Technology drives change in the workplace and, of late, artificial intelligence has been discussed as the “next big thing” that will dramatically change customer interactions.
As our society has become more interconnected and automated, constructs such as chatbots are revolutionizing how online businesses, customer service departments, sales and marketing take place. But is this a good thing?
As the founder of a web design company, I understand that it’s important for our team to stay on top of trends. Because there are many bottom-line benefits to using chatbots, this feature is something we always recommend to our clients when building a new site. Below, we’ll dive into some of those benefits, as well as how you can get started with a chatbot for your own brand.
What is a chatbot?
According to Investopedia, “A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both.”
The roots of AI (and thus, chatbots) go back to the ’50s with Alan Turing’s Turing Test, which tested the ability for a machine to utilize intelligent behavior similar to a human. Advances in chatbot technology moved slowly, and a new breakthrough would come approximately every 10 years — until 2010, when Apple released the iPhone app Siri.
Development has increased rapidly, with many companies developing chatbots. Some even pair it with a messaging app or virtual assistant, which then provides a more in-depth experience. For example, Salesforce launched an SMS chatbot in 2014, which now includes Facebook Messenger.
The compound annual growth rate of chatbots is just over 24%, with the global chatbot market expected to reach $1.25 billion in 2025, according to a 2017 report from Grand View Research.
An Extension Of Live Chat
Before live chat became a viable option, there were only two ways you could contact a company with questions: phone or email. Both options require patience to obtain results.
Enter live chat, a real-time messaging application connecting customers to a business. It’s convenient and can directly affect a customer’s decision making process if they are making or considering making a purchase and have a question. Our society has become a real-time culture where we want and expect immediate satisfaction because of the level of connectivity we now have. Now, automation has been added to live chat, which is where the evolution of chatbots currently stands.
Assisting Customer Service And Marketing Automation
One area where companies like Salesforce feel chatbots will make a significant difference is with “micro-moment exchanges.” In an article from September 2017, Meredith Flynn-Ripley, vice president of mobile messaging for Salesforce, discussed how chatbots could relieve agents from doing mundane tasks such as information gathering, which would free up more time to handle problems a bot cannot.
Another area in which they can improve business is marketing automation, primarily due to availability. It can be difficult to staff an office eight hours a day, let alone 24 hours a day, but chatbots are on the clock 365 days a year.
Additionally, a chatbot integrated with Facebook Messenger has access to 1.4 billion monthly active users on the platform. According to a research study from HubSpot, more people were more perceptive when being engaged via Facebook Messenger compared to email. The average open rate of Messenger broadcasts was 80% versus 33% with email.
How You Can Get Started
Identify goals. A chatbot should solve actual problems your business is facing. Step into the customer’s shoes, and follow the customer journey, looking for areas where a chatbot can enhance and improve the journey. Examples would be answering basic questions, assisting a process such as purchases or informing customers about promotions.
Decide between platform or development. There are a handful of credible platforms available to build bots from, such as ManyChat or Chatfuel, or you can develop one from scratch. While the development option likely will take more time, it will also result in a more customized bot. An existing platform is generally faster and less expensive to get started with. However, there is less customization, and there may be interface issues with multiple channels.
Outline the design. You must imagine the various ways a conversation might go from beginning to end from both sides. Then, you can craft responses to help move the conversation forward, accounting for unexpected responses as well. Remember to make use of “yes” or “no” buttons for quick responses, offer options in your questions to direct the conversation and use variety in responses to vary the experience. You can give your bot a small dose of personality, reflecting your brand tone.
Consider and add channels. Chatbots can be used across multiple channels and are savvy enough to connect conversations on those platforms. Decide which channels you want to operate on, and then design your conversation flow to work with those channels.
Include a human connection. You should always include an option to connect to a live person for help. By not including this option, you risk losing leads.
Test and revise. You should review the onboarding process, verify any links provided are working properly, check that responses fall within text limits on platforms used and try weird phrases to confuse your bot and see how it responds.
Launch and monitor. Study interactions between the bot and customers, and look for ways to improve interactions.
Will chatbots replace humans?
For now, chatbots won’t replace humans. While certain functions could be replaced to provide a faster, more efficient interaction with customers, AI will continue to be limited. Companies do not wish for an experience like when Microsoft’s Twitter-trained AI, Tay, went on a xenophobic rant.
It is much easier to limit chatbots and AI to specific scenarios and options rather than open the door for a negative experience, which could affect the brand or even create security issues. At the same time, the ability for chatbots to handle an unlimited amount of chats simultaneously is a fantastic support tool. But until they develop empathy and human problem-solving skills, they won’t be able to replace us.