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By: Andrew Wilkinson, Senior Manager, Business Systems at Swiftpage
Chatbots have been around in various forms since 1966. Only recently have companies learned to use them for numerous business purposes such as Customer Support, Sales, payment collection and increased social media engagement. Are chatbots only feasible for big businesses with large budgets and a large number of customers or should SMBs seriously consider them? According to a study by Oracle, 80% of businesses already use chatbots or plan to use them by 2020. With this much popularity and their benefits why not have one working for your business too?
Chatbots are interactive software platforms designed to mimic normal human conversation. They’re often incorporated into apps, live chat, email, and SMS platforms. It’s common for them to interface with most major messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Slack and more for communication. Integration with CRM platforms to capture lead, prospect, and customer data is typical as well.
These platforms are guided by a predetermined set of rules. Artificial intelligence is frequently combined with these rules to facilitate informed decision making instead of simply using scripted material repeatedly.
Gartner found that 46% of SMBs surveyed were currently using or planning to use a chatbot within the next two years. Plus, another 21% were evaluating them for use. They predict that by 2019, three times as many businesses will use chatbots than in 2017. So why not consider this popular business tool now and take advantage of its benefits?
There are several reasons why small businesses should explore chatbots to improve the customer experience:
Start by finding the best use cases for chatbots within your business for the greatest impact. Some you might consider are:
Having a well-planned and carefully mapped customer journey will help you understand how chatbots can improve the experience for you and your customer. Thinking about your customer journey will help identify the best uses for a chatbot in your business. Introducing a well-built chatbot at various stages can save you time and money, freeing up your Sales or Support to focus on higher value interactions.
For example: Having a chatbot act as first point of contact for support queries can drive a significant number of customers to your online resources, improving Self-Service and therefore saving your team time and money.
Of course chatbots can’t replace humans entirely. Be sure to include an easy way for customers to contact an agent in your chatbot and website interfaces. This will allow for personalised assistance with more complex questions or issues. Plus, you don’t want customers to become frustrated and dissatisfied by an inability to address their needs!
You may be wondering how other small businesses are currently using chatbots. Here are a few examples for your reference:
Hopefully these examples, combined with the potential applications discussed previously, have given you a better idea of how chatbots might work in your business.
I recommend starting with a simple Customer Service chatbot, which either searches your knowledgebase or is loaded with FAQs, as this is easy and cost effective. Another great way to start is by adding a chatbot to Facebook messenger to increase customer engagement and boost sales. However you decide to start, focus on one application and add on from there.
Once you decided on the best use case for your first chatbot, it’s a good idea to create a mock-up of its design and script. This will help prevent issues as you build your first bot. There are tools that facilitate this process by walking you through a series of questions and generating the mock-up.
Chatbots are often available as options with chat solutions and there are also stand-alone software products that simplify the creation of your bot. It’s an easy process either way – no need to know code or be a technological expert!
When well-planned and integrated into your customer journey the use of a chatbot can benefit both you and your customers. The immediate response of a chatbot provides 24-hour service, while freeing up your teams to focus on higher value interactions. So start with a basic bot and build from there, the opportunities are endless.