What Are Chatbots? QUICK READ Chatbot 101 for Business
One of the main challenges of modern business is finding new ways to cut costs and simplify processes using digital tools. This is the best way to stay ahead of your competitors. To help with this, today we’ll answer a simple question – what are chatbots?
More importantly, an increasing number of business owners want to know how they can benefit from chatbots. At least, they have a vague idea of the benefits, but are unsure of how to take advantage of them.
Here’s a brief overview of what chatbots can be used for:
This is exactly what we’ll cover in this article. Once you’ve finished reading it, you’ll be able to implement chatbots across your web presence, and take advantage of the potential cost savings.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
Why do Chatbots Matter to Businesses
There comes a time in the life of every digital tool when businesses must choose between investing in a rising trend or playing ‘wait and see’.
The risk involved in the latter? That a company could be playing catch-up later when they discover competitors were quick off the mark. Then you risk falling behind. In extreme cases, you might not ever catch up.
Think of the likes of video and mobile-optimised websites. It feels strange to imagine a time when these weren’t an essential. Every new piece of technology has its tipping point, when it becomes the norm.
To broaden this thinking to technology as a whole, business leaders are quick to point to examples like Blockbuster’s loss to Netflix as an argument to stay ahead of the curve.
You have to decide what side of the chatbot curve you’ll be on.
What is a Chatbot?
Simply put, a Chatbot – or ‘conversational agent’ – is a piece of software which creates automated responses for users. You might have used one already, on Facebook or by following a website prompt.
This can work a couple of different ways.
Simple chatbots simply seek out keywords in a user’s query. These then trigger pre-programmed responses. If there is no response set for a given query, the chatbot will simply refer the user to a human service agent.
More advanced chatbots use artificial intelligence to create their own responses to users’ queries.
Let’s look at Starbucks as an example of Chatbot use. In 2017 they announced a trial of a chatbot, for voice or messaging interface, to help customers use their My Starbucks Barista ordering app.
The use of a chatbot, they said, formed a big part of their five year plan for the brand. Very much indicating not just the way the wind is blowing for laptops, but a clue for the right time for smaller companies to jump on board the technology too.
Chatbots and Your Business
Chatbots offer some very clear advantages for your company and, perhaps more importantly, your customers. IBM summarises the benefits of Chatbot tech for call centres – reminding us that today’s customers want 24x7x365 support.
Other advantages of chatbots include lower costs, quicker response, better first contact resolution and increased data leverage.
But the advantages apply to small businesses as much as the huge corporate names.
Let’s take a closer look:
Choose channels which suit your customers: Let customers choose where they want to talk to your brand. Chatbots can be used in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and more. The smallest number of steps to find a solution to their problem means a great impression for your brand.
No more rush hour: Sometimes it takes a long time to reply to customer phone calls or emails? A chatbot won’t care if it is talking to one person or one thousand. Potential buyers will get that first point of contact and fast. Every day and at any hour.
Perfection isn’t needed: Will your chatbot be able to work with nuances of local language or complex questions? No. The great thing is that users won’t expect it. They can be directed to quick answers to start their customer journey. There’s plenty of time to follow up in full after.
Filter out the greatest need: Using a chatbot as an initial response tool means customers looking for something simple like opening hours can find the information they need. This leaves the more complex enquiries with more time to engage with your business.
Easier than ever: Think a chatbot will be difficult to set up? Newer and newer tools allow chatbots to be developed without code.
Access for all: Customers who might be more comfortable communicating via test, as well as those with various accessibility needs, will thank your business for the option to find answers more quickly and easily.
Top Chatbot Tools for Every Business
Of course, there’s still the small matter of how to implement a chatbot on your site. Of course, one option would be to build your own chatbot from scratch. However, most of us don’t have the skills to do this.
Even if we did, it’s unlikely to be the most cost effective strategy, unless you have very specific needs for a custom chatbot.
Instead, the best option for the majority of businesses is using an off-the-shelf tool.
One of the most popular options is HubSpot’s free Chatbot Builder. This allows you to perform most functions, including fielding customer queries, making bookings and qualifying leads. It’s also integratable with a wide range of other tools.
The Big Question: When?
Here’s a quick way to consider if your customers would appreciate a chatbot for your business – what questions do your customers regularly ask? Would they ask out of hours given a chance?
Then, where would it best suit your customer to get in touch? Do they ever face a delay having a call or email answered?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you could definitely benefit from implementing a chatbot on your website or social media accounts.
When you take steps right now to help your customers, you’ll create loyalty and a difference in service between yourself and the competition.
Is it too Soon to Invest in a Chatbot?
That perfect time to commit time, and money, to a digital tool can be found well ahead of the point where you are forced to invest by customer demand. In other words, it’s best to be an early adopter of new digital tools.
Chatbots are no different.
Why? Because by the time a new piece of tech has caught on, your customers already have a need you aren’t meeting. And they’ll still be waiting while you set up and bed in the tech they want from your brand.
Meanwhile competitors who acted sooner could be forming new loyalties with your buyers.
Our advice? Work ahead of the latest changes to amaze your audience.
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