Chatbots Signal the Arrival of the 24/7 Workforce

May 17, 2018

Meet Betty. She fields attendee questions, answers them with accuracy, oh, and she works all day, every day, even holidays. What kind of superhuman is this? She’s not a person at all – Betty is a chatbot, which uses artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation.

Event organizers are adopting the cutting-edge technology known as artificial intelligence (AI) Chat to streamline customer service while improving attendees’ event experiences. Whether it’s Betty, Alexa, TIFFBot or Piobot, chatbots are increasing in numbers in the event industry.

“Chatbots are a new way of communicating with people on the internet, falling between browser and email,” explained Larry Kim, founder of Mobile Monkey, a leading Facebook Messenger marketing platforms.

He continued, “Email marketing is not very interactive and delivery rates are low, and browsing (the) web is popular but clunky on mobile so this third way, chatbots, allows you to message customers and prospects.” 

Chatbots are interactive in that they reply to human messages based on a set of rules of how to respond.

“An AI chatbot ‘talks’ with customers over a messaging channel such as SMS or Facebook Messenger,” explained Robert Caldwell, founder of Sciensio. “Attendees ask questions and get answers from chatbots the way they would from a human.” 

This technology is different from the structured chat technology known as interactive voice response, something many may be familiar with on customer service calls. 

“True AI Chat captures conversation and delivers an answer back,” Caldwell continued. “Because all answers are written by a human, our EventBots have been trained to speak the language of events and they ‘talk’ to your attendees in a conversational manner instead of a just a simple menu driven interaction.”

Event organizers primarily use chatbots to solve customer service challenges, such as crunching large amounts of unstructured data and handling repetitive tasks reliably, he added.

In 2016, Eighty-Eight Agency and TWG did just that, creating TIFFBot to navigate the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) “insane schedule and curate film picks based on genre, actor or buzz-worthiness.”

According to Eighty-Eight’s blog, TIFFBot had 8,600 sessions in three weeks. When TIFF heard about TIFFBot (which was a self-promotion project for Eight-Eight and TWG), the film festival organizer partnered with the two firms to promote it to its attendees and then expanded that partnership into the following year.

Chatbots can be part of a multi-channel communication strategy at events.

“Use cases for chatbots in the event space include coordinating efforts between partners, speakers, sponsors and others,” Kim explained. “You can communicate all the deadlines, update profiles, booth selections and more.”

Caldwell believes that AI chat’s great value is as a pull channel (for people to ask it questions). 

“Planners are deluged with same questions over and over because people find asking question preferable to researching the website for answers,” he said. “No other channel can reliably deliver those answers in seconds.” 

Filip Stanev, founder of chatbird, says chatbots allow event organizers to engage with attendees through a new untapped channel; send interactive announcements before and during the event with much higher engagement rates than email; allow attendees to network with each other through matchmaking and display event content such as agenda, speakers and exhibitors.

“At Pioneers’ flagship event in Vienna that draws 2,500 leading tech innovators for a two-day gathering, Piobot replaced the mobile apps used previously and has been widely adopted by the audience,” Stanev said. 

He added, “The bot is used as an announcements channel, networking platform and a customer service channel.”

Kim, Stanev and Caldwell all agree that advantages of using chatbots at events include much faster response rates and higher open rates over email and other communication channels. 

“The bottom line is that a chatbot is available 24/7 and delivers the right answer to an attendee 93 percent of the time – better than human volunteers,” Caldwell said. 

When a chatbot encounters a question it can’t answer, the user is forwarded to someone on the event team who can continue the conversation.

The cost of deploying chatbots varies by the size of the meeting, the duration of the bot and amount of intents it will be trained on. There are several ways to go about building a chatbot, from working with a developer to using a self-service platform that requires little to no coding experience.

“There is a radical difference between the scope of a 20-person meeting and a five-day conference with multiple tracks,” Caldwell said. 

He continued, “The price of a bot is driven by scope and scale – the scope is how much do you want to train it to do and in how many channels while the scale is for how long and for how many people you want it to work.”

Chatbots can also provide event organizers with another form of sponsorship revenue, with companies often eager to sponsor bots not only because they are so useful to attendees but also help position the sponsor as a technology leader, Caldwell added.

Finally, promoting the chatbot helps attendees engage. Often, the bot can be integrated with the event’s registration system.

“Capture a mobile number at registration if for no other reason than to contact attendees in an emergency,” Caldwell said. “Then leverage that data for a chatbot or SMS notifications.” 

The system will send a push message before event along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Marty the MarTech Bot. I’m here if you have a question ask me,” repeating that again on the morning of the event. That way, attendees know the chatbot exists and can access it in their text log.

People who don’t provide cell numbers can be notified by onsite signage, emails or announcements from the stage during opening sessions. 

As AI technology evolves, the opportunities for event organizers to benefit from bots will increase. As more products come to the marketplace, more organizers will be able to use the industry’s advances to enhance their attendees’ experiences while combating their internal customer service resources challenges in a 24/7 world.


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