Just the other day, I was scrolling through a Facebook page for a very small (4-5 employees at any given time!) chocolate company based out of Syracuse, New York. They’d recently experienced a boom of attention due to some very tantalizing videos they’ve been uploading of their chocolate-making process.
As I was perusing the pictures and trying not to drool all over my keyboard, a few comments caught my eye.
Some backstory: The company found that after every video upload, demand for their product became so high that they could not keep up. This is clearly explained multiple times on multiple photographs on their Facebook. In response to this issue (and since their job is… you know… producing and selling candy….), they stopped making videos in order to keep demand more levelized. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Even worse, when both of these commenters received their answer from the business, their response was to become even more demanding, giving reasons and excuses as to why their questions deserved immediate solutions.
Unholy grammar aside, it’s indicative of an all too-common trend of customers demanding things that just aren’t reasonable or required parts of the service. In a world of increasingly transparent small businesses and increasingly demanding customers, the expectation is that they receive answers on demand, any time of the day or night, no matter how many family dinners or little league games are being interrupted. There has to be a line in the sand somewhere… right?
Alas, on the horizon comes the heroic chatbot. Due to huge leaps made in machine learning technology and AI capabilities, the uncanny valley that exists between man and machine is starting to get much more narrow. Could it be the solution we’ve all been waiting for?
Would the small time chocolatier mentioned above be able to avoid the constant harassment if there were a small robot friend to tell demanding customers that they can choose between buying chocolate or watching chocolate, but not both?
It’s all about how you use it, though. Let’s start from the beginning:
So, What is a Chatbot Exactly?
Simply put, chatbots are programs or applications that mimic human speech and interactions. In most cases, they exist to take some of the pressure off of customer service representatives or small business owners who can spend more time doing business or working through nuanced issues. Chatbots often handle small, simple tasks that don’t require a human touch, like scheduling appointments or giving answers to frequently asked questions.
Drift’s 2018 State of Chatbots Report gives the ways that consumers themselves could imagine using a chatbot program in this handy infographic:
Automation is gaining more and more leverage. Walk into any modern grocery store, and you’ll see self-checkouts lining the walls. Amazon recently cut the ribbon on four Seattle-based stores that boast nary a human in sight apart from other shoppers.
Do you own a Google Home or an Alexa? You’re working with a highly sophisticated chatbot that can respond to hundreds of thousands of questions using its lightning-fast search engine processing skills and learning abilities.
Even banks and utility companies are cutting out the middleman, letting you establish new accounts at the click of a button.
For better or for worse, digital native customers, as a whole, prefer getting things done themselves (with a little help from AI).
3 Primary Uses of Chatbots Online
So, what does the world of chatbots have to do with your business? If you want to make some major improvements to your sales and service departments, hopefully a lot. These handy-dandy digital buddies can save you limitless time, money, and manpower if you put the time into teaching them. How?
Provide support even after you’ve left for the evening.
According to Sprout Social, the average customer expects to receive an answer to their questions within 4 hours of asking. The average brand response time? 10 hours. There’s a reason Facebook tells you how quickly your favorite businesses respond to your questions.
Customers expect answers and they expect them now. The more likely you are to reply quickly, the more likely they are to trust that you’re going to continue to provide that standard of service after you’ve sold them your product.
Quickly provide information that customers are most interested in.
No matter how incredible and user friendly your website is, sometimes people just want an answer to their question without having to look for it themselves. Call it a sign of the times, but a fact is a fact. Another fact is that it is incredibly frustrating. Why spend all that time and energy creating an FAQ page for people to just ask again and again what your business hours are?
Chatbot can help with that! Train it to respond to keywords like “business hours,” “open,” “close,” and “today,” and you’ll filter out those questions before they even cross your radar. It’s a win-win for the customer and for your sanity.
Get customers subscribed to mailing lists and messages faster than ever.
Chatbots are fun. Don’t believe me? Since coming online in 1997, Cleverbot has engaged in about 85 million conversations with people who just wanted to talk to it for fun. Remember AIM and Windows Live Messenger? Both came preinstalled with a chatbot called SmarterChild, for those lonely nights when no one was online. Even more recently, an app called Insomniabot-3000 has launched, giving insomnia sufferers someone to text with between 11 pm-5 am, when the rest of the world is asleep.
Chatbots are engaging and interesting. Dominos cashed in with their pizza emoji ordering bot. In return, they saw:
- Over 2 Billion Earned Media Impressions
- Over 500K people visited the Site after hearing of the program – https://anyware.dominos.com/
- 10.5% in sales growth YOY
- A spot in the Top 5 in Digital Transactions, between Apple and Amazon
The Future of Chatbot Automation is Worth Keeping an Eye On
People love playing with automation. It’s interesting, it’s simple, and it capitalizes on a world where we’d prefer to do it digitally, if we’re going to do it at all. We’ll explore why in a future post, where we look at ways to get started on some common platforms, as well as some big-name influencers in the world of chatbots.