These days, we're seeing chatbots all over the place. You’ve probably seen them in action on big company websites, and, increasingly on sites like Facebook and Kik.
In fact, in February 2016 there were zero chatbots on Facebook, but by July, there were over 18,000. And by May of 2018, Facebook announced there are over 300,000 chatbots installed on their Messenger platform. Kik, another messaging platform, which has around 300 million registered users, saw around 350,000,000 automated messages during the first seven months their chatbot was active.
At first, you might think you’re talking to a real person. Usually, a popup appears with a picture of an agent, along with a name. The “agent” asks something like, “How can I help you?” Or, “Do you have any questions?”
Chatbots use artificial intelligence that is often quite advanced to answer many questions a user might have, and in the event that the bot is unable to help the user, it will usually as the user to call, email, or fill out a support form, or perhaps to check a F.A.Q. page. At Baer On Marketing, we've been experimenting with chatbots ourselves (and provide campaign design and installation for our clients too).
Chatbots are considerably advanced, and many of them might even manage to fool users into thinking they are chatting with an actual person. Obviously, there's a benefit to businesses using them, because it allows for lower overhead by using chatbots instead of customer service agents in many circumstances, and only when the chatbot is unsuccessful in helping the customer does a real agent need to step in.
Chatbots have their pros and cons, and in this guide, you’ll discover how chatbots can be used for marketing, and whether or not chatbots are a good fit for your business.
Benefits of Chatbots
Chatbots are incredibly useful for a lot of different applications—from simple site visitor contact, to answering questions, and even helping the sales process move forward.
One of the biggest benefits of using Chatbots is that you can have fewer actual employees, because chatbots can take care of a lot of issues that might take up time for paid employees or outsourcers. This frees up your team for more important tasks, and allows them to have more time to help customers with major issues.
This benefits customers, too, because they can get answers to questions and help with problems much faster than they might if they ended up contacting customer service through traditional means.
Bots can also provide you extremely valuable information about your customers if you log those conversations and analyze them, because you can see the types of questions they are asking and discover patterns and recurring issues. Never overlook those logs as a way to find out more about your prospects and customers.
Shortcomings of Chatbots
Of course, chatbots have a few drawbacks, too. No technology is perfect, and bots are no exception.
The biggest drawback is that artificial intelligence, no matter how advanced it may be, is not yet at the level that can replace actual humans. This inevitably leads to occasional failures in helping customers, which may end up frustrating the user enough that they leave your site. This is rare, but it can happen, so you need to make sure your chatbot can direct customers to live help when needed.
It's also important to note that not all bots are equal. Many bots are poorly programmed because they have been brought to market too quickly to take advantage of the surge in chatbot use. So be sure to fully vet and test any bot software before making an investment in something. The cheapest solution isn’t always the best, so it’s vital that you test your chatbot thoroughly to make sure there are no problems with it that could end up frustrating your customers.
Are Chatbots Right For You?
Chatbots aren’t right for every business. If you don't get a lot of online inquiries or generally don’t have a lot of interaction with customers currently, you may not need a chatbot. But, on the other hand, if you do have a lot of contact with customers, or if you find you have a lot of shopping cart abandonment or your customers tend to ask a lot of questions or need additional help, a chatbot just might be perfect for your needs.
Here are some situations where a chatbot might work for your business:
1. Your customer service agents are overwhelmed.
If you find that your agents are overwhelmed by the volume of help requests you get daily, especially if the are simple requests that could easily be taken care of by a bot, it makes perfect sense for you to use one.
Of course, if you don't have any dedicated customer service team members (or you work on your own) bots might make even more sense for you.
2. You have a high rate of shopping cart abandonment.
If you find that a lot of people are abandoning their shopping carts or leaving your site without converting into email subscribers or buyers, a chatbot might help by asking the customer what went wrong when they try to leave your site, and then guide them through the process so they can complete the conversion.
3. Customers keep asking the same questions over and over.
Let’s face it, customers rarely read F.A.Q. pages. Sometimes you may wonder, “Why even bother having an F.A.Q. page? It seems like nobody reads them!” And that’s true. But chatbots are a great way to get more people to find out the answers to simple questions without wasting your or your agents’ time. You can program common questions into your bot and let it answer those questions.
4. Your business is oriented toward service.
If you’re in an industry that is notoriously service-centric, such as the travel industry, for example, chatbots can go a long way toward helping customers get assistance while alleviating some of the initial work that agents might otherwise have to deal with.
These are just a few examples, but hopefully, you’re beginning to get an idea of whether or not a bot might be a good fit for your business.
Ways to Use Chatbots
There are a lot of ways to use chatbots for business, and companies are thinking of new, innovative ways to use them all the time. Here are just a few ways chatbots can benefit your business:
A lot of companies are using chatbot technology to deliver content in a new and interesting way. Websites such as CNN are sending interesting articles to visitors through messaging apps.
Since so many people are using messenger apps like Facebook and Kik on a regular basis, delivering content straight to the platforms they’re already using just makes sense.
This allows companies to reach readers even if those readers aren’t coming to their site daily.
Companies like Dominos and Taco Bell are making use of chatbot technology by allowing customers to make purchases directly through their bots via text message or platforms like Facebook Messenger.
This is beneficial to companies like Dominos because it keeps stores from being inundated with so many phone calls during peak times, and it’s beneficial to their customers because it’s often faster and less frustrating than calling or using the website.
All sorts of businesses can benefit from using a chatbot to assist in making sales, by offering personalized product suggestion based on input from customers.
The most common use for chatbots is for general customer service, such as answering basic questions, making suggestions, directing problems to appropriate departments, and more.
This is a great for chatbots, because they can be programmed with specific responses to your most frequently asked questions and keep you and your staff from having to field a lot of questions that could have been answered by the bot.
Chatbots can improve user experience, too. Customers love getting an answer in seconds without having to wait on hold for a live person or sending an email and waiting hours or days for a response.
According to a study by Ubisend, 51% of people believe a business should be available for customer support 24/7. They don’t appreciate companies operating in normal business hours anymore. In the days of microwaves and overnight shipping, patience is growing thinner and thinner. If your company takes 12 hours to answer an email, and your competitor answers a simple question at two o’clock in the morning, whom do you think they will buy from? Whom would they feel most loyal to?
45.8% of people would rather contact a company through messaging than through email. They know email can be slow. They’d rather use a method that gets faster, easier results.
49.5 would rather contact a company through messaging than telephone. No one likes waiting on hold, and some people don’t like speaking on the phone. Messaging is easier for those people.
The bottom line is that people want chatbots. They save them time and frustration, and in return, it saves you time and money. It’s a win-win situation.
There are already a number of chatbot products on the market. Some are quite effective, while others have been obviously rushed to market and are full of bugs that will frustrate you and your customers. A few worth considering are QurioBot and Tars (for website bots) as well as Mobile Monkey and Inboxr (for Facebook Messenger).
You can use any of these services to create bots for customer support, sales support, customer education, frequently asked questions, and a lot more.
Chatbots can provide real-time engagement that is available instantaneously, which is something that even the most well-staffed company is rarely able to do.
While chatbots can’t replace all staff, they can certainly help you cut down on the number of times your support staff has to answer basic questions simply because customers don’t read the F.A.Q. pages or miss information on sales pages. They can also provide feedback from customers that can help you streamline your sales and customer service processes and make things easier for future customers.
If your business falls into one of the types of businesses that might find a bot useful, or even if you just think a bot would be a good fit, give it a try. If nothing else, you may find out some valuable information about your customers.