Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing in popularity pretty much everywhere you see. In fact, even marketers can now easily dive into the world of AI too in the form of chatbots.

In episode 29 of the Inbound After Hours podcast, the guys at Digital 22 are joined by HubSpot's Implementation Specialist, Stephen Fuery. Following on from his bots talk at the Manchester HUG in August,  Stephen gets into more depth on how we're all able to implement bots to boost our Inbound Marketing efforts.

There's plenty of discussion regarding the problems a bot can solve for businesses, what the future of bots looks like, advice on the best way to implement bots within your business and a whole lot more.

Inbound After Hours Episode 29

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Full transcript:


- Hi everyone, welcome to Inbound After Hours. Today we have Stephen on the show, Stephen is from HubSpot, he'll be talking about bots. Do you wanna introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about what you do at HubSpot.

- Sure, so as you mentioned, I'm Stephen, I'm an implementation Specialist at HubSpot, so that means I'm like a project manager, essentially I work with customers in their first three to five months with their time with us, get them technically set up with the tools, guide them through onboarding, align everything to their goals, and make sure that they just basically get the best experience possible, really.

- Fascinating, excellent.Well, first question is, what are bots?

- Great question. So essentially a bot is a way for a customer, prospect, lead to interact with your business on a website. Typically it's like conversational style of communicating. So they can come onto a site, click on a button, and start chatting away to a bot. And the bot can decide, based on logic, where that it should be directing them, whether it's to do a search in a knowledge base, to open a support tool 'cause they've got an issue or even, and which is the probably more popular one, to basically pre-qualify them to speak to sales, so to ensure that sales are only speaking to their best leads essentially.

- Okay, you mentioned a couple of benefits there. Any more, any more benefits? I'm a business, now I'm thinking of using a bot. Can you list some key benefits for the listeners?

- Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest and best benefit of using a bot is the fact that the bot is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So if you're a typical business who doesn't necessarily have a massive sales team and doesn't have the time to invest having them online all the time, bots can be there in place of them and when someone who meets the criteria that you set is on the website, it can then let you know to go into the system and start chatting or it can allow customers to self-service through knowledge base lookups or even opening tickets as well. So it just basically ensures a way for a lead or a prospect or a customer to get the resources they need at a time they need, in the app of their choice.

- What's the gut feeling with customers you've been speaking to, have you spoken to many customers yet who are adopting bots?

- Yes, so it's part of what I'm doing at HubSpot at the moment is to help the implementation of Service Hub and customers are in two minds about it. They either love it or they're kind of afraid of it and they're purely afraid of it 'cause the technical nature of it. They're like, do I need a developer to build this? Is it gonna be really complicated? In reality it's quite simple and straightforward to implement and it's about us educating them and showing them how easy it is to put a bot together and how much it can solve for their business. And then the other side, the customers who do implement they love it. It's solving so many issues for them and the prime one being the typical two-man sales team that are so busy that they can't afford to be on the road talking to customers all the time and a bot can handle that and book meetings right to their diary for them as well.

- How are you finding, something I was wondering is how many people pitch it as a bot? How many pitch it as the two sales people. So it's a person, or is it a bot at the front end?

- It's interesting that you say that because there was a whole ongoing conversation about whether or not you should identify the bot as a bot or whether you should say it's a person. Personally, I'm a big believer in following HubSpot's heart and principals which is transparency, and I think that when
you're gonna have a bot, you should make the person aware that it's a bot because if you don't, they might ask questions the bot can't answer and then leave.

- That leaves a sour taste.

- Yeah, leave disappointed 'cause they didn't get the right result.

- You're kinda being deceived as well which is never a good thing either.

- Yeah, you don't want a business brand going down that road of having that deceiving nature and the customer's like they're gonna do that with a bot, what else they gonna hide in the sales process or in the support process.

- Especially when people already, sorry Caroline, don't trust salespeople.

- It's a good question though 'cause when Rikki set the bot for Digital 22 and it pops up, it can have a picture of the actual robot or you can put someone like Caroline, our sales team, so just be honest it's actually a machine answering these questions and just be dead honest, don't be sticking Rikki in there.

