The use of chatbots has exploded this year and continues to create opportunities for businesses all around the globe. Entrepreneurs who understand this technology have more ways to interact with their customer base because these chatbots put their business right in the middle of the action.
If you’re still new to the idea, let me explain. A chatbot allows you to have a quasi-conversation with a computer. Thanks to new developments in artificial intelligence, these chatbots can interpret your requests, and, based on particular rules in programming, can direct you to an answer or have a conversation with you in order to help you in some way.
When you want to understand the business aspects of chatbots for your company, you want to talk to Paul Armstrong. Armstrong runs HERE/FORTH, the advisory that helps business leaders decide how to best use rapidly changing and emerging technologies, and is the author of Disruptive Technologies; Understand, Evaluate and Respond.
I sat down with Armstrong to determine the right path to take when deciding if chatbots are right for your business. Here are three key takeaways from our conversation.
1. Chatbots can’t take the place of human interaction.
Chatbots are generally built on the back of a previously created platform like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Armstrong believes that ultimately, chatbots are meant to reduce strain, save money or speed up something in order to make or save money. Armstrong also believes that small businesses will be more tempted to overuse them when corresponding with their audience, thinking they'll attract more customers when in fact, the bots could alienate existing customers. Sometimes the human touch, while costly, is the best result.
The online workspace is ever-changing, and it’s up to you to determine which aspects are best, not only for your business, but also for the people who patronize your business. With chatbots, you take the chance of a poorly processed program losing a client or potential customer -- which could have been avoided had you just used a more personal touch for your business.
One of the ways you can test the waters of chatbots is to design one to answer commonly asked questions you get from your audience daily. This will save you time and will allow your business to help a person with a pressing question by automating this one answer, or perhaps two. Ease into the chatbot waters slowly as your business progresses towards new technology because it can never take the place of a human conversation.
2. Customers should be allowed to opt out of chatbot conversations.
For Armstrong, this should be a standard practice for businesses who use chatbots. “People shouldn't be railroaded into using a bot against their will and yet this is a strategy. I am seeing more and more. It won't work for aging populations and is already seeing backlash online.”
First of all, when the conversation starts between your chatbot and your customer, be transparent. This whole strategy isn’t about tricking people into believing they are having a conversation with a real human being, but to help them solve their problems quicker and bring results faster. There should be a safeword programmed into your chatbot which will let it know when the customer wants more or needs to talk to a real representative.
The main point here is to use your bot in the first stages of the quandary, and then allow it to hand the customer off to you or one of your employees for further help. If the customer’s question or problem cannot be solved with one or two messages, then the bot should know it’s time to hand this off to someone who can help even further. Don’t just give your customers an option to opt out of a conversation with your chatbot, but have it programmed to know when it can no longer be of service to them and bring someone else in to help.
3. The multi-faced chatbot for business.
Created well, chatbots have the potential to build your businesses very quickly. They can save you time and money, and they can wear many hats within your company.
Armstrong suggests if you have a lot of low level calls about things that are on the website or could be answered simply, you may want think about creating a chatbot and educating your consumers about their other options. Another reason to get a chatbots could be to lower the information needed to be gathered by a human before a telephone call -- this is one of the most frequently cited things that annoys customers about calls -- or it may simply be a more convenient way for your customer to communicate with you.
“Ultimately, the question to ask yourself is what job or jobs can or do our consumers want us to do with them?” Armstrong said. Understanding this question, you begin to realize the benefits chatbots have within your business. They are less costly to develop than apps, and the customer does not need to download your programming for it to work. Chatbots can easily be shared between people who are already on a chat platform or group, and those who are early adopters of your chatbot can improve customer loyalty within your business.
What job does the customer need you (or the chatbot) to perform? This is the main question you should be asking yourself. Does it make sense to create a chatbot for your client base or audience? Your chatbot can be multi-faceted and well-equipped to take your business into the new era of business technology, however, it will be up to you to determine how you are going to use this powerful piece of equipment within your business.
Chatbots are a great way to stay in touch with your congregation and keep a consistent line of help between your business and your audience. Whether you are just thinking about creating a chatbot for your company or you have already been in the trenches with this tech for a while now, there is one question you need to ask yourself: “Is this helping my audience and giving them the best possible customer care on behalf of my business?” If so, carry on, and continue to impress and influence.