The first-ever ChatBot, Eliza, was developed to behave and respond like a psychotherapist and did a great job in mimicking human conversations. Creator Joseph Weizenbaum built this way back in 1966 where the words entered in a computer were taken and matched against a list of appropriate scripted responses. However, due to the lack of inventory of human language and basic coding back then, you could not take a conversation too long without losing track of the original point.
Fast-forward to 2018 and we have Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant taking over the world with their virtual assistance. You can have a conversation with them for about 10 minutes now and as you read this, they’re working towards increasing this time to 20! Not only are they loaded with Artificial Intelligence (AI) but they are also perpetual learners so they can outdo themselves the next time.
Integrating intelligent assistants and chatbots into business processes are becoming highly popular today. Chatbots have been the butt of jokes in the past but since it has gotten more and more intelligent with time, it is now considered as the future of customer service. Large enterprises have already realized the value chatbots can bring to the table and were quick to adopt. SMB’s are yet to catch up on and leverage this evolving trend. Harnessing this technology can have a huge impact on your business operations.
- Makes you an Interactive brand – Deep down in your website, there might lie the answer to their question, but who wants to dig? Getting their straight-forward question answered right there and then makes their work easy leaving you with a happy customer.
- Customer Convenience – Not all of your customers want to pick-up the phone and call you for every query they have in mind. Interacting on chat seems more hassle-free than calling you and then going through a 15 minute call and listening to 10 options before getting to a real person.
- Always Available – As you know, bots never get tired, bored, sleepy, get ill or throw tantrums for not wanting to work. They are at your service 24/7 which makes your business running 24/7 too!
- One May Army – A single chatbot application can replace a whole call centre by handling thousands of customers at the same time, instantly! Scale up your operations whilst you save on money, resources and time.
- Customer Satisfaction – A chatbot will always be nice to your customers as they will never have a rough day. On the other hand, a real representative can go through emotional times and might not always be the best to your customer. A chatbot can also cater to customers who speak other languages when programmed appropriately.
- Statistics – Stats show that nearly 63% of people prefer communicating with businesses through bots as it is an easy and a fast way to get answers to their queries. 47% of customers also prefer making purchases with the help of chatbots.
What Type of a ChatBot would you need?
Broadly speaking, there are just two kinds of ChatBots – one that utilizes Machine learning and one that doesn’t. Clearly, the Chatbots powered by machine learning are the smarter ones. The ones that have the ability to learn from human conversations and get better each time.
However, not all businesses would need a Chatbot that can make a 20 minute conversation or make a restaurant reservation for their customers. Different business operations and processes call for different levels of AI to be consumed by their ChatBot.
Basic Level ChatBot:
The ability to interact with your customers directly without even hiring a sales-person is priceless! Even in the real world, when customers receive personal attention and feel cared-about, they tend to shop more.
You could provide them with simple information like your store locations, directions, operating hours, product information, order status, etc. These functions are simple and need only a basic ChatBot which can be fed with information about your operations and processes like your products info, contact info, etc. Basic-level ChatBots can answer simple and repetitive enquiries based on the knowledge-base provided while your executives can focus better on other processes. They do not possess any AI or NLP (Natural Language Processing) abilities.
High-level Transaction ChatBot:
In e-commerce stores, you can serve your customers better by providing products based on their preferences, making fashion choices and also allow them to make purchases without leaving the ChatBot messenger. Transaction-level Chatbots can also guide customers based on their past purchases and make transactions automatically. Or book a cab based on their last interaction.
More intelligent of the lot can provide seamless customer experience by analysing previous transactional data and providing useful information like their total travel expenses or shopping expenses.
Intelligent Transaction ChatBot:
These ChatBots perform similar functions as the High-level ChatBots, except that it is more intelligent. Based on data that it accesses from enterprise systems (CRMs), it can provide very specific and personalized assistance to your customers. These bots are highly preferred in sales and marketing as they help in converting a lead into a customer by automating the entire process. It can also carry context from one channel to another.
Is it worth you’re investment?
We’ve spoken heaps about how beneficial it can be to harness this ChatBot technology for your business but as every coin has two sides, there can be a few impediments here as well. The fact that you can leverage an additional sales/customer service channel to improve your revenues sounds splendid. However, it needs to be done right while balancing it with sufficient amount of human intelligence and contact as well. Here’s why some brands have failed in their efforts –
- Shabbily designed ChatBots do more harm than good. These bots cannot answer simple questions and end up frustrating customers.
- Trying to hide the fact that your customer is interacting with a bot is a big no-no. People are smart enough to tell the difference between chatting with a bot and a human. So, be clear to begin with.
- They aren’t a 100% reliable. You can’t expect them to answer each and every question. When your customer finds that the bot is taking him nowhere with cold responses, it might ruin your brand image.
How to get started?
Once you have done a feasibility analysis of using a Chatbot for your business process, the next step would be to define the purpose for using one.
- Write down a list of problems that you want to solve by implementing a ChatBot. Define its purpose.
- Brain-storm with your team and plan your script. Think and note down all possible questions and answers for a process. Mapping out the entire conversation on paper will make it easier to implement and give you a better picture.
- Test your script out on a trial/demo version of the ChatBot platform and analyse the outcome. You will definitely want to do a lot of tweaking before you come up with the final script.
- Choose from a range of ChatBot platforms that are available like Skype, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Kik, etc. These platforms provide a very user (also pocket)-friendly interface that makes customizations and personalization easy and quick.
- If you’re looking at more complex level machine learning rich bots, you can choose from services from big guns like IBM’s Watson, Microsoft Bot Framework, Wit.ai, etc.
- When you have the skills and/or resources to develop a bot from scratch, you can choose from development platforms like Motion.ai, Chatfuel, Textit.in, etc.
- ..And you’re ready to go!
With the advancement of technology, everything can now be automated. Even communicating with people! ChatBots are getting more sophisticated over time, making them more popular with large enterprises and SMBs. They’re definitely here to stay as they provide excellent customer engagement, save time and money and improves operations efficiency. Nevertheless, you cannot ignore the fact that there needs to be a balance between fully-automated personalization and human touch. Plain and simply put, a bot can never outsmart a human nor can be compared to one. A well-struck balance between the two can work wonders for your brand.