The Rise of Chatbots (And Why Your Business Needs Them)

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January 7, 2020
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It’s hard to believe we’re living in the year 2020.

And while it may not quite be the space age that many predicted decades ago, it’s pretty cool nonetheless. We have cars that can park themselves, powerful computers that are as small as wristwatches, and robots that can do our business bidding for us.

We’re talking about chatbots, of course. And if your business has yet to leverage this powerful technology, now’s the time go all in.

What are Chatbots?

At their core, chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation and interactions. Users – including customers – interact with the bot via a friendly interface, such as a messaging app, and communicate in a manner similar to how they would speak with a human.

“Chatbots interpret and process user’s words or phrases and give an instant pre-set answer,” BotsCrew explains. “They inhabit platforms like – FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, Line, Kik, WeChat or even your website.  Similar to regular apps chatbots have application layer, a database, APIs and Conversational User Interface (CUI).”

There are three very basic types of chatbots:

  • Rule-based chatbots are the simplest. These bots typically give users the ability to click on buttons and use pre-defined options to work through the interaction. These bots are typically used for qualifying leads and directing people to the appropriate solution.
  • Intellectually independent chatbots rely on machine learning to learn from the information users input or request. These bots are trained to understand specific phrases, search terms, and keywords. Over time, they become smarter and more useful.
  • AI-powered chatbots are by far the most powerful and useful. They combine elements from both rule-based and intellectually independent bots. Not only can they understand free language, but they also have a predictable flow that can be used to efficiently direct the user to the appropriate solution in an efficient and accurate manner.

The Benefits of Using Chatbots

Chatbots sound interesting and useful, but why should businesses leverage them in 2020 and beyond? Here are four specific reasons why:

  • Reduce customer service calls. Too much call volume? Too many emails? Chatbots can reduce the amount of customer service inquiries you have to field by dealing with the low-hanging fruit that wastes time and ties up resources.
  • Scale your reach. Many brands avoid adding social media platforms or apps for fear they won’t be able to keep up. Chatbots enable businesses to secure more touchpoints without becoming overburdened.
  • Reach millennials. Millennials are researchers. They like to compare products and ask questions prior to purchase. They also like live chat over voice calls. Having a chatbot enables you to reach these customers with less friction.
  • Enhance organizational efficiency. For businesses that are wasting resources on backend support, a chatbot is an excellent solution for automating and introducing efficiency.

These are just a few examples. Your business may find additional benefits or perks based on the industry you’re in, who your customers are, and/or where you need assistance.

How to Get Started With Chatbots

If you don’t have any experience using chatbots, they may seem a bit intimidating. However, it’s actually easier than ever to get started. Here are some things to consider:

1. Consider Your Priorities

What are your greatest needs and priorities? Don’t use chatbots for the sake of using chatbots. If you simply toss them into the mix, they’ll only slow you down. Establish your priorities and make sure you can actually benefit from them.

2. Try Out Facebook Chatbots

If you want to mess around with chatbots and see how they function within your business, Facebook is the ideal place to begin.

Facebook has chatbot features built into your Facebook Business Page. It operates inside of the Facebook Messenger platform and allows followers to ask questions and receive answers.

“The idea is to automate human tasks to make the process faster and more affordable,” Active Web Group explains. “Because the conversations are via Facebook Messenger, users can continue their conversations after leaving your page. Chatbots can also send users updates, just as if they subscribed to your newsletter. It’s a better alternative to the News Feed for nurturing leads.”

As you utilize and oversee Facebook chatbots, you’ll become more comfortable with how they can be fully leveraged within your larger business operations.

3. Create Your Own

If you discover that chatbots are effective, you may consider creating your own proprietary bots to populate your website or customer service channels.

While expensive, creating your own chatbot yields numerous benefits. It allows you to fully customize the experience, create a unique persona, and optimize according to your brand goals.

Putting it All Together

Chatbots can’t do everything, but they are highly effective and useful in a variety of applications. As you seek to improve reach, efficiency, and scalability, consider leveraging chatbots as a supplementary resource. After you learn how they work, you may discover that it’s hard to live without them.