Chatbots - not the beginning of a robot takeover, but perhaps the beginning of the customer service takeover. Many people don’t know that chatbots have been in the making since the 1960’s.
With the inception of Eliza by MIT in 1966, they have been redefined again and again. They’ve come a long way, considering what’s available today. I can have Alexa set an alarm for me, turn on my favorite music to match my morning, tell me the weather, change my thermostat, and call me an Uber with little effort. I can even set Alexa to talk to my cats while I’m away (seriously).
While keeping my cats company is an important job, chatbots have also come to help redefine how marketers and businesses interact with their customers, clients, or potential clients. You’ve probably seen them yourself. Or if not, here’s an example:
What Is a ChatBot?
Chatbots are a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that we engage with in a conversational interface. To utilize them well, the trick is to know the conversations your customers are already having with your company. Why are your customers seeking you out? What problems are they trying to solve? What are your buyer personas? Developers analyze your conversation logs and, using Machine Learning models, match your customer queries to the best suitable answers. Some of these requests can be quite complex. There are limitations, but with feedback loops your chatbot can learn. How neat is that?
There is another option, other than AI, that doesn’t require a developer or Machine Learning modules. Using an App like Drift or Crisp, you can have chat messages sent directly to you through a chat tool like Slack. You’ll receive the notification and have the ability to answer right then and there. You can do this yourself, or hire someone as you grow. You can set your chat times to mirror your business hours, so it will seem like the customer can get personalized assistance as if they rolled up to your storefront!
There is an advantage in using real people during business hours. You will be able to answer complex questions in real time without working with a developer and tweaking the platform over time. You can inject some more personalization into your responses, or appropriate humor. A human touch can never be outdone at the end of the day, and this is a nice hybrid between the convenience of technology and the warmth of real hospitality.
You may be wondering if Chatbots are effective. Do people really think they’ll have their needs met by this ‘bot’ or person they cannot see? Well, the people have spoken, and they say yes! According to HubSpot research here, up to 71% of people are willing to use these chats and up to 47% are even willing to give these bots their payment information to make direct purchases. This is why you should give chatbots a hard look for your business, and there's plenty more reasons why!
There's the ease of convenience in this model for not just your customers, but for you as the business owner as well! It's well known that the millennial market is adverse to making or taking phone calls. It's not just millennials either. I happen to know a few Generation X-ers who hate using their phones for their originally intended purpose. Have you ever been on hold forever with your cable company, listening to that awful elevator music? Did you want to tear your hair out? I feel you. With chatbots, they can simply type their question in and receive a reply in seconds from a live human being. They save time and, hopefully, move through their buyer's journey faster.
Think of all the time you or your employees will save not having to stop your more complex tasks to answer these questions via phone. You can focus on things that need your in-depth attention, and keep you from answering the same questions again and again. You'll also gain a consistent, cohesive message for every customer as well. And we all know consistency is important in the customer service world.
Think about getting valuable information without the risk of human error. Think about getting that information in a way that gives a great customer experience plus is voluntarily given. Chatbots are wonderful tools to gather data for your business.
You can get a good idea about what your customers may be struggling with when it comes to your products. The logs will create a snapshot of what are the most frequently asked questions and how you can move forward in your plans to address them. You can even use these logs to improve your chatbot itself. Are their any questions not fully answered? Maybe have your developer address those phrases or questions for better service in the future, or get tips on how to improve your website or social media to answer these questions upfront.
You can identify where individuals are in their buyer's journey as well. Using the conversation, you can map where they stand and create a plan to reach them better. There are many ways you can use your bot!
It's important that you use this tool wisely, as it is for any tool in your marketing arsenal. You have to know your customers to create the best answers for your bot to give. You have to tread the fine line of helpfulness and annoyance if using your chatbots to target people in particular areas of the buyer's journey. And you must keep your customer's data safe.
The biggest concern people have with chatbots is that natural distrust of computers with personal information. I mean, can you blame people? Target, Equifax, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn, Deep Root Analytics...You'll need to take a breath after naming off all the major corporations that have been embroiled in personal information breaches.
That's why it's so important to make sure your chatbot platform has adequate security. If those 47% of people we spoke about earlier are willing to directly buy from your bot, you'll need to protect them and keep their trust in you. Your brand can depend on it.
Chatbots are wonderful tools that can be used to help your customer get through their busy day and still have time to interact with your brand. If you haven't utilized one yet for your website, perhaps consider the points above. Being on the forefront of these marketing tools can put you apart from your competitors.