Chatbots, while relatively new to the world, have quickly been adopted and touted as a business tool of the future; with the ability to improve productivity and efficiency, all the while enhancing the customer experience. Yes, please.
Although the application to business is relatively new, the first bot was actually created in the 1960s and caused quite a stir when ELIZA — the bot created — was so “human-like” conversationally that people began remarking on her intelligence and understanding; despite being told that she was merely an algorithm, designed to make them feel this way. Amongst the users convinced of her intelligence was the inventor, Joseph Weizenbaum’s secretary who had witnessed the programming first hand.
Ironically, ELIZA was designed to highlight the superficiality of communication between humans and machines but instead opened up a conversation about how these programmed interactions could improve communication and connection, despite us human’s being fully aware that it is all algorithmically designed.
Today, chatbots are made for myriad reasons. We have many, like ELIZA, designed for therapeutic or psychiatric means, some for customer support, and some developed to troll people on Twitter.
Why should small business care about chatbots?
To begin with, a report by the International Data Corporation tells us that by the year 2021, 65 per cent of consumers will interact with support bots. The adoption is already in full flow, thanks to online interactions between customers and businesses moving online, over the traditional phone-based way of the past.
Chatbots present significant opportunities for businesses of all sizes across a range of applications. Education around this technology, even if it is not currently a consideration for your company, is wise as bots begin to penetrate more spheres of business.
While you may not like the idea of relinquishing control of your customers to technology, you should remember that bots are not (yet) replacing anyone. This technology should be utilised to allocate resources better so that any customers enquiring about how to log-in or asking basic questions that you can program a bot to answer, are left with the bots and anything that needs human interference can be escalated to a customer support person. Introducing bots into your front line of engagement allows you to reduce your wait time on customer service interactions, thus impressing the pants off your customers.
According to Gartner, organisations that implemented chat-bot technology reported a 70 per cent drop in call, chat and/or email enquiries, as well as improved customer satisfaction.
Chatbots can be used to help consumers make reservations, book flights, schedule doctors appointments, check weather, and order goods from pizza to flowers. Automating tasks that your team would have traditionally had to do for them.
Beyond keeping your customers happy, chatbots are yet another online tool that helps your business to gather data about your industry and your customers. With the implementation of chatbots, you can quickly learn how your customers are using your service and what their challenges are. Through the analysis of these insights, you have in your hand’s valuable information that can help you to improve your customer experience, services or products.
From a marketing perspective, the data and insights generated from your bots can allow you to offer more accurate personalisation and targetting. At the broader business level, you can use these insights to understand what consumers like and dislike about your business, allowing you to pivot to market needs.
How does one go about building a chatbot?
Currently, chatbots are mostly built within messaging platforms; the likes of WhatsApp, Messenger/Facebook, WeChat, Telegram, Slack, and a bunch of others. While you may think it odd to house your customer support in Facebook chat, the great benefit is that you’re leveraging platforms that your customers already have; eliminating the need for them to install, download or use something that may not be compatible with their device.
With most of your customers used to engaging online through social and messaging platforms, interacting with bots online is hardly a stretch for your customers to get their head around. In fact, most people don’t want to call you if they have an issue, they would prefer to go on Facebook to get a resolution.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a tech whizz to build a chatbot. Just as WordPress allowed us all to develop our own websites, and Australian born design platform Canva allowed us to produce graphics once only able to be created by Graphic Designers, there are various companies now in existence that would enable the novice to become the creator of their very own business bot. Allow us to introduce them:
Chatfuel is currently the world’s largest chatbot platform. Designed initially for Telegram, the company now focuses on Messenger allowing users to create a bot for marketing, sales and support. Their clients include NFL and NBA teams, as well as publishers like TechCrunch and Forbes.
ManyChat is the main competition to Chatfuel. Also a Messenger based platform, ManyChat allows you to simply drag and drop visuals, making it unbelievably easy for everyone to quickly design a bot. They make it super simple to grow your Messenger audience with a complete set of tools to convert anyone into a subscriber.
Backed by Google, Dialogflow allows a user to create voice and text-based conversational interfaces that are powered by AI. Their solution can be used on your website, mobile app, the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and well as Facebook Messenger, and other popular platforms and devices.
Flow XO offers clients the ability to make bots on different sites, applications and social media platforms. Their solution allows you to capture leads from these various channels, and you can gain a better level of control over your leads and data by fully integrating it with your other systems.
With chatbot technology so accessible, it is worthwhile for businesses, big and small, to consider the opportunities this technology presents — whether it’s a full-blown customer service solution or a simple application to help make and manage bookings.