How Chatbots Help Businesses
Keep reading to find out what a chatbot is, how it helps a business, and chatbot best practices.
What is a Chatbot?
If you’ve never heard of them, you’re not alone. In fact, many people still think they are still part of the future (like a personal jet-pack or a flying car). Yet, to business owners in-the-know, chatbots are a reality, and they are growing in popularity.
“Recently released research by Oracle shows that in the next three years, the number of chatbot users will grow exponentially from 70 million to almost 200 million.”
A chatbot is a computer program installed on a website that is designed to simulate human conversation with a website visitor.
The are Rule-based chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled chatbots.
Rule-based chatbots use “decision trees” in order to answer questions which can be simple or complex (based on how it is trained/created by its creators). This type of bot can can offer choices, but it cannot handle free form questions where the pattern does not match what has been programmed in to it.
Artificial intelligence chatbots can learn from the interactions they have with website visitors. They are made possible through Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP allows chatbots to intelligently respond to a user’s text input by understanding intent and context.
How Can Chatbots Help?
Companies are using chatbots on their websites as a way to:
- Interact with website visitors in order to help the visitors find what they’re looking for
- Help increase sales
For any business, chatbots are a great way to offer a level of instant customer service without the cost of human agents. And, the chatbots on-the-job 24/7/365.
Why Interact with Website Visitors?
A new visitor to a business website is typically a prospective customer for that business. For the prospects that are ready-to-go, they’ll just call the business they see on the website, or they’ll fill out a contact form to get things going.
For a prospect who’s not yet at this stage, they’re typically looking for a bit more information about the business. While the website content layout & menu navigation should be done in a way that makes it intuitive to find the information the prospect seeks, sometimes it’s not quite enough or not very intuitive.
A properly designed chatbot can greatly assist a prospect in getting to the information they seek quickly.
“73% of consumers are likely to use a website chatbot”
How Do Chatbots Help Increase Sales?
When a prospect gets to the information they seek about the business, the prospect is that much closer to becoming a customer, client, or patient.
“Website Chatbot Customers are 134% more likely to spend money”
Plus, a feature some chatbots have is to be able to help a prospect book an appointment for a service-based business (e.g., for a dentist, chiropractor, etc.).
Another feature can be the ability for a chatbot to get the prospect into the sales check-out process for an item they’ve showed interest in (e.g., an eCommerce website, an affiliate website, etc.).
Naturally, both of these can lead to more sales for the business.
What are the Best Practices for a Website Chatbot
Nothing is set-in-stone for the use of a chatbot on a website. Yet, it can be helpful to have a set one up so that it can simultaneously be a great experience for a website visitor AND helpful in creating more sales for your business.
The following are some helpful practices to keep in mind when setting up a chatbot for your small business website.
Have a Clear Purpose
Know what you are trying to accomplish. Dial-in your target audience, and understand what they need.
As best you can, define the visitors flow. Consider the following questions:
- What functions should your chatbot be able to do?
- What have your prospects and customers been asking about?
- What information are they seeking?
- What have they been looking to accomplish?
- How can you help them get what they need?
- Can you help them schedule an appointment? Buy a product? Get pre- or after-sale support?
It’s OK not to have answers for all of these questions. But, you should have at least a good starting idea of what you would need your chatbot to be able to do.
Tip – Don’t wait until you think your chatbot is 100% perfect. Otherwise, you’ll likely never get one operational.
Tip – Make use of my 70/20 Principle. Yes, I know about Pareto’s 80/20 Principle. But, my adaptation is very useful for business owners getting a project underway faster. As adapted to chatbots, develop your chatbot idea to about 70%. The idea here is to just get it operational – and tweak it over time from there. Using my 70/20 Principle, you’ll get your chatbot working faster, and you make about a 20% tweak to the bot each time you modify it. Just realize that it will likely never be at 100%. But, you can keep making improvements – 20% each time you work on it’s capabilities.
Keep The Chatbot Simple and Straightforward
Provide quick, easy solutions to common problems or requests. Only add complexity if the situation warrants it.
Include buttons for the choices.
Answer Common Questions
Set-up your chatbot to be able to help with common questions. Direct the visitor to a FAQ section on your website or to a specific section on your website where the answer is discussed.
