With so much to do, businesses and marketers are increasingly relying on technology and tools that are designed to automate some of the work that we’re doing. We all want more time in our day, and finding ways to cut costs and reduce the need for extra manpower on “non-critical” tasks seems like a good solution.
There are many cases, though, where technology just can’t deliver what an actual employee can, so understanding how to use the tools without relying on them too heavily is the best solution.
Chatbots are the perfect example. By 2020, 85% of businesses will have added low-cost chatbots to their support platforms, hoping to take some of the burden off their staff. In this post, we’re going to take a close look at how chatbots are currently being used and what their future is in small business.
How Small Businesses Are Currently Using Chatbots
Today, it’s common and beneficial for businesses of all sizes to use chatbots on their site and on their Facebook Messenger accounts. Basic inquiries, like “when are you open” or “track my order” are right in a chatbot’s wheelhouse.
Some can take it a step further and guide users through the process of ordering a product entirely through the chat, doing everything from offering product suggestions to processing payment. In fact, according to Drift, 27% of adult clients in the United States are ready to purchase basic goods through a chatbot.
Chatbots are being used, therefore, to take some of the load off of the customer service and sales teams to varying levels of success. Some chatbots are exceptionally programmed and have strong capabilities. Others are easily stumped and respond with “I’m sorry! I don’t understand your request. Please try again” when asked a question as simple as “what is your return policy.” Still, 63% of people would consider messaging a bot to communicate with a company.
Pros & Cons of Chatbot Technology
Chatbots are exceptionally useful and can cut back on the number of calls and emails that your team needs to painstakingly manage directly.
However, chatbots can only do exactly what they’ve been programmed to. Although they’re getting smarter, it might be best for your business to find a healthy balance between providing automated and human service.
Where Chatbots Really Shine
How many times, after all, have you been called about the status of orders that could easily be found in the email you sent the customer three days ago, or about your operational hours that are clearly listed right above the phone number they needed to call you on your site? The ability for chatbots to resolve these minor, easy-to-address concerns extend your support hours to 24/7, quickly solve inquiries, and let your team focus on customers with issues or questions that are more complex.
This is increasingly important since customers are now everywhere and they expect you to be, too. If they can message you on some obscure social media platform that you haven’t used since 2010, I can almost guarantee you that they will.
Having chatbots in place to answer questions wherever and whenever customers have them can take a load off your team, especially if they direct customers who still need help to the best channels to reach you. They also provide you with documented customer insight and analytics that may not be captured within other communication channels.
When Chatbots Might Not Be the Answer
Chatbots aren’t, of course, without their faults. According to usabilla.com survey, 58% of respondents believe that chatbots were not as effective as expected. The same survey found that 46% of Internet users in the US would rather receive online support from a live person. Although many consumers have a higher level of comfortability with chatbots than they did a year ago, there’s a time and place for automated support.
In addition, AI technology is rapidly advancing, but many small businesses don’t necessarily want to (or can’t afford to) invest in the high cost that sometimes comes with the most sophisticated of chatbots.
Chatbots are only capable of repeating what they’ve been programmed to say, and can’t actually think outside the box, so to speak. With customers’ expectations increasingly demanding better-than-ever-and-tailored-to-them service, this is something to consider. Basics of customer service can definitely be handled through chatbots now and easily will be in the future, but there’s still so much nuance involved in customer service situations that they’ll continue to be best used to enhance customer service instead of replacing it.
The Future of Chatbots
Technology is always evolving, and AI is a major area of focus right now. This will still be true moving forward, even as chatbots become more intelligent and are coded to have more capabilities.
Chatbots are becoming more conversational, entertaining customers while helping them, and giving you a new way to engage your audience. Even basic-level or free chatbots are capable of more as long as you invest some time into expanding the knowledge base that they can pull from.
More Interactive & Proactive
Moving forward, chatbots are going to become increasingly interactive, offering a more “real” interaction to your customers who engage with them. They’ll also be more proactive, reaching out to your customers on social media with suggestions tailored to their history of interactions. We’re already seeing the early stages of these capabilities, and this will continue.
Chatbots are becoming more than a support tool as they evolve. They’re also being as a marketing and sales solution for good reason. The best chatbot platforms can recognize a prospect by their behavior on a website and can trigger a sales message at the right moment leading to more qualified leads and more website conversions.
Not only are chatbots being developed as a support and sales tool, but they can also provide analytics based on your web traffic. A dashboard could include metrics such as active users, session length, and other KPIs and workflow metrics all in real-time so you can gather more data about your business.
Users are demanding more immediate responses from businesses. Everything has to come now, now, now. Chatbots will undeniably help deliver that and then some added functionality like analytics and lead generation.
Even as incredibly developed as chatbots are becoming, they may never be able to truly replace the value that is found through a one-on-one conversation between the customer and a customer service representative who is invested in their experience. However, in addition to your support staff, they can increase productivity, insight and even sales.
Chatbots aren’t going anywhere, according to Opus Research, by 2021, 4.5 billion dollars will be invested in chatbots. As you’re implementing these new technologies for your business, keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind, and find your healthy balance between AI and human communication.