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: Unilever – Helping customers get in touch, worldwide

Unilever makes it easy for customers on its global site to find local brand contact details

The Domestos brand page on the global Unilever site - with UK contact details displayed

The Domestos brand page on the global Unilever site - with UK contact details displayed

The Feature

Users who visit the ‘Our brands’ section of Unilever’s global website can use a brand selector to find the one they are interested in, for example Domestos.

Clicking on the brand tile brings up a dropdown menu listing all countries where the brand is available. At this stage users can select ‘Global brands’, which takes them to the Unilever.com global brand page, such as the one for Domestos.

These pages contain a prominent field where users can type in the name of their country. Predictive results are offered, and selecting a country brings up local contact details, and a link to the brand page on the relevant Unilever country site.

The Takeaway

The fact that users can find local brand contact details without having to leave the global site will be helpful for many customers. They are likely to be on corporate sites in large numbers – often as the second largest audience behind jobseekers – and almost half of them will have come for customer service or to find out about a specific product.*

Too often corporate sites do not help customers achieve their goals, so providing tools, like Unilever’s, which allow them to quickly find local contact details is advisable.

*Data from Bowen Craggs survey data, which indicates that 48% of customer respondents come to corporate websites for customer service or to find out about a specific product.; and that only 42% achieve their goal.

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: Volkswagen AG - Discouraging contact?

The German car manufacturer fails to transmit openness by burying the contact page on its corporate website.

The Feature

During our recent review of the Volkswagen group site for the Index of Online Excellence, we could not find links to a contact page in any of the conventional locations – headers, footers, primary or secondary navigation. The only link to a general contact page we could find was buried at the bottom of the media landing page.

The link is small, and in German on the English-language site (‘To Kontakt page’); it also requires a few clicks to reach. The Contact page itself is an e-mail form that appears to be outside of the site hierarchy.

The Takeaway

It is not an auspicious time for Volkswagen to have one of the only corporate sites in our Index without clear paths for getting in touch with general queries. The company, under fire for the emissions scandal, may not want to be bombarded by comments from angry diesel owners. Maybe the thinking is that Volkswagen AG is a corporate site and not customer-facing, but we know from our research that customers will find their way there.

One of the public aims of Volkswagen AG, following the scandal, is to convey transparency. Burying the general contact page and relegating it to an email form, does the opposite.

www.volkswagenag.com

BC tip: Anglo American - Making it easy to tweet

A mining giant invites users to tweet the company directly from its corporate website.

The Feature

A ‘Talk to us’ button on Anglo American’s corporate website prompts visitors to tweet the company directly without having to go to the Twitter site. 

There is a panel on the home page with the most recent tweet, prominent buttons to retweet or reply, and a text box already addressed to @AngloAmerican for messages. Clicking on ‘Talk to us’ below the box calls up a pop-up window for tweeting the message. 

The button appears throughout the site. In addition, a panel in the universal footer has the latest tweet and the Retweet and Reply icons.

The Takeaway

We have not seen this kind of attempt by a B2B company, in a contentious industry, to encourage people to tweet from within the corporate website (rather than send people to Twitter to do it).

A quick look at Anglo’s Twitter feed shows a healthy amount of activity. We don’t know whether this is down to the website tweeting feature, but regardless it sends the wider message that ‘we are open to hear from you’.

http://www.angloamerican.com/