Are you still using autoresponse elements in your email marketing? It's time to stop, according to new research from a provider of artificial intelligence-driven lead interaction management.
While Foster City, California-based AVA.ai (AVA stands for Automated Virtual Assistant) agrees autoresponders are good for select chores, such as letting buyers know their e-commerce order has been received, they are past due for retirement for more personalized responses. Not exactly surprising, since AVA.ai has just released a cloud-based, lead-interaction management software solution that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI).
The Missing Piece
The automated response of marketing automation platforms like Marketo and Eloqua can help marketers reach a larger volume. But AVA.ai's white paper "Why You Should Stop Using Autoresponders" contends — as expected — that artificial intelligence (AI) is the missing piece for creating natural-seeming and appropriate responses.
"An AI solution can interpret email text," the white paper states, "respond appropriately in a conversational style and serve as a virtual personal assistant for a busy sales team."
The paper points to the shortcomings in one way, automatically-generated and pre-configured email response. These include impersonal communications in an era where personalization is becoming the norm, a one-way communication that is not intended to receive a reply, and the perception that such canned correspondence is some kind of spam.
In contrast, AVA.ai notes, "the AI component reads responses to outbound messages and interprets the prospect's intention based on a classification of words in the prospect's emails." With this classification, the program "can then automatically take specific actions based upon text classifications without human intervention," with followup messages, an alert to the salesperson and or a directive to stop sending emails.
It notes that AI uses a "friendly, colloquial conversational style" that might include pertinent information, such as asking if a provided phone number is the best line to reach the recipient. The lead interaction can be integrated with Salesforce and other CRM systems.
Sample AI-driven email interaction, from AVA.ai's white paper
The white paper and AVA.ai's touted solution point to the next big phase in customer relationship management, customer service, personalized marketing and virtually every other form of customer-facing operations. Essentially, AI-driven marketing emails are a new kind of auto-responder, one with certain kinds of intelligence and some form of machine learning.
More and More Personalization
One can expect this more personalized intelligence to more extensively populate the marketing automation, customer service, CRM and Web self-service platforms. It is already being used for virtual assistants in live chat, such as Alme for Chat. And, with distributed super-computing intelligence such as IBM's Watson quickly becoming affordable intelligence-as-a-service, intelligent responses in chat, email, self-service Web, voice response systems and other media will likely become more widespread in the near future.
In fact, one can already envision the next Next Phase of this evolution of intelligent, automated customer interaction, when companies begin to recognize that standard AI can also miss the mark – by presenting the same "face" to each customer, for instance.
A Millennial might want a more conversational tone than, say, a retiree. IBM has started to create conversational "personalities" for Watson, which was one of the reasons behind its purchase of Australian startup Cognea in May.
So, yes, AI is the way marketing email and other marketing/customer service interactions will go, but it has a long ways to go beyond intelligent parsing and response. We are on the cusp of the day when marketing communications may in fact be able to pass the Turing Test – and do so with flair.