Chatbots have become a powerful tool in today’s increasingly automated business landscape. Their streamlined approach to simple problem solving and customer engagement makes them popular among larger businesses. But should your company use them? If you’re unsure of how, or when, to make use of chatbots, the information below will point you in the right direction.
Sure enough, the robots are taking over, but they’ve still got a ways to go.
In an increasingly automated business environment, chatbots have become a popular tool for companies to employ in their customer interactions. A well-programmed chatbot can answer questions, help website visitors accomplish their goals, and generally streamline interactions on your website in ways that don’t involve an actual employee (and lots of overhead).
However, when misused, chatbots can be a disaster. A chatbot faux pas runs the risk of undoing the kind of customer satisfaction the bot was originally designed to facilitate.
So when should you use chatbots? Should you use them at all?
Despite their limitations, chatbots remain useful and necessary tools to take advantage of in your sales and marketing efforts.
What Chatbots Should Do
While it’s true that there are bots on social media sites and elsewhere online — often engaged in unethical activities — keep in mind that those aren’t the bots we’re talking about here. The chatbots we’re referring to can usually be found on business websites.
There are a lot of practical uses for chatbots, but knowing when and where to employ them can be a tricky thing to learn. You always want to find ways to streamline and improve your audience’s experience, and chatbots can be a great resource in doing that. They can remove the hassle of needing to talk to a real person, provide quick answers to a large variety of questions, funnel visitors to book meetings or demos, and generally aid in making sure the customer’s needs are met in a timely manner.
When used ethically for marketing and customer service purposes, chatbots can make it easier for customers to get what they need. Here are some of the things you can, and should, do with the chatbots you use on your website.
When using chatbots on your website, it’s always important to be upfront with your audience. Inform them they are interacting with a bot and not a human being. Most people won’t mind engaging with a bot if it means getting the fastest results, but being honest and upfront will remove the risk of upsetting a customer or turning away a prospective lead by inadvertently deceiving them.
Honesty is always the best policy, and if you’ve set up a good chatbot in the first place, there’s really no reason for you to hide its identity.
While a bot that sounds and feels real can be good for promoting engagement, always make sure that it makes itself known as soon as possible. You can do this by having the bot declare itself in its opening statement and by using robot imagery in your bot’s chat portrait to drive the point home.
Use Casual Language to Facilitate Engagement
Being upfront about your bots is important, but that honesty shouldn’t relegate your bot to communicating like a drab, mechanical bore. Instead, design a bot that uses casual, natural-sounding language. The more expressive the bot, the better your customer engagement will be.
You can even go a step further and outfit your chatbot with a personality of its own, which can go a long way toward further evolving and establishing your brand’s identity. Again, as long as people know they’re interacting with a bot and still get the answers they need, you have the ability to take some risks and find new, inventive ways of delighting the customer.
Surprising humor, on-brand advice, and even addressing customers by name can all help your chatbot connect with audiences, generate new leads, increase satisfaction, and ultimately tailor the customer experience to each unique visitor on your website.
Answer Questions and Provide Guidance
One of the clearest benefits of a chatbot is its ability to effectively respond to customer queries and questions. Since chatbots naturally gather information and are integrated with your website, they’re primed and ready to answer the kinds of practical questions that don’t have to involve a human respondent.
The bot you use on your site could ask if a visitor needs help finding something, if they have a question, or if they would like to be connected with a human representative; their applications are far-reaching and diverse and go a long way in supporting a seamless experience for your audience.
There’s little doubt that chatbots will continue to evolve and grow more complex as time goes on, but for the time being, keep things simple. The easier the bot’s job is, the better it’ll be able to provide helpful and successful service to the customer.
Evaluate Customer Engagement
Gathering customer feedback can be a hassle. Few people want to take the time to fill out a survey, and unless you offer valuable incentives, getting someone to evaluate their experience is rarely easy. With chatbots, however, you can remove the hassle entirely and gain access to a wealth of useful metrics and information on your customer’s engagement with your company.
