Today I bring you a special podcast interview with singer, actress and entrepreneur Christina Milian and her business partner Josh Bocanegra who together have built a company called Persona Bots. Persona Bots is a tech company that builds chatbots for celebrities. They've built chatbots for reality TV star Jwoww, literary film character Christian Grey, model Karrueche Tran, musician Kehlani and more. “Celebrities are the trendsetters. People want a way to speak to their fans in a way that’s real. They want their voice to be heard in a way that’s authentic,” said Milian.
Celebrities today are brands. Thanks to social media, celebrities have the ability to engage with fans directly. Though most don’t. Why? It’s not possible. With millions of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook fans, celebrities generally engage in one way conversations on social media.
Brands have a similar conundrum. They can’t respond to the millions of social media comments they get from customers. And they’re using chatbots as a way to provide tailored and personalized interactions. Chatbots have the potential to scale and provide personalized interactions in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past.
Milian has over two million people messaging her on her bot. She says this was the fastest growth out of any social media she’s ever done. According to Milian the goal for the chatbot, built through Facebook messenger, is to keep the fans there engaging with her on Facebook messenger. She believes people don’t want to be bothered with ads. And messenger provides a direct and uninterrupted channel with the consumer, sans ads.
Celebrities And Tech
More and more we are seeing the collision of tech and celebrities. Even Ashton Kutcher has invested in 60 companies including Airbnb, Flipboard, and Change.org. The next few years will only bring more celebrities into the world of tech. It makes sense for celebrities and tech to get together considering tech brings a large platform to celebrities for them to create and share media, and celebrities bring other celebrities and fans to these platforms as well.
When I ping Christina Milian’s chatbot on Facebook messenger, she responds “oh hey…” Her chatbot is fond of using the kiss emoji and that makes sense considering Christina’s brand. In fact in our podcast interview she mentioned much of what chatbot users ask her is if she’s single, and will she marry them. In fact her business partner mentions one unique interaction that occurred on Milian's chatvot. A girlfriend of a male chatbot user found his phone, and thought Milian was really engaging with her boyfriend through messenger, according to Bocanegra. Bocanegra says the user's girlfriend became very jealous; a testament to the power of chatbots. Some people don’t even realize it’s a machine at all.
For now the questions are predetermined and organized by category .For example “Q&A: Get to know me on a personal level.” One of the questions the user can ask Milian is “were your parents strict growing up?” She responds “Nope. Both of my parents were really cool. They were protective though. My parents were actually young when they had me.”
As Milian builds Persona Bots and her own chatbot the variety of ways you can interact with the chatbot will grow.
Today you can view Milian's latest music, request a signed autograph, learn more about Christina’s personal life (mentioned earlier), shop for fan gear, her clothing line, or her line of wines called Viva Diva Wines. The chatbot is not perfect, however it’s one of the first I’ve seen that grants fans the ability to interact with Christina on chat, the same way one would interact with a brand.
We’ll only see these technologies grow.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author and keynote speaker. For more from Blake sign up for her weekly customer experience newsletter here.
One of the brightest and most recognizable accessory brands around is Vera Bradley. Its bold patterns and functional designs make it a desirable brand for purses, wallets, and more. But beyond the bright colors is a successful brand that had stood the test of time and showcases the importance of building a brand that lasts.
No matter the industry, there is a ton of competition for customers’ attention and sales. It can be easy for companies to focus on staying ahead of the competition instead of building their own brand. However, if companies get too caught up in seeing what other organizations are doing, they run the risk of losing focus on their own brand and not building a strong customer experience. Although Vera Bradley operates in the competitive accessory space, it has managed to find its niche and focus on what it is good at—creating an experience and showcasing a special item. Vera Bradley isn’t a discount brand and typically represents a special product customers are willing to spend more money on. Because of that, co-founder Barbara Baekgaard and her team can focus on creating a great customer experience because they are confident in their brand position and aren’t distracted by comparing themselves to other stores. The lesson here can be applied to any brand: find what you are good at and use that to build a personalized and strong experience for customers. Don’t just play catchup to the competition—create something that represents your brand and what you stand for, and customers will respond to that.
A strong brand tends to create a great customer experience, and much of that brand starts with corporate culture. With niche brands, customers want something they can count on—the experience is more than a one-time transaction, but a shopping experience that they expect to be enjoyable and lasting. Vera Bradley hires nice people as sales associates and tells them to be themselves. The result is a reputation for strong customer service because customers know they will always have a friendly and personable experience in the store. The same principle applies to customers who are shopping for more than just handbags—today’s modern shoppers tend to want an experience instead of simply a transaction. The best experiences tend to come from strong brands that have an identity that permeates through their employees and makes every step of the buying process enjoyable. Employees should be aware of the company’s brand and know the role they play in sharing the experience with everyone who comes into the store or visits the website.
A strong brand can be a powerful tool in creating a high-quality customer experience. Although there are many things that can shake a brand, having a strong foundation that is embedded in every aspect of the organization can make a huge difference and be felt by customers at every turn.
For more from Blake Morgan sign up for her weekly newsletter here.
Imagine being able to instantly get recommendations for top restaurants, hotels, and attractions, no matter where you are in the world without having to talk to a human. It’s a great resource for travelers made possible by the TripAdvisor chatbot.
Chatbots are popping up everywhere. TripAdvisor as a company tries to stay on top of new technology, but it didn’t want to create a chatbot just for the sake of making one. After considering the strategy involved, the team, led by Jeff Chow, vice president of product, decided to dip its toes into the chatbot water with a way to deliver great recommendations where and when people need them. Creating the chatbot was a learning experience with principles that can be applied to a variety of verticals. The overall goal for the chatbot was to take TripAdvisor’s leading qualities and turn then into the ultimate travel assistant on the go—perfect for planning a trip, traveling, or sharing information with friends and family. With its software, TripAdvisor wanted to use machine learning to scale the data from its many interfaces so that it could be used in different customer interactions.
The team views the chatbot as guided discovery—the questions start big and then narrow down until the task is completed and the best recommendation can be given. In order to provide the best recommendation, the bot must understand what the traveller is really looking for—after all, a restaurant recommendation in Miami will be different based on if someone is traveling for work or pleasure. Chatbots have potential to be a powerful, personalized tool. Because they can remember things users say, it can get personal and hopefully soon learn soft signals and natural conversation. That way, even if a user doesn’t explicitly ask something, a chatbot could potentially know what to recommend based on their patterns or behavior. However, getting smarter over time is a unique challenge in travel, as people’s travel preferences can change greatly depending on the purpose of their travel, which means the bot needs to be adaptable to different travel needs.
TripAdvisor also learned that building a chatbot isn’t a one and done process—there is always room for continued growth and improvement. The company’s next focus is to increase engagement with its partner businesses to provide better recommendations to customers.
Jeff’s best advice from the TripAdvisor experience is for other companies to be strategic with their chatbots and technology. Don't create a chatbot just for the sake of doing it, but instead think of what it can do to move your business forward. When done correctly, chatbots can create great opportunities for an organization.