Assistive chatbots are becoming increasingly useful, and are soon to be essential for customer-facing companies that want to keep up with consumers’ desire for instant gratification and convenience.

People want things to be done quickly. No, instantly. And the 24/7, rapid-response abilities of chatbots fit the bill.

But evolving customer expectations is just one reason why companies in a multitude of industries — from retail to telecoms, banking to manufacturing and healthcare — are focused on creating chatbot solutions. Done well, chatbots can help companies reach, engage and serve their customers, and even generate additional sales by providing consumers with effective, personal buying advice at the right time.

Currently, we’re amidst the first stage of the chatbot era. Existing bots tend to offer basic conversation using scripted responses.

But the technology is evolving. Through AI, chatbots will continue to learn and will eventually be able to hold more advanced conversations and understand what the user is trying to achieve — resembling a human-like advisor (see diagram by Deloitte below).

Today’s chatbot interactions can be broken down into two main types:

  1. Text-based Chatbots

Some intelligent chatbots use AI to interpret and understand the user’s intent, mood, and context from their text input.

Mitusku, “the world’s best conversational chatbot” is one of them — this friendly bot chats with you about anything and everything. It doesn’t have much of any other purpose, but it can make for some minutes of fun while waiting for the train.

Mitsuku — three-time winner of the Loebner Prize Turing Test, is the world’s best conversational chatbot.

But with purely text-based chatbots, users have to type precise and intelligible sentences to prevent frustrating interactions. This can spell e.f.f.o.r.t on the user’s side (especially in highly transactional or complex domains) and offers a comparably little reward. Casually texting with friends is simply still not the same as texting with business bots.

  1. GUI — / Click-based Chatbots

Then there are GUI-based chatbots. Because most chatbot platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, aren’t perfect at understanding natural human language today, many chatbots that are integrated into these environments, include a mix of graphical UI elements such as buttons, carousels, and image cards to understand intent and provide for a fluid and fast conversation.

Just like Beko’s AdviceBot.

Beko gets chatty — A Look at Beko’s AdviceBot

Beko is a world-renowned white goods manufacturer that sells fridge-freezers, dishwashers, washing machines and ovens. Its goal is to is make the everyday lives of customers easier.

To do this, Beko conducts lots of consumer research and focuses on understanding consumer needs to align their business and operations accordingly.

Beko’s research showed that customers purchasing high-ticket items like fridges and washing machines craved personalized recommendations and the ability to find and compare suitable products easily, without having to do much research.

So the brand integrated digital advisors for several product categories on its country websites. They guide online shoppers toward their perfect Beko choice in a few minutes and help Beko transform prospecting or unsure shoppers into confident buyers.

The advisors ask questions about the needs of customers (in the user’s language) and make appropriate recommendations based on their answers (see below picture).

Example: Advisor on the Beko’s dutch website — Beko Netherland’s Fridge Advisor

Understanding the value of personal, assistive and conversational customer interactions, Beko took that concept a step further.

The brand has become an early adopter of Digital AdviceBots, transforming their existing digital advisors into personalized, GUI-based chatbots and in doing so, making their service available to customers on different channels.

The chatbot is currently integrated into Beko Netherland’s Facebook site to help customers find the right fridge.

Despite being in beta, the early release allows Beko to gather user responses and delve deeper into their motivations for buying, their preferences, and habits, and generate feedback to further improve their solution.

Beko’s Advicebot — Helping shoppers find the right fridge for them

Here, we will share five key criteria for effective chatbots and have a look at how Beko’s beta chatbot is doing:

1. Defined scope

Chatbots are most effective and useful if they serve a specific purpose and have a defined scope that allows them to be predictable, such as troubleshooting or customer education. Also, if you want to create a business opportunity for yourself, it’s important that your chatbot aligns with what your customers need and want to experience.

Beko’s chatbot is laser-focused. Its sole purpose is to help users find their perfect fridge, and nothing about its interactions deviates from that.

For the user, it is crystal clear what the chatbot is for — “Help me choose a fridge”. There is no ambiguity.

Tip for improvement: Beko’s chatbot appears after the user sends the company a message via Facebook Messenger, and asks whether the user needs help finding a fridge to purchase.

When users do not want to engage with a chatbot, they should be handed over to a real agent or, as an escape plan, diverted to an alternative conversation stream. Offering alternatives could help keep the conversation going.

2. Simple user interface and user experience

Chatbots are appealing to many consumers because they are just so easy to use. The UX should not overcomplicate the experience. It should be intuitive, straightforward, and ultimately always easy to use. In a nutshell, the bot experience must ensure there is as little friction as possible on a customer journey.

The user interface of Beko’s chatbot is simple and straightforward. During the conversation, it always offers options that pop up in a selection box allowing users to select their response.

The process requires minimal effort from users and leaves little room for error because it restricts user input to the provided options. The trick is to keep user input simple and restricted so you don’t break the conversation.

3. Engaging chatbot dialogue and personality

Chatbots are an additional method of interaction between your customer and your brand. The experience must be consistent with your brand’s communication style. Personality separates a memorable bot from an ineffective one. That’s why it’s advisable to have the conversation written by copywriters instead of developers. However, bots should never imitate humans. It’s more about a personal touch.

Talk like a real person, but never pretend to be one!

Most users prefer a fun conversational style that resembles talking to an old friend.

Beko has taken note and addresses users directly, using their names. It also uses informal language to make its chatbot feel less like a bot.

From its initial greeting (“nice to see you,…”), through to the way it sets up questions (e.g. “first things first”, “got that!”, “last questions”), Beko’s chatbot has a relaxed tone that intrigues users from the beginning.

4. Short, simple interactions

The true benefit of chatbots is their ability to save time and effort. Getting things done quickly is the main reason for using a chatbot — at any time of the day or night. The most useful bots are able to guide users and help people solve problems without wasting time on searching and browsing through websites or apps.

Conversations have to be engaging, but short and sharp is even more important.

The chatbot asks questions that are short, needs-based and generally, require little thinking. And when the user responds, the chatbot takes around one or two seconds to continue the conversation.

With Beko’s chatbot, you could be looking at recommendations less than a minute after launching it.

5. Valuable assistance

Once the conversation has come to a natural conclusion, the chatbot should offer the user some kind of result or conclusion. That could be in the form of the answer to a question, a solution to a problem or a set of instructions.

After the user has answered all questions, Beko’s AdviceBot displays the most relevant recommendations in an image carousel, allowing users to flip through and compare different options.

Once they have made a pick, a link leads them directly to the product detail page where the user can acquire more granular information about the recommended fridge before making a purchase.

Bearing in mind that Beko’s AdviceBot is still in beta, it offers an exciting look into the future of customer engagement and what will be possible as the technology advances.

As the rules of digital customer service evolve and we move into the AI computing era, chatbots provide a way for companies like Beko to prepare by

  • firstly, generating the content needed for future AI-based interaction
  • and secondly, learning how best to interact with consumers in a conversation-based environment to enable more conversational, human-like, voice assistant experiences in the near future.

Companies that start early will boost their understanding of how to pull together and leverage various knowledge assets to create these effective new types of digital services — a critical endeavor in a competitive and fast-moving environment.

This article has been originally published on and is republished here with permission.