When a chatbot naturally places questions into its conversations with customers, you can get a glimpse of your audience’s feelings, behaviors, and preferences. The more natural your bot’s dialogue, the more natural its questions will sound, making it that much easier for a customer to provide simple, but vital, information about themselves and their experiences.
With increasingly intricate systems coming out as well, you can outfit your chatbot with learning tools that will allow it to analyze the information it gathers on its own, saving you time and resources.
Link with Actual Salespeople
As effective as chatbots can be in handling the simple, menial tasks a customer may have for it, there will always come a point when it’ll be important to transfer a customer to a real salesperson. If someone asks your chatbot a question it’s not equipped to answer, or if they explicitly ask the bot for a human representative, then you need to make sure the bot is prepared to make that transfer.
If the chatbot can forward the information it has already gathered on the prospect, then that’s even better, as it fully equips the human representative to deal with whatever questions or problems they may be asked to deal with.
Chatbots can and should serve a unique purpose in your marketing and sales efforts, but they can’t fully replace the humans you employ. So, when it comes time to shift someone from a bot to a person, try to make that transition as smooth as possible. You want to offer a consistent experience for your audience, and the better your chatbot can facilitate the relationship between potential buyers and human sellers, the stronger your brand will be.
What Chatbots Should Not Do
Chatbots can be a fantastic resource for your marketing, sales, and customer service teams, but just like all things, their usefulness has limits. Set up realistic parameters for your chatbots that will keep them committed to their strengths and far, far away from their weaknesses. This way, they can avoid the risk of frustrating your website visitors and remain in their productive comfort zones.
To help you define what your chatbots should not do, take a look at the three examples below.
Chatbots Should Not be Overexerted
As useful as chatbots are, they can only deal with so much before their seams begin to show. Instead of overexerting your bot with responsibilities it’s just not equipped to manage, be sure to outline what its roles are, and set up parameters to make sure it sticks to those.
(Image source: https://chatbot.fail/)
People are willing to forgive a bot for small things, but when they’re forced to rely on a bot and then see it fail to deliver on their expectations, you’re in trouble. If your company is large enough to warrant multiple chatbots to handle different subjects, then do that, but always strive to keep the goals you assign to a bot as simple as possible.
Chatbots Should Not Handle Sensitive Information or Situations
Sensitive situations are probably the most important challenges to avoid giving to your chatbots. Any sensitive information—such as credit card numbers, personal demographics, etc.—should not be handled by a chatbot. The same goes for potentially higher-stress situations—like customer complaints—as any automation may escalate an already escalated situation.
In these cases, a human is always preferable to a bot. People inherently trust other people more than they trust machines, and your employees’ empathy and customer service skills are far better equipped to handle an upset customer than a piece of software.
Chatbots Should Not Close the Sale
In the same way, a chatbot shouldn’t be in charge of handling sensitive situations or information, so too should you keep bots away from the tail-end of the sales process. What chatbots can do, however, is nurture your leads through the sales funnel. Since this can be a long and time-consuming process for a single person to handle, the capable “hands” of a bot can help ensure that your leads are nurtured with relevant content and reminders that keep them engaged until it’s time for them to speak to a real person and make a purchase.
Chatbots won’t be replacing your human employees anytime soon, but as the artificial intelligence (AI) technology that fuels chatbots continue to evolve, their uses will as well, so it’s important for you and your company to be well-acquainted with them. This way, you can future-proof your company and prepare your staff to adapt alongside your industry.
How To Get a Chatbot
Now, you may be thinking: “Chatbots sound pretty neat, but give me a break! I don’t have the resources to make one!”
Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of third-party bots out there that can suit your needs. They can be integrated right into your marketing, sales, and customer service processes.
HubSpot keeps a pretty useful list of the bots available on the market. Take a look!