- The thing is you can still monitor the conversation as it's happening, so you can see exactly what's happening and if the need arises for you to take over the conversation you can absolutely do that. So if the questions that are being asked by the end user are too complicated for the bot, you can jump in and say hey, I'm Rikki, for example, how can I help you? Or I noticed you said this, here's the resource to it.

- I think you've got a chance to turn round a potential negative. I can see how bots let you down a bit there. So I am, if you (mumbles).

- Sorry about that, you know, yep.

- And also if you wanna make people think it's a human, you might just think this really weird humans work at--

- He's fine.

- His answers are very scripted, when's he giving me these (mumbles).

- Yeah, how's he giving me three options for these and that article really bloody quick. It's gonna be like, do I wanna work with these people?

- Or if you think about that article example,he's asked you really quickly did that solve my issue 'cause he's not waiting, the bot's not gonna wait, it's gonna put that answer in there. So they might be like this guy's really pushy trying to get me to pay.

- Something you mention in your answer about developers. Well one of the questions you just said then, I'm a company, do I need an experienced developer to build a bot? Could you answer that for us?

- Yeah, it's traditionally if we think about bots, in the past they've really required a developer to kinda write the code and build it and they can build it for very specific purposes and the evolution of bots now is because messaging is evolving, because it's becoming way more mainstream it needs to become easier for us to build bots and that's one of the great things about a lot of the chat builders on the market right now. Drift have done a great job about building the bot and about helping customers implement them, Motion AI, ManyChat have as well. You don't need a developer any more because it should be easy for you to build a bot without any prior knowledge. If you think about most of the people at the HUG, for example, were marketers by trade. We don't have the technical resources available to us to spend on building a bot.

- I think it's kinda what HubSpot did for workflows isn't it? Don't know 10 years or so ago someone's gotta code that automation to go out and make it all happen. Now marketers jump in, five minutes whatever it is, to put it together and you go there's a workflow.

- You showed us--

- It's just enabling that framework isn't it?

- You showed us in your talk just then at the HUG about the tool to put in the bot answer is that same workflow thing as well, isn't it? If someone asks this, send this and it's quite like.

- I think that's a really good thing because it means that for the customers who are used to using workflows and because workflows is now so many of our products, like it lives in services, it lives in sales and it lives in marketing so it means that regardless of the suite that they're using or the hub that they're using they're gonna be familiar with that style of interface, and so when they come to build their bot, the experience is the same. So they're already used to that interface. It's just a different way of thinking in terms of the communications they set for the bot. That they're more conversational in nature as opposed to sounding rigid and robotic.

- One of the things I got from chatting with prospects and customers is our customers don't want that, they wanna just talk to us and stuff. I was like well do you really know what they want? I'm probably the far-est spectrum on antisocial as you get, so I don't want to talk to someone unless I absolutely have to. I'm pretty sure most people's personas now want an amount of self-service, they don't want to actually pick up the phone for everything. I think a lot of people still think I'm being impersonal by putting a bot on there and I'm kinda shooing them off and they'll be disappointed.

- People just wondering around, trying to find a blog or a bit of insight even if they use it as a search function like how can you help me do this?

- I think that the thing to remember is that you want the bot to solve real problems. By always going back to that tenant you're kinda always gonna ensure that anytime someone goes on your page and interact with the bot, the bot's being helpful. So I agree, people might be a little bit put off initially but as they get used to that idea and as they realise that actually I can go to this company's website and get all the answers I need without ever needing to pick up the phone. You're helping them straight away and they're gonna recognise that they don't need to necessarily do that all the time.

- Yeah, like I say it's serving for the customer if you sit down with a challenge you've got and the best solution genuinely is pick up the phone, do that. If it's a bot can do it, it's the best way to do, you use a bot, use a landing page, whatever tool you've got. It's a (mumbles) when you're asking what's the best for the personnel, what's the best for the customer.

- And there's nothing stopping you having the bot hand off to Live Chat or having the bot book a meeting or whatever the end result is because you can build all the logic into a single bot so that it can take multiple activities, take multiple actions, depending on what the customer needs in that point in time.

- I think ours as well, our Persona is marketing professional, we know all marketers are workaholics don't shut the laptop at five o'clock, we could be working at 10, 11 o'clock, Christmas Day, it's the fact that a bot's there to answer their questions.

