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Siri has revolutionized the way we think about bots. This voice recognition software has a rapid-fire answer ready for many simple requests. For the large population of iPhone users, Siri’s changed the way we use our phones and interact with information. Then there’s Amazon Echo and much more on the way.

But it isn’t all about voice-activated bots — not by a long shot. Messaging bots (aka chatbots by some), which tackle tasks with written answers, have absolutely exploded in growth.

Bots are proliferating in business at a speed unseen since the advent of apps — and with good reason. With a bot, your customers don’t have to visit your site or download an app to get what they want done. All they need to do is pick up their smartphone and start chatting with your business through messaging or SMS. This technology makes it possible to automate any number of tasks, such as ordering a part, writing up an estimate, answering customer queries and FAQs, or even prequalifying prospects. Bots also remove the hurdles from many routine, but critical, B-to-B transactions. Bots simplify life for customers and companies alike.

Bring Your Brand Voice to Life

What’s more, bots offer another key advantage beyond automating tasks. They present the opportunity to bring your brand to life via one-on-one conversations with your customers. They create a level of personal connection and intimacy that’s often absent from the B-to-B space. It’s like embedding a personal brand ambassador right inside your customer’s phone.

For example, the beauty brand Sephora includes emojis in its bot messaging. Smiley faces probably won’t fly with a heavy-equipment manufacturer, but a thumbs-up sign may feel like a perfectly natural conversational element.

By bringing together personable conversation with automated efficiency, bots have the capability to improve the overall customer service experience. Unlike people, bots don’t have bad moods or moments of frustration. They can find answers in a flash, or they can gather information to ensure a smoother interaction with a human representative.

Build Your Bot with Care

The key is to develop a dialogue that comes across as authentic and doesn’t get easily derailed by a customer’s questions.

In other words, you need to create the perfect blend of conversation and code, says Omar Pera, co-founder of Reply.ai, which builds enterprise-level bot solutions. “You need to guide the user through the conversation you want to have with them. If not, your bot’s going to end up saying things like ‘I don’t understand’ multiple times, and the user will just end up abandoning the experience.”

Brands and developers are learning quickly. Just weeks after Facebook’s bot announcement at its F8 developer conference in April, tens of thousands of developers were already building bots on its new Messenger platform. And this is just the beginning of the bot rush.

More and more people will soon expect the seamless customer experience that bots deliver. If your brand can’t provide it, your customers will go to another business that can.

Now is the time to build your bot, but with care. Figure out what tasks you need to accomplish, and then get talking.

Create a Human Connection with Conversation

After all, conversation has always been at the heart of commerce. It’s what connects people to one another and truly drives the sale. While technology keeps advancing, it’s important to remember customers are still humans. They want helpful interactions with your business and your brand. That’s why bots are so powerful. Bots bring the conversation back to where it needs to be: at the center of your customer interactions.

Four Bot Applications That Have People Talking

As B-to-B marketers begin to consider their bot strategies, these high-profile examples offer an inspiring look at what’s possible:

The Chat Bot Club

Too busy to keep up with all those Facebook posts and updates? Help is on the way. Developers at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York started working on a concept that would enable people to build a bot of themselves to serve as a social media proxy.

B-to-B Application: Businesses could turn their thought leadership into an interactive dialogue. Customers could ask what’s going on in the industry, and businesses could reply with a catchy snippet and a link to a white paper, if customers care to dig deeper. Or customers could sign up for freshly reimagined news notifications.

Allo

Google soon plans to release its messaging app Allo, which has a Google assistant built right in. How’s that for convenience?

B-to-B Application: Now, imagine if customers could search your catalog just as easily, with a bot serving as a sales assistant, too, answering any product questions as they come up.

Banking by Bot

In the not-too-distant past, banking transactions meant chatting with a bank teller. Now, banking bots are offering a new and convenient twist on that traditional transactional experience. Capital One customers can talk to Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated assistant, to check card balances and pay credit card bills. Meanwhile, Bank of America customers will soon be able to communicate with the bank via Facebook Messenger.

B-to-B Application: Bots could help simplify the B-to-B purchasing process. Customers could check on billing balances, explore payment options and make payments, too.

Kip

Featuring a cute, friendly penguin avatar, Kip is a bot that helps coordinate group purchases. Just tell Kip what you’re looking for, and it serves up three choices, any of which you can purchase directly. Or you can tell Kip to continue searching. Kip’s on Slack, Kik, Telegram and coming soon to Facebook Messenger.

B-to-B Application: With so many B-to-B purchases dependent on multiple decision-makers and influencers, a Kip-like bot on Slack could facilitate that process, letting multiple people weigh in.