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What’s causing your chatbot to fail?

Chatbots have been all the rage in the recent years, with many companies launching bots as part of their marketing strategy. According to a 2017 report by Forrester titled “Chatbots are transforming marketing”, while 57% of companies either already use chatbots or plan to do so, most chatbots still fail.

This is because companies do not have a clearly defined purpose, have overly ambitious goals about the use of chatbots and launching them before they are ready. The report noted that despite the buzz around chatbot, the technology is still at a “very early stage” and the success of today’s chatbots are primarily driven by keywords instead of machine learning. Also, many chatbots do not have an established procedure to handover to a human, resulting in consumers being frustrated.

“The chatbot is not going to solve all the problems. The fact of the matter is, it takes plenty of human effort to make the chatbot answer one question correctly,” Manisha Seewal (pictured), head of marketing, Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore (TMLS) said at the recent Content 360 conference hosted by Marketing. She added that the chatbot will only learn when more consumers begin interacting with it, and only then will the company be able to improve the content that spewed out by the bot.

According to Seewal, the purpose of the chatbot and its success is measured and defined by the department that is driving it, such as marketing, IT or operations. Tokio Marine Insurance’s bot TOMI (which stands for TOkio Marine Insurance) is mainly overseen by the marketing department. As such, the chatbot’s success is defined by factors such as lead generation and increased public interactions.

More than just a tool for sales enquiries

TOMI is seen as the first digital touch-point for the company that allows insurance-related information to be accessible to consumers in the mobile space. Seewal also said that TOMI has been the “number one PR driver” for the brand since its launch in 2017, as the chatbot amassed the same number of users it acquired on Facebook over three years, in a span of three months.

“While we don’t have innovation labs or massive budgets, we have a group of people who are willing to be involved in creating something new. Our CEO, James Tan, envisions us to be at the forefront of the insurance industry with the help of technology, and as such there is a tolerance of failure. I think that’s what has led us to this project,” Seewal said. She added:

When the vision to adopt technology is mandated from the top, it is easier to implement and roll out.

Seewal described insurance as a “low involvement category” which consumers do not talk about. Hence, to make the category interesting, she and her team decided to include insurance-related content to educate chatbot users. Hosted on Facebook Messenger, TOMI not only offers bite-sized information about its products and various insurance promotions for clients, but also provide users with easy access to context-based information about insurance.

To give TOMI a personality and make it more approachable, TMLS created a cute avatar for the chatbot and ensure its users are more likely to be forgivable of its shortcomings by making it adopt a polite tone and manners, as well as understand Singlish and use emojis. Seewal added that while bots are usually named after women, she and her team decided to name it TOMI because it reflects the brand and helps with effective brand recall. She said:

The moment consumers hear a chatbot name, it has to immediately allow them to associate the chatbot with the brand.

She added that consumers should not have to put too much thought into figuring out which brand owns the chatbot.

While most companies might see chatbots as a tool to handle sales enquiries, TMLS has effectively made use of targeting, retargeting and geotargeting via TOMI to reach out to potential insurance advisors and draw them towards the brand. Through TOMI, the company secured 40 potential new individuals for a recruitment event in January, out of which nine attended. Six then indicated interest in becoming an advisor, with two eventually taking the exam to join the company.

“It is actually very expensive to hire insurance advisors and explain to them the background of the company, as well as the kind of products offered. However, we managed to cut that journey significantly through the use of TOMI,” Seewal said.

According to her, the results for the chatbot are currently business driven, such as the number of leads and individuals recruited. The next step for TMLS is to focus on acquiring new customers and cutting through the clutter in the insurance category.

Connecting with Asian cultures

TMLS has launched a new campaign called #MyGiftToYou, which pays tribute to the long Asian tradition of leaving a legacy for their family. The campaign was developed with Singaporean and Asian cultures in mind, where legacy for children lives on in what if left behind by parents, a statement said.

Inspired by the concept of family heirlooms, #MyGiftToYou also aims to connect with Asian parents’ sentiments towards the inculcation of values in their children as part of the legacy planning process. It also references the common Asian tradition of passing down family heirlooms, and the values behind this simple act.

The spot showcases a woman going through her father’s old car while reminiscing on the sentimental value the car brings to her life. The spot was launched today on its Facebook page.

“Inheritance of value and culture has been an integral part of Asian traditions. What one leaves behind is as important as what one achieves in life, and it is crucial to Asians to impart the qualities of prudence, hard work and financial savviness to their children,” James Tan, CEO of TMLS, said in a statement.

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