If you're like me, the use of chatbots piques your interest.
Companies are already using them to deliver content assets, book appointments, and answer questions. But can this modern tool make the experience of engaging with a brand more convenient? It certaintly seems so.
The potential of chatbots is exciting, considering all of the different applications.
And when it comes to whether or not chatbots truly can live up to their hype, it all comes down to your goals...
Is Chatbot Technology Worth Investing In?
In 2016, the chatbot hype started with grand promises of machine learning and the ultimate customer experience. But then the hype fizzled in 2018. Not because it wasn't as useful as it could have been, but because it became mainstream. The excitement of the new technology dissipated only because companies started using it.
But with new advancements coming down pipeline, is now the time to integrate chat bots in the customer journey?
What are the types of chatbots?
There are two types of chatbots. The first is what you'd expect, an AI-driven tool that can base interactions on a wide range of variables it pulls from your customer. This the bot that sees a user on a specific page, receives their question, and provides an answer that's personalized based on the material they were just looking at. So, if your customer asks a question about the best dog treat you sell, AI would recognize their intent, seeing that the page they're asking from is about sensitive stomachs or training or so on, and deliver the best answer for that individual.
The other, more common chatbot is less awe-worthy when you get down to it. Command-based chatbots interact by receiving keywords and executing commands from them. So, if someone asks about dog treats, the chatbot could pull up all the highest ranked articles about dog treat on your site and offer them to the customer. It's less personal but still effective.
Command-based chatbots can also initiate a string of different commands. So if someone asks about dog treats, the bot may then ask what their goal is. When the user responds, it could ask another question or provide an article. It's a lot like playing 20-questions, but with a computer.
Regardless of which type of chatbot you use, there are benefits and downfalls to each. And ultimately, the one you select will come down to your personal needs and the price you're willing to pay.
What are the benefits of chatbots?
If your company has a technical product or service that requires a lot of customer service, you could greatly benefit by the time and money saving abilities of chatbots. Rather than hiring entire teams to assist with customer service, a few employees can handle the entire thing since the chatbots manage the heavy lifting.
Chatbots are also useful if you have long wait times before people reach one of your representatives. Although most chatbots are obviously a program and not a human, the short conversation decreases the perceived time a consumer is waiting. Your chatbot can also provide them with other materials and assets they can read through while they wait, keeping them "entertained" until it's their turn in the queue.
Chatbots can offer personalized information to your audience. So, rather than needing a customer rep to talk through the process, the bot can identify the user's location, page, referral source, or other information to help them understand the user's intent.
While people immediately assume chatbots are strictly for customer service, many organizations also use them internally. Chatbots can be used to automate tasks like inventory ordering and management based on either command prompts or artificial intelligence. This makes it faster to handle daily tasks and decreases the chances of human error with certain processes.
Chatbots can integrate with anything that accepts an API. If someone can code the integration, they work almost anywhere. This means your website, products, and phone apps can all be connected to the same chatbot.
What's the downside?
While there are many positives, there are also downsides to using chatbots. If you're using a system that was poorly programmed, it could lead to a negative customer experience. This is often caused because the chatbot doesn't pick up on context clues or misspellings of the keyword, then, rather than giving them the answer they need, the consumer is sent on a wild goose chase that proves fruitless. In the end, they'll still need a customer representative to solve their problem, but they'll also be frustrated that they had to deal with a faulty bot in the process.
In a situation like that, you may still require a human to constantly monitor the system for when issues arise. While that could solve many of your problems, it also means you're paying an employee just to monitor the system that was supposed to cut down on that very task.
Chatbots are also prone to errors that a live rep normally wouldn't make. Things like confusing phrases or not understanding intent could increase customer frustrations, doing more harm than good.
Are chatbots right for your brand?
People who believe chatbots are overhyped are usually the individuals who had high hopes for the technology. It's not that it isn't useful, it's that the tech hasn't advanced to where we hope it'll get.
So, are chatbots worth the hype? If you're focused on enhancing your customer's experience, yes. Chatbot technology is still advancing, and if you need assistance with your brand's customer service, this may be a good way to get after it.