Chatbots have gone from fringe technology to mainstream customer service tools in the space of a few short years.
As an inbound marketing tool, chatbots have the potential to qualify leads, solve problems, reduce costs and develop customer relationships.
While your experience with chatbots may be limited to the messages that appear when you land on your favourite Facebook page – with Forbes estimating Facebook chatbot numbers in excess of 300,000, more and more businesses are adopting chatbots as digital ambassadors on the back of affordable technology and increasingly user-friendly AI.
Consider the search volume displayed through Google Trends across the previous 3 years and it’s clear that chatbots are the future and the future is now.
These new service tools may seem jarring at first, particularly if you’ve had a frustrating experience with a chatbot. But they are available to make life easier for both businesses and consumers.
Understanding how to best use a chatbot is key to saving you time as a business owner, and providing a level of customer service that your audience expects and deserves.
Consider the following data sourced by Facebook:
- 2 billion messages are sent between businesses and people each month.
- 56% of people would prefer to send a message than call a customer service representative.
- 53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message.
From these figures one thing is clear – using chatbots is important for building relationships with your audience. And that includes both clients and prospects.
This personalised approach, encompassing a fluid two-way flow of communication, isn’t just beneficial in your immediate business goals either.
Chatbots also provide valuable data as people typically feel more comfortable expressing their true thoughts and opinions to a bot. This can then be used to gauge customer behaviour and assess trends for future opportunities.
Whether you’re already converted or need a little extra convincing, interest in chatbots continues to grow.
Here’s how you can best use them, and best lose them.
Why are people using chatbots?
Put simply, people interact with chatbots for a variety of reasons.
The 2018 State of Chatbots report collated the reasons people would most likely use a chatbot and the results were as follows.
There is a clear pattern in the top 3 predicted uses from this report. They all centre around the desire to streamline communications and improve customer service.
This importance is reinforced by Jacqueline Payne, Customer Support Manager at Paperclip Digital, who says ‘Customer service isn’t a buzzword. But too many businesses treat it like it is. As a viable avenue from which to lower customer acquisition costs and cultivate a loyal customer base, chat bots can play a pivotal role in driving business growth.’
By automating aspects of your business, in this case the conversations that would typically have required a human employee are now handled by chatbots, you free up time and money to drive business growth.
With these outcomes in mind, here are the 4 reasons to use chatbots, and 4 reasons to lose them.
4 Reasons to use Chatbots
1) You want to lower your overhead costs
According to Chatbots Magazine, adding virtual agents can help reduce business costs by up to 30%.
While chatbots should never be seen as a replacement for your employees entirely, automating certain functions can help you to reduce labour costs without sacrificing customer relations.
Taking this a step further and more financial benefits are clear. By giving your potential customers the opportunity to engage with a chatbot and begin their purchasing journey without human interaction, you’ll also move towards lowering your acquisition costs.
As labour costs are lowered through AI automation you will have more time and resources to focus on the areas of your business that need them most.
2) You want to improve your customer service
According to a recent study, 83% of shoppers require support during their shopping experience.
Whether you provide products online or something entirely different, the overwhelming majority of this figure should show you the importance of providing support to remove the friction that occurs throughout the purchasing cycle.
On top of this, the use of chatbots allows your customers to interact with your brand 24/7, with 64% of American consumers identifying this feature as their most valued benefit of chatbots. In this way, chatbot technology allows you to provide answers in real-time, like a salesperson in a store.
And if you’re worried about driving your audience away through overuse of chatbots, don’t stress. In a recent survey, 44% of American consumers admitted they prefer chatbots over humans for customer communication, so you’ll be catering to the almost 1 out of every 2 consumers who enjoy the convenience and clarity of dealing with AI.
With that said, assigning responsibility to a chatbot does not alleviate you of all responsibility.
To ensure your chatbots improve customer service they should:
- Be bug free
- Align with your brand
- Work across all devices
- Be programmed with professional language
- Provide full and comprehensive answers to customer queries
3) You want to generate and nurture leads
The more you know about your customer, the more likely you will be able to provide content, products and services that appeal to them.
