complex answers).

It is something of a risk to tie the bot to a particular platform, in this case Facebook Messenger. Not all corporate website users will have installed Facebook Messenger, and may be unwilling to do so or to log in on desktop.

Promotion of elen is weak too: although the Facebook Messenger icon is located in the header, some users may not be aware of what it is. It is not clear, before clicking on it, what exactly the user will get in return.

T-Systems Germany, by contrast, has a careers chat bot offered directly from its website which does not require any third party platform installation, as we wrote earlier this year, and which states clearly what it can be used for.

https://www.messenger.com/t/EnelGroup

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: Deutsche Telekom - Experimenting with a chat bot

Using an innovative way to communicate with jobseekers brings mixed results – but some promise

katy_whole.png

The Feature

Deutsche Telekom offers an unusual way for jobseekers to interact with the company.

The corporate website exists in English and German, and on the German version a blog alerted us to the existence of a chat bot, ‘KATY’, in the careers section of the subsidiary T-Systems Germany site.

KATY appears as an overlay panel available on the right-hand side of all pages in the section; users simply type in questions and the answer is provided (or not).

The bot did not prove that useful. We asked it several simple questions in both German and English, and most of the time received a standard message that it could not help us.

Even when we wrote, in German, that we were looking for jobs in Stuttgart, we were simply directed to the job search mechanism, rather than a listing of available jobs in Stuttgart from the job search site.

The Takeaway

The fact that Deutsche Telekom is prepared to use a chat bot – and to advertise it on its blog and other channels, such as its Whatsapp messenger service – is perhaps as much about reinforcing its credentials as an innovative tech company than providing services of real use, at least at this stage.

In mitigation of KATY’s deficiencies, the blog publicising the release of the bot states clearly that it will not be perfect yet and that, as an implementation of artificial intelligence, it needs to learn from successes and failures. Only offering the bot on a subsidiary country site, at this stage, seems sensible too.

The blog also says humans at T-Systems will sometimes help the chat bot as it learns. This seemed to happen when we asked it about company benefits. We initially got the reply that KATY could not assist, but then several minutes later received another answer – presumably from a person – setting out some high-level information on company benefits, although there were no onward links and many jobseekers may have given up on KATY by then.

As ever, the success of using new technologies relies on the skill and effort of the humans behind them.

https://www.t-systems.com/de/de/karriere/willkommen-bei-t-systems/karriere-126456