Tip – Keep responses informative, but a short as possible. Otherwise, an response can scroll off the small window used for chats.
Tip – Add to your chatbot’s answering capability over time, as new or different questions get asked.
Tip – Incorporate a fallback response. When your chatbot can accept free-form input, consider having a creative or light-hearted fallback response in place to handle situations when it gets confused – like:
“Hmmm…that’s a new one for me. I’m not quite sure how to respond. Why not call us now to assist?”
Tone of Voice
Make your chatbot’s tone of voice friendly and welcoming. Be polite & responsive. Make it a conversational tone.
Tip – Consider giving your chatbot a bit of a light-hearted personality or other human-like qualities.
Often, the use of some simple emojis (like a hand waving, a thumbs up, a party-celebration type of emoji can make a computer, artificial intelligence app seem more approachable & helpful.
People typically realize they are interacting with an app. But, some chatbot designs allow you to include a small image to be the persona of the chatbot. I went with w fun robot-look, and I named him “I/O” (for Input/Output). Other business owners choose an image of a real person. This, combined with the ability of some chatbot app softwares to include a brief typing pause between a visitor’s input and the app’s response can make the chatbot seem more human-like.
Tip – Avoid industry jargon unless it actually makes sense to use it. For example, someone suffering from a Temporo Mandibular Joint problem is likely going to have the acronym “TMJ” in their head when their interacting with a chiropractor’s website chatbot. In that case, it can make sense to include “TMJ Relief” as an option that a website visitor is seeking information on. But, just using jargon to be using it doesn’t make sense, and it may hinder visitor interaction.
Make sure your chatbot is easy to find. In the United States, it’s very common for a chatbot to appear in the lower, right-hand corner of the desktop website view in a browser. And, it appears in a similar position on smartphones.
Initially, chatbots appear as just an icon. They may or may not be animated. When they icon gets clicked on, a bigger window pops-up that is more conducive to be able to chat.
Just make sure the initial icon is something that looks like a chatbot icon.
Are We Done?
Let the user know when they have reached the end of their conversation with the chatbot.
When directing them to another page on the website, that’s pretty clear. But, when still within the chatbot app, help the visitor know when the chatbot is done.
Tip – Ask if the information was helpful. Or, do they need additional information. Etc. If more information is needed, provide a support phone number, access to a contact form, the ability for the visitor to get a callback or email response, etc.
Smart business owners know that company branding is very important in the consumer marketplace. Businesses should always have a congruent “look & feel” between their business website and their various social media properties & related blogs. Think: Colors, images, messages, etc.
Tip – Incorporate your company color palette into the design of your chatbot. This will make it seamlessly fit right in with your website – not look like it was a force-fit, bolt-on afterthought.
Increasing Social Awareness
You can even place one or more social media icons in your chatbot flow for the purpose of encouraging your website visitors to share your website content. If you’ve provided a positive user experience in your chatbot flow, some of the website visitors will elect to share their experience with your website with their friends. This can help bring about additional brand awareness for your business in the social media arena.
Review Chatbot Analytics
Find out how visitors are interacting with you chatbot. Questions to ask yourself:
- How many chatbot interactions with visitors have occurred?
- Is chatbot use increasing?
- What are the top interactions?
- For eCommerce & affiliate websites, is it assisting with new sales?
- What functionality may need expansion?
What are the Limitations of Chatbots?
Today’s chatbots are very good, but they are apps. They are typically designed to handle first-level questions. As such, they cannot think-on-their-feet as a human can.
AI-based chatbots can certainly help get closer to this, but even they have limits. For example, they typically cannot handle complex queries. They cannot read emotion, but they can determine intent.
Chatbots also typically cannot do customer-retention. They can provide programmed responses, but they cannot decide on-the-spot that it makes sense to attempt to save a customer from leaving by making them a one-off special offer.
Wrapping It Up
Chatbots are being used to answer customer questions, provide service and support, and even drive sales. Chatbot marketing can save your business money by answering many of the questions that your prospects & customers have, and they can do this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
DonRoberts.com provides website chatbot services for small business owners. Or, you can set one up for yourself.
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