Remember the brief period at school when you’d be a social outcast if you didn’t have a yoyo?
For a spell of about three weeks in primary school, if you didn’t have a yoyo, your life was futile and meaningless. If you did have a yoyo, and your yoyo had flashing lights and you could ‘walk the dog’ like a boss, your street cred was literally off the chart.
To this day, the sight of a yoyo gives me mild social anxiety.
But, as alarmingly quickly as they became a ‘thing’, everyone got bored of yoyos. I can’t remember what came next; pogs, tamagotchis, pokemon cards. Whatever. But something always came next, because kids are fickle toerags.
You know who’s worse than kids when it comes to being fickle?
Someone discovers the next big thing, proclaims it as the Future of Marketing™, and we all charge towards it, elbowing each other out the way to get our sticky hands on it.
Once we get there, we devour it. We’re obsessed. It’s all we’ll talk about for months. Our friends and spouses hate us, but we don’t care. Because we’ve discovered the Future of Marketing™. We’re going to change the world!
And then we get bored of it.
We get bored because someone’s discovered the next next big thing.
Is it the same deal with chatbots?
Are Chatbots Just the Latest Marketing Craze?
Well, yes, of course they are. That’s the simple answer to that question. Chatbots are all marketers will bloody talk about. We’re all trying to get in on the chatbot game, discovering new angles and ways they can be used. There are lots of hilarious jokes circulating about ‘the robots taking over’. It really is a textbook example of the next big thing in marketing.
But there’s something a bit different going on here.
Because, actually, chatbots are as beneficial to consumers as they are to the businesses that use them.
80% of businesses want a chatbot by 2020. Big surprise. But what’s really exciting about chatbots is that customers actually want to use them, too.
Hubspot research shows that 71% of people would currently use chatbots for assistance. A large part of the reason people are so receptive to the ‘robots taking over’ in this sense, is because they’re better at it than people. Chatbots can give assistance fast. They tell people what they want to know and nothing more. Questions can be answered without any fear of bias in the response.
Gartner forecast that 85% of customer interactions will be made without human involvement.
This is one marketing craze you may want to get on board with.
But let’s slow down a little.
Before we start talking the ins and outs of chatbots for business, let’s just make sure we’re clear on what a chatbot actually is.
What is a Chatbot?
Ok, back to it… A chatbot is a computer programme that automates tasks. It usually does this by ‘chatting’ to a customer through a conversational interface (i.e. a messaging platform).
Chatbots that use AI are rapidly expanding on the horizon, but the technology is still in its infancy. Most chatbots at the moment are what’s called ‘rule-based’.
What is a Rule-Based Chatbot?
Rule-based chatbots follow a set of rules that have been programmed by a regular old human. They are usually mapped out using a ‘conversational flowchart’ of ‘if-then’ scenarios. They’re not technically hard to create (there are chatbot building platforms that enable you to create one without learning a single line of code), but they still take a lot of work to get right.
Do I Need a Chatbot For My Business?
If you’re asking if you should get a chatbot for your business, Hubspot says you’re asking the wrong question.
The question you should be asking is ‘how can I use chatbots in my business?’
Chatbots can be used in lots of different ways, so you need to work out Chatbots are best used for one specific purpose – they’re not too hot at multitasking. You’re far better off choosing one specific task you want your bot to take charge of, and making sure it does it incredibly well.
What Are The Different Types of Chatbot?
Chatbots can roughly be sorted into two categories: informational, and utility.
Informational chatbots answer customer queries. That might not sound like a huge deal, but a good bot can do it a lot better than a human can.
Informational chatbots can answer questions instantly, at any time, and they can answer multiple queries at once. No more waiting on the line for 45 minutes with Mozart-on-loop sending you into a spiral of insanity. That’s a game changer.
Informational chatbots can also personalise communication by providing only the information that people are looking for, and nothing extra. Wading through pages of FAQs to find an answer to your question is nobody’s idea of a great time. Chatbots mean people no longer have to.
What Can an Informational Chatbot Do For My Business?
An informational chatbot would have two main benefits to your business:
- It would improve your response rate. If someone has a question about your product or service, they want an answer quickly. If you don’t answer fast enough, they’ll go to someone who will. According to Medium, 90% of queries sent over to business facebook pages go unanswered, so a chatbot could put you miles ahead when it comes to customer service.
- It would automate repetitive tasks. This is a biggie for your team’s productivity. Even the chirpiest customer service employee must want to blow their brains out after they’ve answered the same exact question more than a hundred times. A chatbot takes on this task much more efficiently than a human, doesn’t whinge about it, and reduces your employees’ workload meaning they are free to be more productive elsewhere.
Utility chatbots do jobs for people rather than just providing information. The list of what they can do is endless: from gathering customer information, to booking meetings, to ordering pizza.
The benefit of utility chatbots is that they make everyday tasks quicker, easier, and more streamlined. What’s more, chatbots enable you to complete multiple tasks all on the same messaging platform.
Take WeChat as an example. On WeChat (a Chinese multi-purpose ‘super app’ with over one billion active monthly users) users can book a doctor’s appointment, a taxi, a holiday, check the weather, and order food, all without leaving the WeChat platform. WeChat is now so ingrained into Chinese people’s daily lives, that the Economist stated that ‘people who divide their time between China and the West complain that leaving WeChat behind is akin to stepping back in time.’
So… there’s a lot of scope for utility chatbots, and the West needs to play catch up.
What Can a Utility Chatbot Do For My Business?
The list is limited only by your imagination. They could:
- Perform administrative tasks within a business, for example by collecting customer information or scheduling meetings.
