Chatbots. They may sound like a fairly futuristic invention, but the reality is, chatbots are fast becoming the go-to way for businesses to interact with their consumers. If you’re still confused as to how they can actually service your business, and if they are worth the hassle, we’ve broken down the facts below.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a service that can be powered by either artificial intelligence or a configuration of rules. Depending on the type used, chatbots will function differently but almost always via a chat interface that is accessed when visiting a website.
If the chatbots function based on set rules, they will only really respond to specific commands based on a list of keywords and responses programmed during the setup process, which means it will struggle to respond if you don’t mention one of the pre-programmed keywords. However, if powered by machine learning, the chatbot has an artificial brain that will recognise what you are asking, without being overly specific. This type of chatbot is designed to function like a human and gets smarter the more it interacts with people.
How are they used?/What’s their purpose?
Bots aren’t just a fun accessory to your website, they are placed there with a purpose. Whether it’s to tell the weather, provide information on the latest news headlines, or deal with customer queries, there are endless possibilities with chatbots, as they are created to suit whichever service you provide. They are being increasingly used on eCommerce sites however, as it’s possible for customers to have a conversation with an ‘assistant’ that mimics the experience of speaking to someone in a brick and mortar store. This can help improve online sales and customer retention.
So we know their purpose, but are chatbots worth it? Do they actually do what they set out to?
Adding a chatbot to your website can be a lengthy process. You essentially have to teach it to walk, so to speak. This means feeding the bot all the relevant information it needs to recognise certain keywords so they trigger certain responses. It will then also need to present information in a way that doesn’t come across as robotic, ironic, we know, but the more it seems your chatbot is reeling information from a script, the angrier your consumers will be. You have to therefore be prepared for the time and effort that will have to go into setting up a chatbot on your site.
Another downside to chatbots is that they can often stumble over more complex queries, which can cause more frustration for consumers. Users want to be made to feel important, but a ‘does not compute’ response isn’t going to make them feel this way. This is where chatbots can’t entirely replace humans when it comes to real engagement and conflict resolution.
There are of course many positives to having a chatbot installed on your site. After all, that time and effort of the setup process shouldn’t be for nothing. Computer algorithms do excel at finding information quickly, sometimes much quicker than your average person and a search engine… this is where chatbots really come into play. Handling sales queries and being able to provide quick responses and customer support is what chatbots are known for. You’ll often find if a customer needs an immediate answer, they will no longer pick up the phone to call someone, they’ll use a search engine or a chatbot.
Chatbots are also available 24/7, meaning they can handle international queries or late-night complaints while you are tucked up in bed. Let’s face it too, they won’t complain about doing it. You can keep your humans happy doing what they would prefer to be doing, while the chatbots filter through the repetitive requests.
Let’s face it, technology is only going to get better. If you’ve seen the now infamous Google Assistant booking a hair appointment video, you’ll know how advanced these assistants are becoming at reenacting human conversations in such a lifelike way that even takes into consideration tone of voice and colloquialisms. We can’t hide from the fact that AI is going to be a huge part of our future, so we may as well embrace it.
Should you go for it?
If you feel like you don’t have the time to respond to the number of queries you get, then sure, especially considering they can be used just about anywhere, from live chat and email, to social media and Facebook Messenger. Chatbots aren’t the right fit for every website, but chances are, if you are selling something or offering some sort of service, they will add a beneficial element to your site. Just be prepared and don’t expect it to be up and running quickly.