- Yeah, and the fact that it's integrated into knowledge base and particularly it means that I can go onto your bot, ask it a question, if the question's been asked before, if you've got a detailed knowledge base, it can return the articles in the chat, check to see if it solved them and if it didn't, open a support ticket for your team to follow up when you're back in the office and at the same time trigger an immediate email from the system saying hey, we got your email, here's your ticket number, we'll be in touch.

- What would be really good as well is you can analyse the answers. Oh sorry, the question answers that your bot interacting with users. How many times, you can just look at it and spot 10 people have
asked where's your pricing. Okay, we need to make that more obvious on the website.

- Or build that as logic stream into the bot. So if you see that the bot is constantly getting questions about pricing, for example, you know the pricing is publicly available on your website, why not give the bot access to it and put some conversational messages in around pricing so they don't actually have to go look for it, it just gives them the answer they need right there and then.

- It all sounds fantastic this, but a question the guys just asked in the audience thought it was really good, I wrote it down there. How long does it take to build a bot? How long will it take to do something like this?

- So this is the beauty about the HubSpot interface, especially for ourselves, because if you're already
used to our platform, building a bot is fairly straightforward. It's just like building a workflow. The key things you need to think about are what's the end goal you want to achieve. So what is the bot in this
instance going to solve? Once you've done that you've got an idea as to what the end goal is, you can then start mapping out actions that are gonna take place to get that person there. During the presentation I showed a bot called Junior. Junior has five actions. He can schedule a call, book a meeting, it can open a support ticket, search the knowledge base and even something I'm trying is submit like content ideas. So it's like an internal mobility, internal change management pipeline that basically people can submit ideas into and then decide whether or not we're gonna open that. Junior took about 30 minutes to build.

- That's similar with most of these tools. Before HubSpot launched its bot I think our first bot was built in ManyChat. We had a go on that and that wasn't too bad. We gained similar sort of time frames. I think most of them are pretty user friendly, even if you're not in HubSpot it can find something that's pretty user friendly. The one thing I like about what HubSpot did is take the time to do some sets or templates and that does really shave off 80% of your time.

- I think the fact that we have a template's really helps because in implementation a lot of the questions we get are around best practise.

- What should I be doing?

- Yeah, what does a good bot look like? What's best practise for this type of messaging? Well, here's three templates, this will give you a framework to start with. Then you can change the questions, add your own content in. Julia, for example, was originally lead qualification bot that I changed, added in
all the initial actions using the bots tool, and now it does all three templates in one, but it's so straightforward.

- How's the best way to get started? I am thinking when I did it back in the day, you start with the problem. I got a white board and I kinda say roughly this is where I wanna go with it before I jump in and start doing it live, if you like. In the backend I'm just playing with it. Is that a good approach? How have other people approached getting started?

- I always recommend to customers and I kinda touch on it in the last question, I always recommend that looking at your goal is the first and most important thing because if you go into the tools of HubSpot great. There's so much going on there and if you go in there without a goal in mind, you might not end up where you wanna be.

- Okay, oh we can do this.

- That's how Julia came about.

- What's that one do?

- So I always say to customers, think about what problem you wanna solve right now. Is it that you need to lead qualify? Are your sales team being slammed on Live Chat and you need to kinda reduce that? Lead qualification's the answer.Or is it that you're getting a lot of support calls and you wanna kinda reduce that, maybe the support bot's the answer. Then obviously the meeting one that kinda speaks for itself because it uses the meeting tool to put meetings in the chat window, so it means that if your team are on the road or if you're like us in implementation where we have a lot of calls going on, customers can book their next call with us right through the chat.

- And a really good news case for the qualification one recently we recommend to one of our clients to set up a bot 'cause we're getting a lot of visitors, but the conversion rate was quite low so they set it up and what they found is there's about 80% of people come on the bot with a direct end user or the customer where they were the B2B company. So somehow the direct users would find their way there and say Mike, this isn't working. But it's not them that does it, it's the reseller that does it. So we set up the qualification bot and it literally save up hours and hours and hours of the person's time 'cause those were just going straight through to a live salesman sat there like that's not us that does that, go here and basically it just asks were you looking for whatever the direct support terminology is or are you wanting to actually talk to us that sells the technology. By just putting in that one question in and then qualifying it, that's literally what we did. It's one question. If you answered yeah, we're the right ones you can speak to someone. If not, I just say this is where you need to be to find your answer which is another third party website.

