Whether you’ve visited a website as an individual consumer or as a business customer, chances are you’ve encountered a pop-up box with a friendly message asking if you need help.
Known as “chatbots,” these artificial intelligence (AI) systems aren’t just for big businesses. They also offer small businesses the opportunity to streamline customer service and sales activities, saving time and money to make your business more efficient and profitable.
Here are some things to think about if you’re considering using a chatbot in your small business.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot is an AI application that communicates or “chats” with users. It stores answers to common questions. So basically it will complete tasks based on the interaction happening in a messenger box on the screen, or even based on voice commands (think of Apple’s “Siri,” a chatbot superstar).
Chatbots operate on a multi-layered process called deep neural learning. Neural networks recognize speech, data and patterns and then transmits that data through the network as a foundation layer. Each subsequent layer builds on the previous layer, generating an increasingly accurate answer the more times each question is asked.
3 Ways to Use a Chatbot in Your Small Business
Using a chatbot may help smaller companies with customer service, sales and data collection.
#1 A Chatbot for Customer Support
According to a recent survey, today’s consumers are eager to use chatbots. The 2016 Aspect Consumer Experience Index found that 44 percent of Americans would even prefer to interact with a good chatbot than a person when it comes to customer service! A chatbot presents results by combing through data. If you create answers to frequently asked questions for your chatbot to access, it may improve your customer service by cutting the time required to research and answer common questions. This eliminates the need for your customer to wait for an email response, or the hassle of phoning in to your business, then becoming frustrated if they’re stuck waiting on hold. Though your chatbot issues a standard answer to their question, you’re communicating with customers in a somewhat intimate environment – through the chat box on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, giving the illusion of a customized response.
#2 As an Inbound eCommerce Sales Tool
A chatbot may also make an effective sales tool. It may be programmed to ask the user questions and respond to answers with new options or lists. Yes, a chatbot can complete sales, and it’s likely a cheaper option than hiring a new salesperson.
#3 To Collect Data About Site/App Visitors
In addition to providing services to help your customers, chatbots collect useful data that may better identify customer demographics and potential new sales opportunities.
Advantages of Using a Chatbot
The advantages of using a chatbot in your business may include:
1. Availability 24/7 - even during your "closed" hours. 2. Cutting down on staffing requirements for customer support and sales. 3. Delivering information based on the customer's prior interactions, transactions, and questions using computer algorithms, so there's less room for human error 4. Maintaining consistent language and responses, which is important for branding
Disadvantages of Using a Chatbot
If you’re considering a chatbot for your business, watch out for the following:
1. Customers still like to talk to a real person, so make sure you include this as an option. 2. Chatbots are still best for simple tasks only, and may not be able to complete more complex requests. 3. Limited opportunity to utilize chatbot technology for small business owners as this is a new field. 4. Wide variety in capability of bots currently available, so do your research before making your final choice.
Think about how your business could benefit from a chatbot and pay attention to how bigger businesses use them. This may help identify creative ways to use chat services in your own business, and ultimately streamline processes to better compete with larger companies.