We are now living in the age of artificial intelligence where companies are figuring out how to embed human smarts into machines to help improve customer relations. While not everyone is a fan of this technology, it has come a long way and can automate some processes when used well. We all have heard of Apple’s Siri which has become a very beloved chatbot.
Facebook have recently invested significant effort into the development of chatbots for its Messenger app. But what are chatbots, how can you use them, and what are the benefits of doing so?
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is essentially a computer program that mimics real-life interactions to help provide information and help potential customers find what they need. The most basic types of chatbots can answer simple questions, and relay product information.
More complex chatbots allow you to combine the automated chatbot responses with actual employee interaction to help answer more complex questions. The chatbot can then learn from the human the ‘right’ way to answer that question thus learning from previous conversations to become increasingly more effective.
Even if you aren’t into technology then don’t let your personal feelings get in the way of the data. A study by eMarketer reports that 1.4 billion people engaged with a chatbot in 2015.
How chatbots can help e-commerce businesses
Chatbots can be used to automate updates relating to weather, traffic, promotions and much more. They are easy to set up and save costs by reducing the time drain on your employees who may spend hours a week answering the same customer service queries.
A chatbot also help provide a uniform, consistent reply (unlike a staff member who could go off-script). They also allow for unprecedented customer reach.
Chatbots can also gather statistics and data allowing you to track customers purchasing patterns, habits (e.g. times they are online) and common complaints. Some companies use chatbots to process payments online as well.
Examples of how other businesses use chatbots
U.K. Clothing chain H&M uses chatbots to interact with customers and quiz them on their style preferences. This helps qualify their leads and let them generate tailored recommendations to customers to help sell products and services 24/7 outside of their stores opening hours.
Kayak’s chatbot helps find the best flights, hotels and activities for travellers at the touch of a button simply by them inputting their desired travel dates and locations.
Pizza Hut’s Facebook messenger chatbots are currently used to promote their latest pizza offerings.
The possibilities are endless and the good news is that Facebook is allowing businesses the ability to integrate their own chatbots into the Messenger platform.
To chatbot or not?
One of the biggest benefits of chatbots (and the reason why many customers engage with them) is that they can get an immediate reply. Instead of having to wait five hours or even two days for an online response, or having to send an email, visit a store or make a phone call, they can get an accurate response to a simple enquiry in seconds from wherever they are.
You may worry that using chatbot technology is going to require hiring some expensive artificial intelligence professional. However, in most cases this isn’t the case. Despite many people thinking of this technology as being very new, it’s actually been around for a while. There are now more than 11,500 bots that have been developed on messenger and nearly 23,500 developers working on new bots using tools offered by Facebook. This means in most cases you do not need to reinvent the wheel; you can actually piggyback on what already exists.
Have you experimented with chatbots working in your small business? Has it worked for you? Let us know in the comments section below.