We live in a digitally-driven world.
From the way we converse with friends, to how we make hotel reservations and even order pizzas, today’s technological landscape serves as the backdrop for pretty much everything we do.
It’s convenient, to be sure. With the click of a button, we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible. But with that convenience comes a certain degree of impatience. Consumers want what they want, and they want it now.
As the Center for Humane Technology has said, our world of technology has evolved to the point where it’s constantly stimulating and rewarding us with content, items and services. As a result of this instant gratification, we’re becoming more demanding.
According to Hubspot, consumers’ patience runs dry at around 10 minutes, tops. It further notes that 90 per cent of people rate an immediate response (read that again – immediate) as “important” or “very important” when they have a customer service question.
So what’s this mean for business owners? Well, it’s simple, really. It means that to stay in the game, so to speak, you have to be able to address customers’ demands and questions quickly and efficiently. You need to be a mind reader, and know what they want before they even know they want it.
Sounds like magic, right? Especially when, as a business owner, you’ve got a pile of other things on your mind and a colossal to-do list that means you can’t always be online, poised with the answers to your customers’ questions. Especially if you’re a small business owner, this just isn’t practical, let alone feasible.
But while today’s technology has made us increasingly impatient, it’s also paved the way for businesses to be more effective with their time. In all sorts of ways, it’s streamlined the way we work and simplified our day-to-day tasks, from allowing us to work remotely, to increasing team collaboration, to allowing us to take advantage of cloud-based data.
While countless technologies exist, all helpful in their own right, chatbots – which follow a set of pre-designed rules to mimic real-life interactions and answer customer questions and concerns – have perhaps become one of the most relied-upon ways businesses can communicate with their customers.
The first chatbot, LIZA, was developed in 1966. According to Entrepreneur, LIZA “set out the foundation for the structure of chatbots used today such as pre-programmed responses, keywords, and specific phrases.”
Today, they’re an integral part of many businesses and they have a heavy digital hand in countless marketing and customer service aspects. In fact, according to Salesforce, in 2022, 23 per cent of customer service companies are currently using AI chatbots.
While larger companies are adopting chatbots much quicker than smaller organizations, it looks like they’re here to stay. Their ability to handle such a wide range of tasks – resolving a complaint or problem, making a reservation, or paying a bill, just for starters – makes them an attractive option for companies in every sector.
So is a chatbot right for your company, whether it’s large or small? Let’s look a little more in-depth at the straight-up facts and you can decide for yourself.
Chatbots Are Available 24/7
Let’s start with a little reality check: You’re not superhuman and therefore, you need sleep. If you’re a solo-preneur, or you have a small team with limited manpower, you just can’t be available all day and all night. So if someone inquires about a product or service at 1 a.m. when you’re catching some zzz’s, they won’t get a reply until you open again in the morning.
Chatbots, however, allow you to be “open” all day and all night, so when someone reaches out to get answers to some questions, they’ll get them right away.
As we explored earlier, this is key in a world where customers demand on-the-spot, “Give it to me now!” attention. Here are a few more stats that back up our point:
- According to startupbonsai, 68 per cent of consumers like chatbots because they provide quick answers;
- According to Tidio, 62 per cent of consumers would prefer to use a customer service bot rather than waiting for human agents to answer their requests;
- According to Salesforce, 69 per cent of consumers prefer to use chatbots because they provide instant responses.
Let’s put another lens on this for you to think about. But this time, from your perspective.
Imagine it’s a busy Tuesday afternoon. You’ve got to place orders, handle customers coming into your store, and you have a meeting with a supplier on the schedule. At the same time, you have virtual customers reaching out wanting to know your hours, to book an appointment, or to ask about the specifics of a service. Chances are, the customer waiting (not so patiently, we might add) is going to the bottom of that to-do list until you have some “spare” time.
And that’s when the panic sets in. It can cause undue anxiety when you think about all you have to get done, but just don’t have the time for.
Now imagine for a moment if you will, a chatbot doing all that legwork for you without you even having to think about it. That’s a real stress saver, right?
At a time when mental health is on the decline in the workplace, it’s important to look for ways you can streamline your work processes and improve your productivity. Chatbots are one of the ways to achieve this.
Chatbots Can Collect and Analyze Data
Data, data, data. You hear it all the time, but it bears repeating: it’s critical to your company’s overall success. It can help predict trends, identify opportunities and even help you stay a step or two ahead of your competitors by providing key insights into customer behaviour and market conditions.
Because chatbots store “conversations” between your chatbots and customers, they’re a virtual treasure trove of information that you can leverage in your marketing and customer service initiatives.
Over time, you’ll start to notice trends that, if you pay close enough attention, can help you provide a better customer experience.
Use the data from your chatbots to not only help you understand who, exactly, your customers are, but also:
- How they shop;
- Why they’re shopping in the first place;
- What they’re buying;
- How they want to engage with your business;
- The common questions they have;
- What they like about your company (and what they don’t like);
- …and more!
Take what you learn from your customers’ data and use it in your day-to-day business. It can help you define a marketing strategy and assist your sales team in ways you can only begin to imagine now.
Chatbots Can Save You Money
While the cost of your chatbot will vary widely depending on the company you choose, the complexity of your chatbot itself, how many customers you’re reaching, and various other factors, chatbots can have a great ROI.
In fact, according to Chatbots Magazine, businesses can reduce customer service costs up to 30 per cent by implementing conversational solutions using chatbots.