- But it's every end of the scale as well, isn't it? 'Cause I remember we had a client who was he did party service, like a function event hire thing, and they had a lot of questions that was just like can we have it for my party next week? Then it's like, what's your budget? 500 quid. No. But they'd get hundreds of those a day.

- At the end of the day if you were a small business that's just going to completely suck up all the time.

- And you miss the one that could have been.

- Completely and that's why I always kinda position it that you want your sales team, if you're gonna do conversational messaging, you want your sales team to do the best leads at the moment in time that it's right for the lead. So using qualification questions allows you to kinda stream out the ones that don't necessarily need to be spoken to now. You can still follow up with them offline via mail or if you happen to have a quiet day.

- Nice touch in the example you gave was can I just have an email address in case we get disconnected?

- [Men] Yeah.

- Again, it speaks to the conversational nature, the style that you wanna put in there because you want it to feel really relaxed. But what the end user doesn't realise is you are absolutely gathering their information. You've seen in the example it's taken my name, my email address, it's asking me about my issue or what I'm looking to talk about. So it's doing it, they just don't realise it or it's not as obviously that it's happening because it's much more relaxed.

- One of the things you touched on in the talk was the problem it solves is that multi-device, multi-operating system, multi-platform world we live in where marketers think I've gotta be perfect on an iPhone and a tablet and on multi-platforms, bots kinda get rid of that 'cause it's just a very simple interface and pretty much works on any device and you're not gonna have those issues with responsiveness and all sorts of stuff you get if you're trying to build up this as a website, which I quite like.

- I think it's the best example of conversational messaging because, and I think I added to it on the definition, it's on the platform of the user's choice, on the device of their choice. So it doesn't matter if
you're Android or iOS or even I think some people out there are using Linuxor Windows still, I'm not really sure. You can still use these because it just requires a web browser and the bot will work regardless, whether it's a tablet, desktop, mobile whatever.

- Then the other side is that the platform that they're on as well 'cause a lot of the bots that we've referred to are on your website bot, but your Persona lives in Facebook, for example. You could have the bot right there instead of them needing to come to your website to solve as well.

- I think that speaks to the future of where bots will ultimately end up is that I can see them being more and more connected to Facebook, to Twitter, to the Live Messaging apps. We can see that Microsoft did it really well. They've got an AI chatbot on Kick where you can go in and ask it questions, it can make drawings, you can send it a photo and it will create like a handmade drawing of the photo. So you can see that happening. Even if you think about Google Assistant, they recently got it to be able to make a live call to a restaurant to book a table. That's the future, that's where we wanna end up with. I think HubSpot can have it there eventually.

- We need to link that talk, the Google one, in the notes below 'cause that's amazing.

- It's so cool.

- And everyone was like is this fake or is it real? But either way the technology kinda shows what it can achieved.

- Looking at the talks at Inbound, it's a bit of a direction, but I saw a talk that's on at Inbound how to use Alexa in the workplace.

- Okay.

- But the description was a level of Alexa, book a meeting room for three people at 10 o'clock, but that's step one isn't it? It's exciting to see where we'll be in 18 months' time.

- Because with Alexa's app actions, I know it's not technically a bot, but with the actions you can add on to Alexa, a developer can plug that into anything.

- The logic's the same. I've got a problem, I've got a logical flow, I need somebody to go through to get to an end result. If you're gonna make the time building out a bot, when it comes to the time the things like Alexa and stuff are gonna be prominent you can just apply that same logical straight over.

- We're gonna see the same thing in Siri and iOS 12 and Siri Actions. The ability to define a logic to find a goal, have Siri do it for ya. It's the future.

- HubSpot have just recently launched a new ball called Conversations, do you wanna tell us a little bit more about that?

