Butterball’s Turkey Talk line has been helping home cooks save Thanksgiving for nearly 40 years. Now that people are more likely to have a smart assistant like Amazon’s Alexa in the kitchen than a land line, it only makes sense that Butterball made a meal-saving move by adding a Turkey Talk skill to Amazon’s Alexa for 2018.
Whether you’re cooking your first turkey and struggling with step-by-step details or you’re just afraid of burning the bird, now you can ask Alexa nearly anything turkey-related. Once you enable the Butterball skill, you can just ask Alexa “Alexa, open Butterball” or “Alexa, ask Butterball” to chat with Beth, Marge, or Christopher, the Butterball Talk-Line experts. Okay, you aren’t actually talking to a person, but the AI-powered bot can still help you in most moments of poultry panic on Thanksgiving day. If you are more comfortable talking to a human turkey expert, you can still call up Butterball the old-fashioned way by dialing 1-800-BUTTERBALL from your phone.
Each year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, a team of 50 turkey specialists — food stylists, dietitians, and home economics teachers recruited through word of mouth — counsel nervous cooks nationwide in a fun, seasonal gig. The 1-800-BUTTERBALL support line fields an average of 10,000 questions on Thanksgiving Day alone, and it offers advice in Spanish and English. In addition to Alexa and the phone, Turkey Talk is also available via email, text, and online chat.
There’s plenty more data to unstuff when it comes to Butterball’s direct care. As reported by The Atlantic, it had 120,000 individual interactions with turkey preparers during the 2016 holidays. What’s intriguing is how those numbers broke out by channel: Butterball got 15,280 questions by email, roughly 8,200 by text, nearly 4,000 via chat and more than 92,600 phone calls. Ninety-thousand calls! In other words, 77 percent of Butterball’s customers prefer the personal touch of talk over digital-only channels. (The brand, to be clear, is not a customer; I am simply wowed by its strategy.) We’ll be curious to see how the balance of inquiries changes with the Alexa added to the mix.
The Right Mix of Humans & AI = Great EQ
According to our recent report “Emotions Win: What Customers Expect in the Age of AI,” today’s consumers aren’t just after convenience, they desire making a human connection with brands. And now it’s not just humans that can provide some semblance of emotional support, as 29 percent respondents to our survey believe it’s probable that voice AI tools can offer them a sense of EQ in the near future.
Think about the turkey chef, working away in the kitchen, keeping track of several things at once, and suddenly encountering a problem that puts the succulent quality of their turkey masterpiece at risk. In such a moment of need, you know what’s not very far away? Alexa. Even if the panicked chef is elbow-deep in a cold turkey when they start fretting about preheating the oven, all they need to do is say “Alexa, ask Butterball what temperature to set the oven to roast the turkey!” The chef gets answers from a reassuring voice and no slimy turkey hands on the iPhone.
But when the cook has a particularly tricky question (and hopefully dry hands) and they need emotional reassurance, the best path to the right answer is still a live conversation with a human expert. Here Butterball has struck the right balance of AI and human support to provide the ultimate EQ and an amazing experience for all of its customers. It didn’t over-rotate to digital and ditch the Turkey Talk line, it just gave it some massively convenient reinforcement.
And this phenomenon is not all about holiday turkeys. Butterball’s cross-channel, experts-driven case study can easily apply to marketers in verticals that entail considered purchases (complex, critical, emotional or high-cost decisions) like home services, automotive, financial services and travel. Digital platforms are perfect for straightforward questions (checking account balances on a mobile phone), low-importance decisions (searching Yelp reviews to pick a restaurant), or search-and-find queries (finding a brand-name pair of jeans on sale). But when consumers need to make tough decisions, the importance of emotional support is paramount.
If only Butterball would just come up with another hotline to help us deal with our families during the holidays…
Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!