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Clear-cut leader of a chatbot strategy has yet to emerge

As more companies embrace chatbots, the question of who in an organization should lead the charge becomes increasingly prevalent. The answer isn't straightforward, either. At the Chatbots & Virtual Assistants for the Enterprise event in San Francisco, one speaker argued that there should be a "head of conversation/messaging" whose sole mission is to oversee a chatbot strategy and projects of that ilk.

Lauren Kunze, CEO of Pandorabots, a platform for building and deploying chatbots, doesn't necessarily agree, suggesting that that role should grow organically. In this video filmed at the event, Kunze gives her take on who should be in charge of a chatbot strategy and the cross-fuctional team that's needed to succeed.

Who in the organization should be in charge of overseeing a chatbot strategy?

Lauren Kunze: More often than not, we're talking to the CIO or the CMO inside of a company, but teams usually involve a lot of different departments in the organization. You have copywriters, people who are in charge of brand voice, the marketing department and user experience designers. Engineers often need to help in terms of integrating with existing systems; whether they're opening up APIs, product feeds, or services that the chatbot will integrate with.

Do you think there needs to be a separate position for overseeing a chatbot strategy? 

Start with someone who's an innovation lead, in the IT department, or the head of digital marketing.

Kunze: I think it's similar to the case of whether there's a user mandate to transact with your business in a conversational way. That position will grow organically as a by-product of undertaking chatbot projects, but I don't think you necessarily need to define that role out of the gate. We are seeing that [position] grow organically in the businesses that we work. We'll start with someone who's an innovation lead, in the IT department, or the head of digital marketing and [he or she] will grow into that role of chatbot lead. We're increasingly seeing businesses put together teams in terms of a five-year "conversational commerce" strategy. That's a trend in the industry's favor.

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Who do you think should be in charge of a chatbot strategy?
If the role of the chatbot is remotely connected with customer care, marketing is exactly the wrong place for managing chatbot conversations with customers. You may not like the answer, but the contact center is the right answer. Most chatbot conversations, especially when first deployed, will need to escalate many chatbot conversations to humans. Those humans are in the contact center. Simple. Marketing can help with conversations to drive sales or promotions, but even those conversations will need human agents in many cases. Those who end run the contact center are doomed to frustrate customers and fail.