Big companies leverage bots to handle tasks that used to be either done without help or weren’t possible at all before chatbots were introduced.
For example, Capital One has a bot named “eno” that helps customers manage their finances via text, and the Marriot hotel chain uses bots to help customers make service requests, book rooms, and other tasks.
As we wrote in How Chatbots Can Help You Grow Revenue In Your Business,
True to their name, chatbots talk to you in fun, personable ways–just like a real person. Poncho, for example, is a chatbot that lives in the Viber chat service. It dispenses weather and commuting information in a snappy, irreverent voice, offering gems like “I can’t promise your commute won’t suck, but forewarned is forearmed.” By listening to a person’s likes and dislikes, chatbots can inform your marketing strategy across all channels – from social media and email newsletters to print and radio ads.
Chatbots aren’t just clever apps that are fun to talk to. They are also valuable marketing tools that can help customers find relevant products or services. Customers demand fast, personalized service, and chatbots make answering these demands easier. “We’re trying to serve the customer in this more conversational way,” Matthew Sueoka, VP of digital partnerships and development at American Express, said in Adweek.
Chatbots aren’t just useful for big businesses. Small businesses can take advantage of them, too, by harnessing the power of the ever-popular messaging app.
Over 2.5 billion people are using at least one chat-based app. The number of people communicating via chat is a beacon for companies who want to reach customers where they spend most of their time.
- Whatsapp had 1.2 billion monthly active users as of January 2017,
- Facebook Messenger now has 1.3 billion monthly users worldwide as of September 2017,
- China’s WeChat has 938 million monthly users as of May 2017, and
- Snapchat has 173 million daily users as of Q2 2017.
The perpetual increasing usage of messaging apps and the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into them prove that the growth and power of the chatbot industry is significant and lasting.
Chatbots are becoming increasingly integrated into these messaging platforms – and others – and it’s a great way to get access to your customers in a time-efficient (and often fun) way.
Afraid your customers will balk at the idea of not reaching a real, live person?
The statistics are clear: consumers are interested in engaging with your brand through chat, and they’re not afraid to converse with a helpful automated bot.
- 27% of consumers worldwide are very interested in artificial intelligence-based tools. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 35% of consumers want to see more companies using chatbots. (ubisend, 2017)
- 57% of consumers are interested in chatbots for their instantaneity. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 40% of consumers do not care whether a chatbot or a real human helps them, as long as they get the help they need. (HubSpot, 2017)
AI is a complicated and complex technology. But this doesn’t mean chatbots are out of reach for your small business, however.
We just emailed the resources to you.
Fortunately, several platforms can help you integrate a sophisticated chatbot into your business. The technology is accessible to every business.
We’ve compiled some excellent resources for you to deploy a chatbot of your own – and help you develop a strategy once you have a chatbot in place.
Use the right tools
With all of the hype surrounding AI and machine learning, it’s easy to think that creating a chatbot is a task best left to the experts.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
The market for services that help you create chatbots is large and growing.
Many services do not require you to know anything about programming, and some that do. It usually comes down to what kind of interactions you want your chatbot to handle; speaking generally, the more advanced the chatbot, the more upfront work is required.
The first thing you’ll need to decide is where you want your chatbot to “live.”
Do you want it to be integrated into Facebook Messenger? Skype? Slack? Or will it be part of your company’s website or mobile app?
Where your chatbot lives will help you narrow down what service you want to use, as many of them are designed for specific platforms.
Here are a few of the options available for creating your own chatbot:
Drift helps you get rid of forms on your website and instead facilitates conversations with your customers. It’s a great tool to generate qualified leads for your business. No coding is required; you can deploy on the web and in mobile apps, there are terrific integrations into products you might already use (Slack, Hubspot, etc.), and pricing plans range from free to affordable paid plans that should fit the needs of most small and midsize businesses (there are plans that fit the needs of larger companies too).
- Creates bots for Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Telegraph, as well as bots accessible via SMS and the web.
- No coding is required, but it also offers access to advanced capabilities for developers.
- Creates bots for Facebook Messenger and Telegram
- No coding required
- Creates bots for Facebook Messenger and Slack
- No coding required
- Create bots for Slack
- Targeted at developers
- Create bots for Facebook Messenger
- No coding required
BotMakers is quite a bit different than the other services. They act as a liaison between people who want to create a Facebook Messenger bot and developers with the skills necessary to make it happen.
The chat networks also have their own systems, although most of them are geared more towards developers than business owners.
Of course, Facebook has its own system for creating bots that run on their site. They offer an extensive developer toolkit and the ability to create a Facebook bot without having to code.
Telegram’s bot platform has documentation for developers and examples of what you can build using their system. Bot creation and management are done via, you guessed it, a bot cleverly called “The Botfather.”
Slack’s developer documentation for creating a “Slack bot user” is well-written and comprehensive.
Microsoft’s chat network also supports bots, although it’s probably not as well-known or leveraged as other social networks.
Stay on brand
A chatbot allows you to talk with and interact with your customers automatically when you don’t have enough people for live conversations. As a consumer touchpoint, your bot experience must be on-brand.
But things are a little different with bots.
Language, tone, and voice are critical, and it’s important to make sure your bot’s personality and voice is consistent with your brand.
