Artificial intelligence has been around for decades, but it is finally available for small and mid-sized businesses to use for themselves. No, you cannot purchase robots to do manual labor for you—yet—but there are smaller AI applications that are making life easier for business owners and streamlining processes.
One such application is the “chatbot.” Chatbots are computer programs that are programmed to simulate conversations with human internet users. You have probably encountered them as you browse; they often appear as little collapsable windows in the corner of a significant number of websites. Instead of calling customer support, all you need to do is type in a question, and the bot interacts with you to the best of its ability. Chatbots are a popular trend right now—so is one appropriate for your business website?
Benefits of chatbots: customer experience
Chatbots are sought after for their remarkable customer service abilities. Many websites have their own search bars, but chatbots are like having a personal assistant available to answer more detailed questions in a friendly manner. Some consumers would even consider chatbots to be the new standard of UX design (as long as they are convincingly human enough, and their presence is relevant to the business). Human employees cannot work 24/7, but chatbots allow late-night website visitors constant access to customer service.
Personalization is an experience that encourages a potential or first-time customer to become a loyal one, so conversing with an amiable bot makes visitors feel taken care of. Chatbots Magazine notes that bots equipped with Natural Language Processing can decode human users’ natural language—such as semantics, syntax, speech, discourse, and so on—to better understand user intent, rather than overly relying on keywords. Well-designed chatbots are more prepared to comprehend human psychology and therefore provide more tailored customer service.
Chatbots do not only answer questions; they can stay with a customer for the entire duration of their experience on your website. Linnworks mentions that chatbots can assume several business-running responsibilities, such as executing operational tasks and marketing. They can automate order processes at low cost and smoothly integrate with customers’ social media channels.
They can also deter online shopping cart abandonment. Any business owner has probably experienced this frustration at some point, but chatbot developers can integrate payment system APIs (like PayPal) into the chatbot itself, which simplifies the checkout process. You also have more potential customers as well, because chatbot platforms can work across different stores.
Is a chatbot for you?
While chatbots certainly have their advantages, they are not perfect for everyone. While they are examples of artificial intelligence, readily available chatbots do not exactly employ “machine learning.” This means that while bots may be designed as human-sounding as possible, they still operate on an existing set of programmed responses and cannot truly improvise. Anomalies may stump them, so depending on your business type and its associated intricacies, customers may find chatbots more frustrating than helpful.
Some customers even find chatbots annoying, especially if they continuously bombard them with messages. A basic introductory pop-up is acceptable, but pushy or aggressive bots drive customers away. Some website visitors do not have the patience for them to begin with (around 25 percent of users drop off after the second message, and 40 percent never engage after the first one), so even well-designed chatbots may find themselves ignored.
Of course, the nature of your business will determine the necessity of a chatbot. Companies that offer services (like e-commerce retail and travel) can benefit from them, but there is no substitute for human interaction when it comes to business-to-business companies with more nuanced operations.
How do you integrate the technology?
If you decide that a chatbot is right for your website, then there are multiple ways to obtain one. NativeMsg reports that available options include building one from scratch, working with an NLP/NLU-based platform, or using a simple chatbot builder.
The former route is the most challenging, but also the most flexible. You can customize whatever you want about your chatbot, therefore exercising more influence over your customers’ experiences (and there is more opportunity for legitimate machine-learning). However, you and your team will need to be excellent coders (or a hired freelancer) with enough technological knowledge to construct a sufficient application with languages like Java and Python.
The latter options are more accessible for businesses without tech-savvy team members. Some platforms offer detailed guidance on how to build a chatbot, making it simple to construct and integrate one quickly.
Chatbots are a revolutionary tool, but they may distract customers rather than aid them if not done properly. Do you plan to implement a chatbot into your website?