- I'm really pleased they launched this week actually 'cause the time is perfect apt for this talk, but Conversations is our fourth product line and it essentially is going to be, I think the best way to describe it is like a communication centre for businesses. So you can connect, share emails. So think of your support, your sales, your marketing. You can have multiple inboxes in there, so you can separate it all out and have individual users working on it, but it's also the home of live chatting bots. That's really the future right? Because you want the business to be able to communicate with the right people at the right time, but at the same time have a place to store it in the system without having to go looking for it. Conversations is integrated into the rest of the other three hubs. So you see the CRN on the right-hand side of the screen, you can see past tickets, past conversations. It automatically stores the communication on the timeline as well. So it's just a really nice integration and a nice way to bring businesses to bring more of their communications into HubSpot and to really align them across the three hubs and the CRN as well.

- Kinda shows where sales and marketing is going in general is around this conversational theme. It doesn't matter what it is email, Live Chat, bots, having the ability to communicate with people when and how they want is just the theme at the moment is--

- Absolutely, I kinda touched on it in the HUG, but this idea that conversational marketing is approaching and becoming more and more front of house now. It's not gonna replace inbound, but it's like a supplementary on top of inbound. Inbound is still your primary way of getting leads, but conversational marketing is gonna give you a way of getting the best leads at the best time.

- And utilising the content you've already created in a lot of cases as well.

- Where can our listeners go to see a good example of a live bot where they can sample it to actually put stuff in, see what they get back?

- I will give you two. I think I used one in the HUG, TechCrunch. It's really great because it's on Facebook. They can see exactly how Facebook Messenger bot will interact. They can register for their
bot, it will send them articles, but they can also tell the bot hey, I like this topic, this topic and this topic,
and the bot will then start sending them articles on a regular basis around information that's happening in the news today. The other one I'll give and it's not HubSpot, but they've done a great job on it and that's Drift. Drift have recently replaced a lot of their front of house with a bot. So you can actually interact with a bot, front of house, speak to the bot and find out what, it'll ask you what are you looking to learn about today? Is it just that you wanna learn more about bots or are you actually interested in our platform and it will give you a lot of information. They've done that really nicely.

- That's a bold move as well isn't kinda.

- I think it's a smart move because it just allows their sales team again to focus on their best leads.

- The other thing you touched on briefly there was the ability to push out. So on Facebook Messenger for example if you're speaking to people on that you're building up a second subscriber list separate to your email subscriber list, people you could push out to as well. When we tested that on ManyChat, fair enough it was a moderately small sample size a couple hundred people open rates are like 90%. You touched on email being 20% in the U.K. at the moment and there's a marked difference there.

- It's becoming harder for marketers to get into the inbox of their contacts. We think about the dreaded May 25th GDPR, that time I've lost track of the number of emails I got from businesses. I got messages from businesses I didn't even know I'd registered for, so I'm not surprised the open rate's dropped a little bit, but you're absolutely right. People are engaging with messenger apps. Think about it, I'm wearing a smart watch. As soon as I get a message on Messenger, it alerts me straight away and I'm probably gonna respond within 30-40 seconds, so statistically the chances of getting your users, getting your contacts are much higher. That makes sense to you, you've got an open rate of 90%.

- Well I know you've got a flight in about three hours' time back to Dublin. Any more questions guys before we let Stephen go?

- No, just thanks for coming and talking at the HUG, been super interesting and exciting to see where all this stuff goes.

- See you at (mumbles).

- Definitely.

- Yeah.

- I've got one more. We always like to put this at the end, if you could leave the listeners with one key takeaway how to get started with bots, what should be there?

- One key takeaway to get started with bots. I would look at how your business is interacting with contacts right now and think about a real problem a bot can solve. Primary example we've spoke about it, you've got a lot of leads coming through on Live Chat, they're not all qualified, bot can replace that and then you'll instantly be able to have your reps spending more time with the best type of leads. Once you've done it once, you'll then start to see a potential for deploying bots in other scenarios and maybe even building your own version of Junior.

- In thirty minutes.

- In thirty minutes.

- Well thank you Stephen.

- No problem.

- Thanks very much. To all the viewers what we'll do is we'll put the link to the video, what Stephen has just presented at the HUG and it tells you a lot more and some animation on your slides, really impressed with that. Just have a look and see what you think and thank you and we'll see you soon.

- See ya next week guys.

- See ya soon.

- Bye-bye.

- Bye-bye.

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