Admittedly, the upfront cost might be a little intimidating, but it’s important to keep in mind several factors as you consider whether or not this type of technology fits within your budget.
For starters, consider the profit gained with the implementation of a chatbot through your company being able to provide better service. Deloitte reported that 62 per cent of companies view customer experience delivered by a brand as a competitive differentiator.
Word of mouth can be powerful in any industry, especially with the prevalence of online reviews these days. If a customer has a great experience with your company, there’s a better chance they’re going to pass the news of that transaction on to others. (On the flip side, consider if they have a bad experience.)
Next, consider the revenue your company generates when it’s able to service customers 24/7. A chatbot means that even if your business’ physical location is closed, customers can still get answers to specific questions they have, and even make purchases.
The trick is ensuring your chatbots are implemented effectively, and that you’ve carefully thought through all the possible scenarios your customers might experience while they’re conversing with your company’s chatbot. You’ll want to look at every step, from the initial greeting to the conclusion. The more your customers use your chatbots, the more you can extract the data to improve the conversational experience. (But this is a topic for another day! If you want some more information, you can check out this article by Userlike.)
It’s equally important to acknowledge how a chatbot can help with reduced operational costs.
Consider, if you will, the number of repetitive questions you get daily. According to this article by verloop.io, repetitive and frequently asked questions (What are your hours? How much does “x” cost? How long does shipping take?) end up taking unnecessary resource bandwidth. And these queries constitute roughly 80 per cent of the total tickets coming in customer support. That’s a really high percentage!
By automating queries, you’ll be able to offer a quick resolution to customer queries, and better leverage the time of you and your staff.
In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “Time is money.” And sometimes, that means spending more initially in order to save more in the long run.
You Want to Target Millennials
We’ll put this simply: Millennials don’t like to talk on the phone.
In fact, one article suggests that 75 per cent of them say they avoid phone calls because they’re too time-consuming.
And when it comes to customer service, they’re even more impatient than the rest of the population. Article after article shows that they’re more likely to make purchasing decisions based on how quickly they can get things done with your business.
One article by talkdesk states that 60 per cent of millennials think they should have to wait less than five minutes to speak to someone on a customer service line. This is a challenging expectation to meet for many businesses, especially if you run the business yourself or have limited staffing resources.
This all being said, if you target the Millennial age group (and there’s a pretty solid chance you do, since they are now the largest demographic age group in North America and make up 40 per cent of the workforce) you need to be looking for ways to keep them, well, happy.
Survey after survey has shown that millennials want more self-serve options when it comes to their purchasing habits (one pointed out that more than half of Millennials say that they prefer to use customer service automation over live support from a human representative when given the option) so it’s an easy decision to make to leverage chatbots in your business.
If you’re unsure whether or not you can financially swing the initial start-up costs, consider for a moment if you’d be willing to consider reinvesting the funds you’ve set aside for marketing and advertising your business and using that cash to instead invest in a chatbot.
An article by KPMG says it might be worth thinking about, stating that most of the money spent on advertising and media just doesn’t work with Millennials. To be successful, it says, “…brands must engage millennials where they already are rather than invest in traditional marketing channels that have worked in the past.”
When you take a moment to consider the facts – how this age group demands instant gratification, how they’re digitally savvy and how they prefer texting to talking – the decision over whether or not to implement the use of a chatbot might not require too much debate.
Getting Started With Chatbots
If the world of chatbots is completely foreign to you, and you’re not sure if they’re a good fit for your business, there’s a good chance you might want to dip your toes in the virtual waters.
There are lots of free chatbots out there, but you need to keep their limitations in mind before you make your decision.
The HubSpot Chatbot Builder, which is free and multilingual, is a great option for businesses that want to automate tasks, such as booking meetings and qualifying leads.
As you build your chatbot, there are a few basic tips you’ll want to follow:
- Keep it short and simple. Remember that most people are interacting with chatbots on their phones, so avoid messages with lots of text. You also don’t want them to have to type long answers. Make use of buttons, quick replies and menus to simply things for your customers and improve the overall experience for them;
- Keep your brand voice top of mind. Every business should have a brand voice (you can read more about tone of voice here if you’re not sure what we’re talking about) so it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re formulating your chatbot communications. (You don’t want to come across as too formal if your business has a more casual, laid-back feel, for example.)
- Know when to have a human intervene. Sometimes, customer questions and requests will fall outside the realm of a digital bot. Know when it’s time to step in and take back the reins so you can maintain that positive experience for your customers.
- Test, test, test. And then test again. No matter how long you spend planning out your story for your chatbot, there’s always (always!) going to be something that doesn’t quite go as you planned. This is where testing comes in. Make sure you plan for every eventuality by having friends, colleagues, family and even some of your favourite customers give your bot a dry run. Ask them if anything was unclear, and ways you can improve. This can go a long way when it comes to successfully launching your bot once you release it into the wild.
To Sum Up
Chatbots aren’t going to be right for every business. (That should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyways.)
If you’re not sure whether they’re right for you, take the time to do your research. And chat with customers and get their thoughts!
In the meantime, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before you make the decision:
- Are my employees wasting time by answering repetitive questions?
- Am I getting the feeling I need to improve my overall customer experience?
- Do I need some help getting everyday tasks done?
- Are too many customers waiting for responses to their questions?
- Am I selling a lot online, with plans to scale up?
Only you know whether or not a chatbot is a right move to make for your business, but chatting with some pros can help make the decision a little bit easier. If you decide to move forward, speak to a professional marketing agency that can help you map out a plan.