Through asking the right questions, your chatbot can gain relevant information, segment your audience, and qualify leads before they arrive at your human sales team.
Taking this a step further, the presence of a salesperson can actually complicate a lead when they are introduced to the process too soon.
A chatbot removes this intrusion and can provide the support of a salesperson before someone is ready to engage with an actual salesperson. This develops prospects and guides them down your sales funnel.
4) You want to add personality to your brand
So far we’ve talked about the tangible benefits that chatbots are able to provide. And while these are all very real and reinforced by data, they don’t cover an important feature of chatbots we haven’t touched on yet.
That is, to add some valuable character and help you stand out in the crowded digital space.
Programming your chatbot to bring some light-hearted personality can help people to feel connected to your brand. This helps to put people at ease and lead to more enjoyable experiences with your business.
Keep in mind, natural language and a clarity of choices should always form the basis of your chatbot, but adding a little touch of character here and there can go a long way in helping you stand out. This will become particularly influential as more and more businesses adopt chatbots and the niche becomes saturated with generic virtual assistants.
4 Reasons NOT to use Chatbots
1) Your customers are not tech savvy
Technology is widely used but not widely understood.
Adding layers of technology that your audience are forced to interact with can damage the perception of your business if your audience is unable to fully engage with it.
Though not a hard and fast rule by any measure, it’s typically the case that the older your audience is, they longer they take to adapt to new technology. This means you should consider your own audience before you replace your human customer service representatives with chatbots.
Is your audience likely to embrace this change? Or will they resist it?
If you find your audience has not shown a willingness to embrace technological change, you should think long and hard before forcing chatbots on them.
2) You are processing sensitive financial details
We live in an age where digital privacy is fragile.
Businesses who are able to demonstrate a high level of security across their storage of data will stand out above the rest. If your business handles sensitive personal data, particularly credit card information, you should avoid assigning all responsibility to chatbots.
You can have the best of both worlds by implementing a system of hybrid human/AI chatbots where an employee has the final control over the information in question. Using this system you’ll be able to protect your customer’s details, as opposed to leaving their data unprotected and risking destroying the relationship you have built with them.
3) There is no demand from your customers
Technology is inherently exciting. Think about the last time you held a new mobile phone in your hand. The way your heart beat a little faster as you felt it at your fingertips for the first time.
The temptation to utilise the most recent technology can be strong. But you should weigh up carefully whether the need for your product outweighs your desire to tap into a new trend.
Always keep in mind, using chatbots when they are not necessary to your brand can damage it in the long run.
If you find you are comfortably handling your business-to-customer dynamic, and your audience benefits from the human element, you shouldn’t risk impacting that.
This risk becomes a major problem, compounding over time, once frustration sets in. If your audience comes to your bot with complaints and they are unable to find the resolution they were seeking, your brand will only suffer further.
If you don’t need it, don’t use it.
4) Your customers need to speak to a human
Time-saving methods can help transform your business.
And by freeing up time to be spent on endeavours that drive meaningful business outcomes, chatbots fall firmly into this time-saving category. However, if your audience requires a human representative you won’t be freeing up your time.
Instead, you will be following up on countless complaints that only clog up your schedule and bring your productivity to a grinding halt.
95% of consumers believe customer service is going to be the major beneficiary of chatbots. But if your audience is contacting you beyond a simple, back-and-forth binary dialogue, then your chatbots will not be capable of handling their requests and your customer service goals will suffer.
This is particularly noticeable in dynamics that are driven by strong emotion. With 61% of people saying they would feel more frustrated if a chatbot could not solve their problem, you need to carefully weigh up the need.
Is your chatbot set up to handle complaints or manage disgruntled clients?
If so, you might find the use of technology only inflames the situation rather than calm it.
Technology is rapidly evolving and with it approaches to marketing must change too.
Chatbots are able to offer your audience a personalised experience, gather and analyse customer data, provide 24/7 support throughout the purchasing cycle, and showcase your brand’s personality too.
More and more businesses are seeing the value of streamlining their customer service process to qualify leads, generate sales and increase conversions.
Will you be next?