Let’s Chat: Is Your Business Ready for Chatbots?
We are now entering a new world of business communications. One where we talk less through voice and more through text. Welcome to the era of chatbots.
The stars have come together, or maybe it’s the planets that have converged. At any rate, we have arrived at a time that could not be better for the emergence of chatbots. Years of artificial intelligence (A.I.) development and natural language processing (NLP) studies have made them possible. People’s preference for texting makes them desirable. Plus, (bonus!), they don’t call for downloading yet another app to users’ already crowded screens.
These are the whys of chatbots, now let’s look at the what.
What chatbots are
A chatbot is a basic A.I. system that responds to text. Users can ask a chatbot for something as direct as a weather forecast. Or they can give it a more complex task to run such as asking it to troubleshoot an internet problem. Interactions may be a short as one turn, i.e. one outgoing and one incoming interaction. Or they can consist of as many turns as the situation calls for.
What chatbots are not
Chatbots are not messaging apps. Rather, they use messaging apps as their canvasses. Facebook Messenger and KIk are two of the pioneering platforms that have chatbot services. But you can bet others will be unveiling their versions as soon as they can. This is what makes chatbot so appealing to businesses. They don’t have to come up with an app. They just use the platforms their customers frequent, and are comfortable with.
Chatbots in the business world
There are two types of chatbots at present, those that are based on multiple-choice scripts, and those that use A.I. Both aim to create personalized content experiences for users. Although A.I. has the greater potential, the technology has gone awry in several cases, creating brand-damaging situations. For this reason, most businesses stick to the more brand-safe script based chatbots. And if the numbers mean anything, most are using Facebook or KIk platforms. The former hosts over 700 million users and the latter, 200 million. Companies that use both platforms for simple questions and tasks can accommodate over a billion users. At the same time, they free up their human employees for more complex situations.
For example, chatbots can:
- drive online sales by sending customers recommendations or coupons based on previous searches and purchases.
- drive brand engagement by delivering interactive personalized content to prospective customers.
- automatically provide customers with answers to often asked questions regarding matters like return policies or providing delivery tracking numbers.
- provide automated services like booking a ride carrying out a routine banking transaction.
If your business is ready for chatbots, there are a few caveats you should keep in mind when creating your first one.
Best practices when creating a business chatbot
- Use it to deliver content rather than to sell. Granted, the better the customer experience a chatbot can deliver, the more you’ll make in sales. But you’ll get better results if approach t it from a marketing view rather than a selling one.
- Include a browsing menu so users can find content they’re interested in.
- Inform users how to get in contact with you should they need additional help or have a customer service issue.
- Make sure your site is mobile-responsive.
- Use a simple interface to facilitate seamless interactions.
What’s in store for chatbot technology
At present, chatbots are best at performing straightforward tasks that make people’s lives easier. They are not meant to take away their jobs. Chatbots are unable to think laterally or interact with other systems. A bot may be able to process a credit card faster than a human, but it can’t think like one. Therefore, chatbot platforms always have a flesh and blood person ready to step in, if needed.
However, no one who’s lived through the technology tsunami of the past fifty years can expect the bot landscape to stay unchanged. Microsoft, for one, foresees a future world where typing chatbots and talking personal assistants will predict and fulfill a user’s every need.
The bottom line
There’s no disputing that within the next few years, chatbots will become indispensable for businesses of all sizes. So, now is the time to look into them. They won’t cost you much to use, nor will they take time away from your otherwise busy employees. In fact, a chatbot will mean you can assign your capable workers to tasks that can better serve their potential and your bottom line.