We've talked about the benefits of live chat before: why customers love them, how they can increase conversions, and most importantly how a live chat function brings ROI for your business website. But now it's time to talk about one of the biggest changes in the chat world: The rise of the chatbot.
Here's the deal: People like live chat options, but only if it's actually real time. That has meant staffing live chat with real representatives (with mixed results) in the past, but now we have automated 'bots' as an alternative, and they're changing the game.
What Exactly is a Chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program that chats for your company. They come in all different flavors, but they generally try to imitate a real person while helping customers find the necessary information to make a purchase or solve a problem.
They aren't quite as versatile as real people – they tend to focus more on simple tasks like finding the right products, locating inventory information, or recommending resources to solve a problem. But when used properly, they can take over the role of a representative in live chat.
Today's bots are still frequently in trial or beta phases. Because they take a lot of programming and their algorithms for searching/response can be approached many different ways, there's also a lot of difference when it comes to quality and purview. Think of something like Amazon Echo – a standard for all chatbots to aim for – compared to a poor automated phone service, and you get the idea.
The Benefits of Chatbots
- They're always on and usually customizable: They aren't people – and, no offense to people everywhere, but that comes with several big advantages. They don't take breaks or shifts, and they are always available. They don't waste time, or claim to know something they don't, or quit unexpectedly. Yes, they have limits and bugs, but these can be ironed out over time in a reliable manner, and chatbots can be "taught" new products and responses as necessary.
- Chatbots fuel conversions when used properly: Around 90% of customers like the idea of live chatting. A competent bot can turn that preference into real conversions but essentially saving time – locating answers and products for customers who would not be able to find what they wanted on their own. Bots aren't just about solving customer services problems – think of them as an inventory manager who's always ready to talk.
- They can be surprisingly sophisticated: This varies, of course, but take a look at the chatbot Nordstrom recently created for the holidays. It's a simple little bot backed by some strong AI data sets that was made to help customers find good gift ideas. No more, no less – and it worked. It was even friendly! Within parameters, these bots can be very effective.
- They aren't always required: Customers can typically choose to either call a human or talk with a "conversational interface," so people don't feel forced into using the bot when they really want a real human to ask a more complex question. Another way of putting it: Chatbots can fill multiple roles, and don't necessarily need to crowd out people or make customers uncomfortable.
The Future of Chatbots in Marketing
They are exciting because it's still the early days for their advancement, and we're not sure how big they could be. One day, every website out there may have some version of a chatbot. For now, they have the ability to provide dedicated solutions to specific inventory or outreach problems that your website may be experiencing.
We'll be talking more about how much chatbots cost and how to adopt one for a B2B brand, but for now, if you're considering taking your online engagement up a notch, then put a chatbot on your wish list.