Chatbots are becoming increasingly prevalent in customer communications. More and more businesses are turning to artificial intelligence to automate various interactions, from website queries to airline check-ins.

But how can chatbots be used within social media environments? We sat down with Jake Xu, Ready’s co-founder and Digital Director, to find out.

For the uninitiated, what is a chatbot?

JX: A chatbot is an AI-powered digital tool that mimics the conversational behaviour of a human. Usually for the purposes of answering questions instantly, giving advice, consulting or acting as a brand ambassador.

Why are chatbots becoming more popular?

JX: One reason is that AI technology like Google Deepmind is now open-source, meaning developers can tap into powerful AI platforms. And computer processing power has jumped to a level where interactions are processed much quicker than previously.

Allied to this is the fact that it’s the mobile age, and everybody wants everything now. Food delivered in next to no time, dates arranged instantly on Tinder. People don’t have the time or patience to wait around for hours or even days for a brand to respond to their needs.

Having a presence that can do this is important. By doing so, chatbots can also take the weight off the shoulders of those responsible for following up certain customer enquiries.

How can the technology be applied to social media?

JX: A chatbot can be implemented on Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Twitter’s direct messaging function. Just as you would interact with friends across these platforms, you can talk to a brand’s chatbot in a one-to-one private conversation.

READ MORE: Pizza Express launches reservation chatbot (Marketing Week)

Done in the right tone of voice, these conversations can be very meaningful and effective. The reason being that people are so used to conversing with real people in this way, that chatbots with a strong and relevant brand persona can provide a rich experience.

What’s the best example you’ve seen of a brand using a chatbot?

JX: Two airlines actually: KLM and Air France, who incidentally are part of the same company.

Air France used Messenger to run a competition in which fictitious frequent flyer Mr Miles (a chatbot) set users challenges via Facebook Messenger, and interacted with their attempts to achieve them. And KLM now allows customers to check in to their flight via a Messenger-based chatbot.

The based chatbot for KLM airlines that allows passengers to check in using messenger.

I work in the digital communications industry so I knew Mr Miles was a robot, but still, interacting with him felt real and meaningful. The way it was designed and written had that effect, from daily greetings to instant, relevant responses that felt personal.

Where do you see this technology heading?

JX: Firstly, I don’t think it will entirely replace human interaction because people still appreciate that – particularly on social platforms. Having someone from a brand take the time to answer your specific question is still very important. So I don’t think it will replace all aspects of customer service.

But I do think it’s here to stay, and I think that as the technology develops and learns to answer more queries effectively, it will simply become even more accepted that a customer is speaking to a chatbot.

People already trust Siri and Alexa to have conversations with about things that matter to them, so I think chatbots will become equally trusted. Eventually, they could replace the likes of automated phone systems, or even call centres entirely.

How can Ready help businesses interested in exploring chatbot technology?

JX: Over the past few years, we have developed a lot of digital experiences for our clients where the focus is on gathering information to offer a personalised solution. Online quizzes, surveys, online diagnostic tools and things like that.

Landing page for Soap and Glory skin diagnostics tool. The chatbot we created for Soap and Glory asks users a few basic questions about their skin type and lifestyle and then generates a unique "prescription" for them.

We see chatbots as a next step up in terms of engagement. The information a customer is willing to share with you through this level of interaction can be a goldmine. My Air France emails, for instance, are much more tailored to me since I handed over information about how frequently I fly, where to, and my business class vs economy preferences.

We can help brands create experiences of this kind. We find the right angle, write the most appropriate script in language that their audience will respond to, and develop a persona that is perfect for the brand image. We have access to the technology, and our digital team is fully skilled up and ready to go.