Chatbots, these instant communication tools, also called conversational agents, are used to speak with an existing or potential customer at a given time. In business, ideally, every conversation should lead to an act of purchase. But the path is long and sometimes full of legal pitfalls, such as the restrictions on the use of personal data.
Via a chatbot, the client is asking a specific question in order to receive an answer to his request. By using a chatbot, he or she does not consent or state that he or she wants to know more about the company’s products and services; and even less become the target of advertising and promotional messages. Without the client’s consent, or any other equivalent act, the conversation ends there [provided the company respects the restrictions imposed by data protection laws].
Is there a way to “keep” a customer to convince him or her to buy a product, order a service, or subscribe to a newsletter? How do you obtain this consent or a similar conclusive act?
Here we are proposing some ideas, which should allow companies to transform the client’s unique request into a long-term relationship.
1. The conversation is done via chatbot, “without human support”.
At the end of the conversation, after the message saying, “thank you, I hope I could help you”, add an opt-in button with the following sentence (example):
If you have appreciated our service and would like to know what we do best, enter your email address here so that we can contact you by email: ______.
[This option requires the ability to add a message and free text.]
At the end of the conversation, add a hyperlink to subscribe to a newsletter or a specific form on a page of the site:
If you have appreciated our service and would like to know what we do best, you can fill out the form here: ________.
[This requires a “contact” page, “newsletter” or “form”, with an indication of the purpose of the data collection.]
2. The conversation begins via chatbot but is followed by a live chat or a phone call with a human.
It is up to Customer Service to ask the customers if they want to receive offers on a regular basis, or if they would like to participate in webinars offered by the service provider.
The company needs to implement a process of collecting personal data (e-mail or postal address) orally, by referring to the purpose of this collection and the fact that the user may withdraw his or her consent at any time. It is also necessary to save a record of this acceptance.
What do these options imply?
Obviously, first it is necessary to consider whether these options are technically implementable in the current solution. In addition, employees who will have direct access to existing or potential client data also must be trained to remember to “convert” the unique request into a long-lasting relationship.
Finally, it is essential to write and publish the company’s privacy principles so that they are available online for any customer who would like to read them, either before using the chatbot or before agreeing to receive more information. These principles are often described in a privacy notice that shall be accessible on every page of the site.
It is unlawful to collect personal data from existing and potential customers without thinking about the reasons for doing so and how their data will be protected. In this connection, it is not enough to host this data on a secure server in Switzerland; it is also necessary to define how it will be used, who will have access to the data and who will respond to a customer requesting access to the data that the company holds about him or her. Even if the GDPR is not applicable “as is” in Switzerland, Swiss law is fully valid and already imposes obligations on purpose and transparency.
In summary, opportunities can be created if we ask ourselves:
- Is it relevant to convert a relationship initiated by the chatbot into a sustainable marketing relationship?
- What options related to the customer’s consent to use his/her data (or another conclusive act) are possible for the selected chatbot solution?
- Does the privacy notice mention the use of chatbot and the use of data for marketing purposes?
The above points can provide companies with food for thought in order to make an investment in a chatbot model more valuable in the long term by creating a relevant customer base.
Caroline Perriard, BRANDIT Legal in Digital
© 2019, This article was originally published in French in the Marketing Magazine Cominmag April 2019.