Dave Schoonover

Dave Schoonover on Kia’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, Nirobot

Dave Schoonover is the Senior Manager, Head of Digital, Social, CRM, and .com — yes, all of those.

We call Nirobot the newest member of our marketing team.

“I have a very rare job, where I get to oversee all of those pieces and bring them together. It's exciting and fun, and the company allows me the leeway to do that,” he says.

Last year, that leeway allowed Dave and his team to launch Nirobot, a Facebook Messenger bot created to promote the 2017 Kia Niro. The bot can answer surface-level questions about the car, set up test drive appointments, and connect the customer with a human if they need one.

According to SocialMedia.org member Dave, Nirobot allows the team one-to-one marketing at scale for the new Kia Niro. “We call Nirobot the newest member of our marketing team.”

Within two months, the bot earned half a million engagements.

There will come a time when bots are the norm, and people will look for a brand's chatbot — until then, we'll have to point them to it.

Scalability and repeatability were the two critical success factors, and Facebook Messenger gave Nirobot automatic scale. Dave says Facebook was a proactive partner throughout the process as Nirobot pushed them to think about the platform in ways they hadn't yet.

But he says sustainability will be the ultimate measure of success. “Ask me again in six months, and we'll know if this was just a blip on the radar or something that will stick.”

At least so far, they've overcome one of the most common hurdles for chatbots: discovery. Dave explains they relied on paid advertising but also promoted Nirobot on their website. “There will come a time when bots are the norm, and people will look for a brand's chatbot — until then, we'll have to point them to it.”

Every day Dave's team adds to Nirobot's intelligence.

They're paying close attention to the questions the bot can't answer and using probabilistic scores to figure out what people might ask next. On the backend, Facebook's tool helps them identify derivatives. Then, they quickly create the content and upload it to Nirobot.

“With chatbots, you have to have a long-term commitment to content. You can't just load it in the beginning, wipe your hands, and say you're done.”

Plus, Dave says you have to remember that your chatbot can't represent just one department of a company. People aren't looking for a marketing experience — they're there for customer service too. “You're the whole company to whomever is using the chatbot,” says Dave.

Nirobot's strength is in knowing when to connect the customer with a person.

Nirobot knows when a human should step into the conversation in three scenarios:

  1. Upon request: “If the customer wants to talk to a person, by all means, give them to a person. Nothing drives people crazier than having to repeat ‘representative' on a robo call. They're already frustrated at that point, make it easy.”
  2. Unanswered questions: The bot has an empathetic response to questions it can't answer: “I'm sorry, but I didn't quite get that. It's hard being a bot! Can you rephrase the question?” But if Nirobot can't answer the question multiple times, it will connect the customer to a livechat agent.
  3. Specific questions: Some phrases will prompt the bot to suggest the customer speak to a representative, for example, if the customer needs to be connected to roadside assistance.

Right now, they're working on uploading Niro's entire owner's manual to Nirobot.

The goal is to allow customers to quickly get answers from Nirobot rather than have to thumb through an owner's manual for information. Dave says it's a part of their strategy to tie Nirobot into the entire customer journey — pre-sale and post-sale — for customer support.

It's also part of a larger strategy to evolve Kia's marketing cloud. “These are great pieces of technology, but we need to take the last step to bring it all together under a cloud environment — especially with these customer touch points.”

Dave says, “It's become a wild world to try to create an omnichannel environment that feels seamless to the customer. We're trying to deliver on that promise.”

Dave will share a confidential presentation on this topic at our Member Meeting in San Francisco April 26-27. If you're a member of SocialMedia.org, register here. Dave has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2014. Follow him on Twitter here.