With sites like Facebook and Kik opening their platforms to automated messaging for companies, chatbots have really exploded in popularity. Facebook went from zero chatbots in February 2016 to 18,000 by July of the same year. Kik had approximately 300,000,000 registered users, and those users exchanged 350,000,000 automated messages with the platform in the first seven months of its chatbot.
You’ve probably seen chatbots in action. They are on all sorts of websites, from major retail chains to mobile phone service providers and many other types of sites and apps.
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, “May I help you with anything?” 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.
Chatbots are quite advanced, and many of them can almost manage to fool users into thinking they are speaking to a real person. This is beneficial, because it allows companies to lower their overhead by using chatbots to replace customer service agents in many circumstances, and only when the chatbot is unsuccessful in helping the customer must a real agent step in.
Chatbots have a few drawbacks, but they also have many benefits. In this guide, you’re going to learn more about how chatbots can be used for marketing, and whether or not chatbots are a good fit for your business.
Benefits of Chatbots
Chatbots are very useful for a lot of different applications—from simple user contact, to answering questions, and even helping the sales process along.
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 from paid employees. This frees up paid employees 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. Never overlook those logs as a way to find out more about them.
Drawbacks 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 failure to help customers sometimes, which may end up frustrating the user enough that they leave your site. This is rare, but it can happen, so you must make sure your chatbot can direct customers to live help when needed.
Many bots are poorly programmed because they have been rushed to market to take advantage of the surge in chatbot use, so you must be on the lookout for this, as well. 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 find that you don’t have a lot of contact with customers normally, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 a 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.
- 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 many ways to use chatbots for business, and companies are thinking of new, innovative ways to use them all the time. Let’s take a look at a few ways chatbots can benefit your business.
A lot of companies are using chatbot technology to deliver content in a new an 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 chat bots, because they can be programmed with specific responses to your most frequently asked questions and keep you and your employees from having to field a lot of questions that could have been answered by the bot.
Chatbots can improve user experience, too. Customer’s 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.
Studies have shown that 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.
Let’s take a look at some of the products that are currently on the market and are considered to be good quality.
The chattypeople platform is one of the most popular chatbots available for the Facebook Messenger system, and also works with Facebook comments. They are remarkably affordable, with a 30-day free trial and a permanent free plan for under 100 customers.
The chattypeople platform will even allow you to sell products directly to customers through Facebook with Stripe, Paypal, and other payment platforms.
Botsify is another very popular platform that works for Facebook Messenger, but also has a version that works directly on your website. They have a free plan (only for Facebook Messenger) that has a lot of features, but their paid plans (which can be used on a website) start at a very reasonable $10 per month.
Botsify also allows human takeover at any time, so you can have a customer service agent take over whenever the chatbot isn’t helping the customer properly.
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.