A Skeptic’s Guide to Using Chatbots In Your Business

Chatbots are hot these days. They are the latest and greatest in the digital world…but do they really work? Do they boost web performance in a meaningful way?

Read on for a skeptic’s view on chatbots and how to use them on your site.

First off, chatbots are not a silver bullet (in fact, nothing is). But they can provide a huge benefit, if used correctly.

Chatbots are programs that mimic human conversation or interaction. It is an attempt to make web interactions a little more human. These have been around for a long time in phone answering systems to automate the direction of your call. No doubt you’ve interacted with these phone systems that give you options and ask you to press numbers or speak your choices.

And we’ve seen them for years on the web as well in a simple form, usually in the form of tutorials or as an entry to the customer service pipeline.

However, now chatbots are getting more intelligent and marketers are starting to use them to message with potential and current customers.

What is the overall appeal of chatbots?

MC-Chatbot Spot_01In concept, chatbots provide the opportunity to personalize communication with your customers at scale. They allow businesses to give customers immediate attention and answers without a huge sales or customer service team.

We are excited about the progression in chatbot technology to create this type of human experience online. However, it’s not quite that simple. Chatbots can still only take the conversation so far before you need an actual human to take over. And, you have to have a deep understanding of your customers and their questions and needs in order to be able to program the chatbot to interact with your customers in an intelligent way.

And that is no easy feat.

So, yes, chatbots can be highly beneficial for your business if they are used in the right way. But don’t think that a chatbot is going to take over your customer service or replace your current customer communication and interaction completely. It won’t.

How should you use chatbots on your site?

Here are a few ways that you could use chatbots on your site:

  • Customer service entry point. Proactively ask questions to direct inquiries to the proper department or send relevant support articles.
  • Get to know your customers. Ask visitors to your site a little about them and then analyze and categorize this customer data.
  • Proactively send personalized offers to customers based on data.
  • Reach out to customers on site to initiate communication. If they respond and continue the conversation, a real human will eventually need to take over, but this is a great way to begin the conversation.
  • Request feedback through specific questions on site about the customer experience.
  • Qualify leads through survey question and answers in the form of a chat.
  • Nurturing leads and direct them down the funnel. Pop up a chat at certain points throughout your site to lead customers through the conversion process.
  • Expand your marketing communication channels to have a presence on Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Intelligently sell products and services. Ask customers what they are looking for and then return products to them directly in a chat that will meet their needs.

Here are 2 examples of companies that are using chatbots effectively:

1) Second
Second is a virtual personal assistant service. While in the end, a human completes the work to be done, it is a chatbot that you interact with first when requesting help.

2) Kit by Shopify
Kit is a tool offered by Shopify that proactively messages Shopify clients with marketing opportunities to help them achieve success in their ecommerce stores. All you have to do is respond with “Yes” and Kit will create and run the campaign for you in Shopify or across social channels.

What goes into building a chatbot?

Building a chatbot is not easy. There are two core components. First you have to pick the messenger app that you will talk through to your customers. Then you have to pick the intelligence platform that is going to power your conversations.

There are a ton of these intelligence platforms, with more coming out constantly.

To name a few:

But no matter which intelligence platform you choose, the tricky part is to “teach” them how to interact and respond to your customers.

How can you get started?

MC-Chatbot Spot_02One of the best ways to get started with chatbots is an app called Intercom (or a similar app). We even use this on our own site. You can program the chatbot based on certain actions (for example, when a visitor follows a certain page sequence or has been on a page for a certain amount of time). Then the program will pop up a chat asking questions to your customers.

After this a real human would need to take over for live chat. So, Intercom is not a true chatbot. But it is a good way to begin interacting directly with your customers and learn what types of interactions a future chatbot would need to be programmed to handle.

Chatbots are a really cool emerging area, but in the end, it is just another tool. Take a look at your business and see if and where it could fit in to help grow and scale your business. We recommend starting simple to test how a chatbot could improve your business before investing in programming a complex chatbot.


Interested in exploring if a chatbot is right for your website?

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