- Streamline the shopping process if you sell your product/service online. One thing that’s really cool about chatbots is that they can almost act as ‘personal shopper’ on a website. Check out how H&M have used this to full advantage on Kik. The Kik-bot is able to learn about a user’s style, pick out clothing options, and even suggest matching items to complete a full outfit. This all comes without the awkward distrust that comes when a human salesperson is trying to push something onto a customer.
You can’t see the desperation to make a sale in a chatbot’s eyes. They don’t have eyes.
If you want a piece of this action, read on to find out how.
How Do I Go About Getting a Chatbot For My Business?
First, you need to commit to your bot. If you’re going to do this, you’ve got to do it right. People have a low tolerance for ‘bad bots’ or bots that get things wrong. Anyone who’s ever screamed down the phone during an automated call (i.e. everyone) can vouch for that.
Here’s how to make sure your chatbot is a ‘good bot’.
1. Choose a single function for your chatbot.
Remember, good bots don’t multitask, so make sure you’re sure on the single most effective way a chatbot could help your customers. To really get this right, you need to know your customers inside out. You need to know what they want, what their pain points are, what most frustrates them about your product currently. Also…
2. Make sure you know which messaging platform your customer uses.
Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, WeChat? People will only want to use your chatbot if it lives on a messaging platform that they already use. Knowing where your customers are is crucial if you want to make this thing a success. You need to delve even deeper into your customer’s psyche for the next one…
3. Make sure you know how your customer speaks.
Sounds weird, but this is absolutely vital. Let me explain…
The main part of building your chatbot involves mapping out what’s called a ‘conversation strategy’. It’s basically a flow chart. Chatbot building platforms will have an inbuilt way of adding all the possible question/answer combos from your customers, but it’s your job to know what those questions will be. It’s also your job to know how your customer will ask them.
For example, if you programme your chatbot to ask, ‘would you like fries with that?’, how would your customer answer? A simple ‘Yes’, or maybe ‘You’ve twisted my arm’? Perhaps ‘Nah thanks, I’m on a diet’. Your chatbot needs to speak your customer’s language, and that’s why building one is such a huge job.
When talking about chatbots, Medium says:
“Language is influenced by advertising campaigns on the market, the political situation in the country, releases of new services and products from Google, Apple and Pepsi among others. The way people speak depends on their city, mood, weather and moon phase… That’s why training a chatbot to understand correctly everything the user types requires a lot of effort.”
“The challenge of building a bot isn’t a technical one. It’s conversational.”
Remember that when you’re planning out your bot. Chatbot building software platforms enable you to build a chatbot with zero coding knowledge, but you need to teach your chatbot how to have a conversation with your customer that’s unlikely to end with your bot saying,
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Your customers will quickly get frustrated if your bot doesn’t understand or misinterprets their requests. The 71% people who would want to use a chatbot for assistance would do so because they want help fast. If your chatbot slows them down, your customers won’t be happy.
In short, make sure you know your human customers inside out before you even start whispering about the possibility of a robot helper.
4. Be prepared to keep tweaking your chatbot… for ages.
You won’t get your chatbot right first time. That is as near to a guarantee as can be made in this world.
It’s just not the kind of thing that you can build perfectly, set free into the world, and never think about again other than to muse, “My bot is such a good bot…”
Your chatbot will need a lot of tweaking and testing before you send it out into the wild, and it will continue to need a lot of tweaking and testing afterwards as well. That’s where great bots are made: not in the first building phase, but with extended dedication to improvement further down the line.
Only once you’ve accepted/decided on all of the above, you can start to think about which method you’ll use to create your chatbot.
There are two main options:
1. Build a chatbot from scratch
There are definite advantages to building your chatbot from scratch (e.g. more variation over functionality/design, and control over the platform, but it’s definitely a costly option. Unless you’re already in the know, you’re going to need to hire a software developer to build your bot for you, and that is going to require you to dig deep.
2. Build a chatbot using a chatbot builder
This is what I was talking about when I said you could build a chatbot without knowing how to code.
There are a ton out there, but some of the most popular chatbot building platforms (in order of awesome name-ness) are:
Check each one out to discover which messenger platforms they connect with and which one would best serve your business.
For some chatbot-related inspiration, check out these chatbot search engines:
Also, if you haven’t already checked out this HubSpot post on chatbots, I highly recommend that you do. It’s bloody beautiful. They also go into more detail about creating your chatbot ‘conversation flowchart’, which is vital to utmost chatbot success.
As you can tell, I’m currently clutching onto chatbots as tightly as I did my super-awesome flashing battery-operated yoyo back in the 90s. I’m not the best person to tell you whether or not chatbots are just a passing craze, but I hope this post has shown you the scope of possibility of them at least.
Chatbots have such awesome potential for businesses (both B2B and B2C) and customers, that it’s important that we don’t scorch this one to the ground.
As with any ‘next big thing’ in marketing, there is the potential for us to get a little over excited, and end up overusing and abusing this amazing new technology.
A lot of trust has been lost over the years between customers, marketers and businesses. And understandably so; some of the methods that have been used with the sole purpose of increasing sales have been downright shady. Many people thought the chasm of distrust had grown too wide to ever be crossed, but chatbots have the potential to bridge the divide with their lack of bias and genuine usefulness.
Whatever you decide you want your chatbot to do for your business, make sure your first focus is on what you want your chatbot to do for your customers.
If you want to have a chat about how Leadfreak could help create a chatbot for your business, book a free, no obligation call today.