Chatbots for business are becoming increasingly common, and can offer a variety of benefits to both the customer and the company. You’ve probably noticed them pop up on retail websites, map pages, and in mobile apps about everything from travel to nutrition.
Chatbots provide interactive communication between a business and its consumers using software developed to imitate human conversation. Today’s bots now leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to assist customers with questions about products and services, making them more effective than ever.
A computer scientist at MIT gets credit for the first talking bot, named ELIZA, back in 1966. ELIZA used pattern-recognition in speech for its conversation. Then, throughout the second half of the 20th century, chatbots became increasingly more complex and intelligent – and useful. In today’s world, chatbots comprise no small part of the growing tech space with Gartner estimating that more than 85% of all customer support services will use chatbots by 2020.
Why You Need Chatbots for Business
Chatbots for business offer a number of benefits for different customer facing services. One benefit is response time. Chatbots allow for instant interaction for the consumer, enabling customers to find answers quickly – especially for the most common questions — without the burden of waiting for a returned email or a long hold on a call.
Likewise, most chatbots offer consumers the ability to interact at the consumer’s convenience in a way they enjoy. With most people using platforms like SnapChat and Messenger, people are already accustomed to instant, direct messaging, meaning that chatbot interaction feels familiar. They are available 24/7, so customers can chat outside business hours, and companies have no need to provide human support overnight. Further, a customer can leave in the middle of a conversation and then return later to the same saved communication, creating a streamlined way for consumers to get help when it fits their schedule.
Chatbots can be automated, especially with Q&A resources, and the AI can continue to learn through FAQs and ongoing customer interaction. Both these components help both consumer and business; the consumer receives a fast response, and the company can cut service costs. Also, more complex bots integrate multiple service functions that enable them to do things like help consumers find their correct size or advise them on additional tailored product offerings based on preference. Again, this type of usability benefits both sides by helping customers understand their options while helping get them through the point of purchase.
In addition to helping companies cut back on their customer service expenditures, using AI in such an interactive setting with your consumer can help you gather valuable data about what matters to your customer base. As a result, chatbots can help your business provide a better consumer service experience or simplify point of purchase – both of which reduce cost and increase profit.
The Drawbacks of Chatbots for Business
Chatbots sound like a solution that can help a business’ profitability from two sides. Yet, bots carry some disadvantages. CGS’s 2018 Consumer Customer Service Survey shows that, despite the convenience and speed of a bot, most consumers prefer getting help from another human. The reasons to choose a human over a chatbot can arise from a customer believing they have a complicated or unique issue that requires human attention. Or, a customer finds themselves frustrated asking a common question only to get referred to an FAQ page.
Also, while the data collecting capabilities of certain smart bots can help companies understand their market, customers report concerns about sharing their data. In other instances, certain older demographics prefer talking with humans overall, but overuse of chatbots can push customers away across location and age lines.
Chatbots and App Development
What do chatbots look like in the world of mobile apps? Launched in March of 2018, Apple Business Chat shows a prime example of a complex chatbot with a multipurpose set of features easily accessible in your Messages. While some bots only offer answers to quick questions, Business Chat provides customers with assistance throughout the shopping process, from finding items they want to using Apple Pay to complete a transaction. Business Chat gives the power to the customer – only a consumer can initiate a chat, and once the thread is deleted, the company cannot be the one to initiate more contact. Since Business Chat is integrated into iOS, it also makes scheduling an appointment easy since it knows calendar conflicts.
From the perspective of a developer, you can register your company with Business Chat, which allows your customers to search for your business and begin chatting. When your company registers with Business Chat, your customer will see a blue chat icon when they come across your company in everything from Apple Maps to Safari. Another appeal of Business Chat: like other bots, it keeps long-lived messages, meaning the information stays accessible as they continue to converse with your company. Business Chat helps customers easily get in touch with your company, walk through the decision points of choosing the right product, and then conveniently paying for it, all of which they can do right in the Messages app.
Of the tech behemoths, Facebook also has made strides in the chatbot arena. Facebook Messenger, like Apple, offers its users different bots to help with online shopping. Unlike other chatbots, Facebook differentiates itself with its incorporation of augmented reality. With the examples of Apple and Facebook, we can see the direction that chatbots are headed. Both companies show a knowledge of customer preferences and seek to address the areas that chatbots have fallen short in the past.
When considering how to include a chatbot into a business, decision makers should consider the functionality that will benefit both the company and the consumer. As certain industries (like retail) focus on sales, chatbots can help companies increase purchases and customer satisfaction. But every industry – and every company – is unique and requires a unique bot to address business concerns. If you want to learn more about how chatbots can revolutionize your company or your app, reach out to us today.