Marketing in China: Can Chatbots Take Over Customer Service? - eMarketer
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Marketing in China: Can Chatbots Take Over Customer Service?


Rita Chao
COO
Emotibot Technologies

As chatbot technology becomes more sophisticated, it is able to absorb a significant portion of a brand’s online customer service. Take Emotibot Technologies—the Chinese company’s chatbot was designed to read and react to 22 different human emotions, and clients like VIP.com use the bot to have better machine-powered interactions with customers. eMarketer’s David Green spoke with Rita Chao, Emotibot’s COO, about the expanding role chatbots are playing for marketers.

eMarketer: How does Emotibot determine the emotion of the person who’s interacting with it?

Rita Chao: We combine three kinds of emotion detection to identify the user’s emotions. The first is text—we detect the emotion from text when users speak to the robot, and we transfer voice to text as well. The second is facial emotion, and the third is tone of voice.

eMarketer: How granular can Emotibot go to pick up different emotions?

Chao: We can identify 22 emotions, starting with obvious ones like happiness and sadness. But we prefer to work with clients to define the emotions according to their vertical and specific scenario. For an ecommerce website, for example, we defined anger as a very important emotion. When the robot detects that the user is angry, the customer service agents know to respond immediately. We trained the robot with patterns showing these different types of anger.

eMarketer: Do your clients want to ease into using the chatbot initially, and have more human agents involved?

Chao: In the beginning, AI [artificial intelligence] can typically handle around 65% of users’ questions, so 35% go to the human customer service agent. But once we have more data, the AI becomes smarter. After one or two years, the robot can handle 75% to 80% of inquires. Of course, robots cannot fully replace humans at the moment. Even in two or three years, robots will still be assistants to humans.

“Even in two or three years, robots will still be assistants to humans.”

eMarketer: Do your clients include multinationals based in China as well as local companies?

Chao: Our robot cannot understand languages other than Chinese at the moment, so most of our clients are [companies from China]. But we have some multinational clients from the hotel industry, as well as beverage and alcohol companies, that want to use robots for their brands. Recently, a large Japan-based telecom wanted to introduce a Chinese chatbot for travelers going from China to Japan.

eMarketer: Do your clients integrate Emotibot with WeChat?

Chao: Most of our requests are for mobile apps. Second, of course, is WeChat, but there’s a high acquisition cost to get customers from WeChat. There’s also growing demand generated by the internet of things [IoT]—mobile phones and TV sets, as well as Amazon Echo-like devices that are everywhere in China. Those devices now account for about a quarter of implementations.

eMarketer: Which industry verticals are most interested in your service?

Chao: The finance sector is very willing to adopt AI. About a third of our clients come from finance, and in the future that will likely rise to 50%. Another 25% are bots for ecommerce companies and brand marketing clients.

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