When you log onto a website, do you ever notice the flashing chatbot in the bottom corner of your screen, a box that greets you with a faint ding and a “Hello!” or “Need Help?” With their abilities to engage customers, answer questions, and advertise products, these support chatbots have become commonplace on an increasing number of websites and are transforming the way customer service works.
Chatbots, which make web visitors feel as if they are communicating with a real person, have taken off in popularity for two major reasons: advancements in artificial intelligence and an increase in the popularity of mobile messaging—in fact, half of smartphone users under 30 use mobile messaging apps, making them the prime chatbot audience.
This is important for you to keep in mind as your business grows and moves online. Customers or clients who visit your website, especially those who fall into the under 30 age group, may be more comfortable asking for help and support online than they would be calling your business.
Their reliance on technology and instant messaging also means they expect answers nearly instantly, whether they’re at home or on the go. They don’t want to be put on hold by someone at a call center or have to key in five different numbers just to hear an actual person on the other end of the line.
An increasing number of your customers want and expect chatbots, so give them the experience they’re looking for.
There are two different types of chatbots: a more simplified chatbot that acts on a series of rules (such as a set of pre-provided questions and answers) and a more complex chatbot that runs on artificial intelligence. The latter can actually collect data and improve its intelligence over time. Think of IBM’s Watson.
The first step for choosing a bot that will better serve your customers is to define your bot’s purpose. What do you want it to do? How do you want it to help customers? Bots can accomplish a wide variety of tasks, all while engaging customers with more personalized communications. They can:
- Answer questions
- Recommend or share popular products
- Solicit feedback and reviews
- Take online orders and payments
- Increase social media engagement
It’s important that you decide which bot will better serve your customers. If your business specializes in something like dental care or accounting, you may want a bot that can answer questions about your services. If you own a restaurant, perhaps you want a bot that can solicit feedback and reviews, or maybe a bot that can take rapid online orders. To effectively do this, you need to understand what your customers want and need by putting yourself in their shoes.
The benefits of chatbots are manifold. They improve the experience you offer customers and, like so much else that businesses can automate, help your company save time and money.
- The consumer process is simplified
- There’s no need to phone into call centers, be put on hold, or be shuffled from representative to representative
- The time is takes to receive answers is drastically cut in half
- Multiple interactions are replaced by one direct support path
For your business:
- Expenses for third-party call centers or customer service representatives are eliminated
- Support is more accessible because more people across a wider area can be assisted in a shorter amount of time
- Multiple outlets of engagement are presented (such as social media)
Regardless of whether you choose a simplified bot or a more complex AI bot, there are plenty of resources available to help you build the best bot for your business.
- HelloTars lets you easily create conversational bots without any coding knowledge. After your bot is complete, you can embed it into your website.
- Wit.ai, which is owned by Facebook, lets you create text and voice-based bots. With the popularity of Siri and Alexa, voice-based support is highly effective.
- Api.ai is very similar to Wit. With Api, you create conversations and the bot will collect data and improve over time as it “learns” more.
- Chatfuel has a bot for every industry. It has features for dining services, event notifications, and FAQs for businesses.
There are numerous programs available to help you build the perfect bot for your business and your customers. However, it’s important that you understand what your customers want. (Don’t forget: you can even ask them for feedback to get a better idea of where they stand.)
As chatbots become more popular, will human interactions be taken out of customer service entirely? The research firm Gartner predicts that 85% of interactions between businesses and their customers will take place entirely online with no human component by the year 2020. Such a number may be hard to imagine, but considering that over one and a half billion people already use mobile messaging, that estimate probably isn’t too far off.
Although it may be difficult for online users to tell whether they’re chatting with a bot or a human, chatbots will never replace human interactions altogether. They may be able to answer questions or build up their knowledge, but bots can’t show understanding or sympathy the same way a human being can. They can’t understand emotions or feelings. They can’t truly listen. If they don’t have the ability to listen to or sympathize with customers, will they ever be able to provide a flawless customer experience on their own? Probably not.
That’s why, whether you have a bot answering questions or soliciting feedback, your “bot flow,” as the communication is called, should give your customers the chance to reach out to a human being, especially for more complex issues. While customers love the quick replies, accessibility, and efficiency bots have, they’ll appreciate the fact that a physical person is still available to address their complaints, answer their questions, and thank them for their recent purchases.