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4 Uses for a Chatbot That Will Transform Your Business What's the difference between a chatbot and a genie in a bottle? The chatbot is easier to use, is more engaging, and provides a better ROI if you use it in these 4 ways.

By Serenity Gibbons

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Chatbots are receiving a lot of press these days, and with good reason. These automated assistants are available 24/7, and they cater perfectly to users who are abandoning phone lines to do research, shop, and interact with brands on mobile devices. According to research conducted for Facebook, 56 percent of customers prefer messaging customer service over picking up the phone, and businesses and customers exchange 2 billion messages per month. Businesses that can capitalize on these trends by implementing chatbots clearly stand to gain considerable advantages.

Customer service is expensive, but Entrepreneur reports that AI-driven technology can save as much as 30 percent simply by resolving the bulk of basic customer inquiries and leaving the more complicated interactions to human agents. Moreover, the benefits aren't confined to the customer service space.

When HubSpot decided to try using Facebook Messenger to get leads to attend an event, lead costs fell by 477 percent and click-through rate increased by 619 percent, according to the same Entrepreneur article. These results would garner attention at almost any implementation price, but in this case the bot integration was free.

Related: How Chatbots Save Time and Change How Business Gets Done

With benefits such as lead generation, a boost to conversions, cost savings in areas such as customer service, and engagement in channels that customers prefer, chatbots are a golden opportunity for businesses. Here's how to use them to realize their full potential.

1. Give customers a personal assistant.

Many businesses will test the chatbot waters by using them to send push notifications, but if you stop there, you're missing the point. They offer an incredible array of capabilities that drive business value. Fang Cheng, CEO and co-founder of Linc Global, points out that "Chatbots aren't just notification tools -- they're a brand's automated assistant. Naturally, they need to have a broad range of capabilities, from pre-purchase assistance to post-purchase customer care."

Before you get too ambitious, start by focusing on creating a superlative experience with extensive capabilities in a single channel. Once you've accomplished this goal, broaden the reach of your assistant across multiple channels such as SMS, voice platforms, and apps such as Messenger. For instance, 1-800-Flowers opted to develop bots for each major channel after seeing success with its Messenger bot. Of the company's bot orders, 70 percent are from new customers.

2. Power Facebook ads with chatbot technology.

Instead of creating ads that send users to your home page or app, you can make it so clicking an ad opens a chat window in Messenger. Because you have each user's identifying information, you can personalize these ads from the very first interaction.

As you would with any Facebook ad, you'll want to carefully select your target audience. Reach out to individuals who have heard about your business before, as they'll be the most likely to continue interacting with your bot. When Matthew Black of Black Ops coupled Facebook ads with a chatbot geared toward Ultimate Fighting Championship fans, 501 people engaged with the bot out of 714 total ad clicks, and the users had 5.7 conversations with the bot on average.

3. Offer customers constant communication.

Customers now expect to be able to interact with your company around the clock. While large corporations can meet this expectation without too much sweat, it can be a difficult perk for smaller companies to offer. Enter chatbots, which can juggle thousands of conversations at once and never need to make a dash for coffee or take a mental break.

Related: Why Consumer-Facing Enterprises Need To Evolve With The Modern Customer

Use chatbots to collect customer information and answer questions about shipping and order tracking. By handling these low-level communication tasks, bots decrease the volume of customer service requests that your human agents have to process. In addition, chatbots can act as digital shopping assistants for those shopping online. For instance, H&M's online site features a bot that's available to customers anytime; it assists them with their searches by presenting various outfits and making suggestions based on their personal style.

4. Give your bot a personality.

Customers won't chat with an impersonal bot, so you need to give yours a face and a voice. This means it's time for your creative team to flex its muscles, but set a few guidelines first. Establishing a tone for your bot is critical to engaging customers, but you want that tone to reflect the nature of the tasks it's performing. For example, if your customers are booking tickets to take their kids to Disney on Ice, they'll expect a different tone than if they're transferring six-figure sums between bank accounts.

To help the 375,000 daily visitors to its website, Amtrak created an automated assistant called Julie. What started out as a phone-based service agent has expanded to include a chat function, meaning customers can now interact with Julie however they see fit. Since implementing the bot, Amtrak has received 25 percent more bookings, and the company estimates it saves $1 million in customer service costs each year thanks to a reduction in the number of email inquiries.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

Chatbots have a wide range of capabilities, and there's a good chance that your competitors are pursuing the technology. Don't get left behind. By tapping into the potential of chatbots, you can transform the way customers can interact with your business.

Serenity Gibbons

Equal Rights Advocate, Promoting Amazing Companies Across the Globe

Serenity Gibbons is a former assistant editor at the Wall Street Journal and a New York University alumna living in California. She is the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. She enjoys writing and interviewing people who are making a difference in the world. 

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