You wouldn’t expect a bot for a fast-food chain to be serious and brusque, nor would a financial or medical organization’s bot be whimsical and generous with the emojis and animated gifs.
How friendly and casual should your bot’s language be? Should it use emojis? Animated gifs? Should it be chatty or get right to the point?
These decisions need to be informed by your existing brand so that chatting with a bot feels “right.”
Keep it focused
Chatbots are relatively new, and their capabilities are still maturing and evolving.
They tend to work best when they help customers with simple and well-defined tasks.
You probably wouldn’t want a bot to handle an application for financial services or some really complex task unless you’ve invested a lot of time (and potentially money) to build the right kind of bot.
Think about your business areas where efficiency is important or the task has clearly defined steps that a bot could accommodate.
Companies use bots to take orders, offer product suggestions, provide customer support, schedule meetings, and other specific jobs.
All of these bots cover focused tasks that have clear beginnings, endings, and steps in-between. When you’re thinking about what your bot will do, keep this conciseness in mind.
Hone the onboarding experience
A bot, like a person, can leave a first impression, so ensure it’s a positive one by planning out the onboarding process carefully.
Consider how your bot initiates the conversation and introduces itself and its capabilities.
The initial conversation should be fast and focused; don’t drag out the introduction. You also want your customers to start the conversation — don’t badger site visitors with pop-up balloons or “hey over here” noises.
Establish your bot’s personality early, so customers know what to expect.
When you present options, make them simple and clear. Avoid options that say meaningless things like “okay” — options should use language that reinforces the task or question.
The whole idea of a bot is to provide an efficient but personable way of getting something done, so you don’t want to engage the customer with too much “happy talk.” Be clear, concise, and get to the good stuff as quickly as possible.
Lead nurturing is an important part of every company’s onboarding strategy, but it is often time-consuming. That’s not great for busy entrepreneurs and small businesses who already have their hands full. Chatbots can take the heavy lifting out of lead nurturing for you!
Chatbots purposefully engage with your customers: their directive is to gather all the pieces of information you need from your customers in a fun, hands-free way. The information chatbots collect then allows you to create personalized messages that can help encourage and guide potential clients to become loyal customers.
To make your chatbot lead-nurturing campaigns super effective, you’ll need to gather the information and conduct some A/B testing on your messages.
This critical information allows you to further customize your marketing to every lead coming in from your website or social media accounts – with minimal time commitment from you.
Aim for incremental improvements
People are still figuring out the best way to use bots, and the technology is relatively young, though evolving quickly.
Plan for the future and expect to revisit your bot after more customers have a chance to use it. Tweak what needs fixing, remove what doesn’t work, and add when needed.
If available, bot analytics can help you learn where the conversation may be breaking down or where there may be trouble spots, such as unclear language. Look for click completion rate and where customer interaction drops; this is often a sign that something needs to be changed.
With the right machine learning tools, your chatbot can analyze the feedback it gathers from users. This is critical information and gives you insight into what your customers want and need from your company.
With this key information firmly in hand, you can build your marketing strategy to cater to your customer’s specific needs.
Congratulations! You’ve now created an inbound marketing approach.
It’s important not to forget, however, that running a bot is an iterative process of continuous improvement, whether it’s via human intervention or machine learning. Don’t assume you can fire and forget about launching a bot; plan for incremental improvements.
Prepare your organization for disruption
Automation can be scary, and people can get anxious if they feel like their job security is threatened.
A famous study from a few years ago on the effects of automation on the workforce shows why employees have reason to be nervous: according to the study, after looking at 702 different occupations in the US, researchers found 47% of workers were at a high risk of having their work taken over by automation.
The reality is probably less dire as it may take a while before AI and machine learning advance to the point where human jobs may be at risk.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proactive about communicating any incoming automation to your staff. An anxious staff is less productive, and people want to know what’s going on.
Ensure your organization understands the scope of what chatbots are meant to do, and whenever possible, make assurances that you’re not replacing staff with technology. Gather feedback from your staff and, if feasible, involve them in the creation process.
You should also invest in training. The department that best matches your bot’s capabilities should probably own it to use their knowledge and understanding to improve the bot’s design and responses.
There are situations where you may want to have your bot hand off a customer to a human being when it’s exhausted its abilities.
For example, a chatbot designed to triage customer support requests should transfer someone to a real person when the issue cannot be covered purely by the bot itself.
This is another reason why involving your staff can really help; knowing which team the bot fits best will help you create a better experience when the bot calls in a human being to take over.
Who let the bots out?
Bots are everywhere. Facebook Messenger has at least 100,000, according to Messenger VP David Marcus, and that’s just one platform.
Chat and text-based messaging have become an integral part of how we communicate. According to some studies, there are over 15 million text messages sent every minute of every day, and that number is growing at a staggering rate.
It’s no surprise, then, that messaging apps have become the preferred way for brands to reach consumers.
Chatbots are increasing in popularity and usage by businesses of all sizes: Business Insider reported that by 2020, over 80% of businesses are expected to have a form of chatbot automation in place.
Get on board with this valuable trend. By including a chatbot in your small business marketing strategy, you’ll enhance your marketing and brand voice uniquely and expand your social media profiles to be a delightful, interactive experience for your customers.
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