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WHAT IS A CHATBOT?  /
October 19, 2018
Viktoriya Polyarush Social Media Coordinator, an avid reader with the passion for technology.

It goes without saying that chatbots have been all the buzz these days. What might be the reason for this sudden surge in chatbots? Why are they getting so popular?

The purpose of chat bots is to support and evaluate business teams in their relations with customers. Doing this helps businesses save a lot of money which is why many business owners are adopting this technology. And given the fact that these bots can be placed in places like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, SMS based or on your own website gives you the potential to reach a bigger audience.

For an average person chatbots may sound like a futuristic notion, but according to Global Web Index statistics, it is said that 75% of internet users are adopting one or more messenger platforms.

What flashes through your mind once you hear about chtatbots? Let’s go through some of the benefits that they provide:

Improved Customer Service

a. Extensive Customer Assistance

A survey shows that 83% of online shoppers need support during shopping. Thus, your customers may require assistance trying to understand which products fit their needs/budgets any time of the day. Moreover, shoppers may not find what they are looking for due to navigation issues when they are on your site, they may have registration, payment, checkout and delivery questions or there may be a lack of information about a product. In all these situations, chatbots can provide assistance real-time like a sales person in a real store. Moreover, chatbots can offer an interactive communication where they also ask questions to understand the real issue. Furthermore, along with text and voice, they can present customers rich content with product pages, images, blog entries, tutorial videos based on their responses that can help them through their journey.

b. Always-Available Customer Support

According to a research by Gartner, customer service is the most important factor to success. So, whether you are an international or a local business, having a good customer service 24/7 has a positive impact on your customer satisfaction. Customer support process can be improved with the help of chatbots. Bots can be programmed to give automated answers to repetitive questions immediately and forward the request to a real person when a more complicated action is needed. This enables human customer service representatives to save time and assist more important cases rather than time consuming simple tasks. Most of you have experienced listening to the boring music playing while you’re kept on hold by a customer care agent. On an average people spend 7 minutes until they are assigned to an agent. Gone are the days of waiting for the next available operative. Bots are replacing live chat and other forms of contact such as emails and phone calls.

Since chat bots are basically virtual robots they never get tired and continue to obey your command. They will continue to operate every day throughout the year without requiring to take a break. This improves your customer satisfaction and helps you rank highly in your sector. Additionally, with the help of chatbots, organizations can cope with more tasks at the same time so that no customer has to wait. This will allow companies to comply their operations to new markets globally without multiplying incoming requests to be handled.

c. Proactive Customer Interaction

In general, companies apply a “passive customer interaction”, which means that they only respond to customers when they are contacted and not initiate the communication. In competitive businesses – especially with a remarkable percentage of millennials as customers-, none of the brands have the luxury to act passive anymore.

Since none of the organizations have enough manpower to initiate a communication with all of their customers periodically, chatbots allow you to start a conversation with each customer, regarding any issue, any time of the day. This will make your customers feel that your brand is one step ahead, like a friend who is available 24/7, and (obviously) improve your brand perception in the long run. No matter what time of the day it is or how many people are contacting you, every single one of them will be answered instantly. Companies like Taco Bell and Domino’s are already using chatbots to arrange delivery of parcels. Besides, humans react to others based on their mood and emotions. If a agent is having a good attitude or is in good mood he will most probably talk to customers in a good way. In contrary to this the customer will not be satisfied. Whereas chatbots are bound by some rules and obey them as long as they’re programmed to. They always treat a customer in the most polite and perfect way no matter how rough the person is. Also, in the travel and hospitality industry where travelers do not speak the same language, a bot can be trained to communicate in the language of the traveler.

Cost Savings

First of all, implementing a full functioning chatbot, is much cheaper and faster than creating a cross platform app or hiring employees for each task. If you are a business owner you are to have a lot of employees who need to be paid for the work they do. And these expenses just keep adding up as business grows. Chatbots are a one time investment which helps businesses reduce down on staff required. You could integrate a customer support chatbot in your business to cater to simple queries of customers and pass on only the complex queries to customer support agents. Businesses have a variety of options from ready-made softwares developed by Facebook, Microsoft and other big IT companies to choose. Since chatbots are automated solutions, they allow organizations to handle many customers at once, and simultaneously. By “employing” chatbots that complements human agents, you will not only save on employee costs but you will also avoid the problems caused by human errors.

Finally, since customers can easily access chatbots within seconds and start interaction immediately, user acquisition is also associated with lower cost. As we can see, chatbots can be a great back up for employees for relatively basic and repetitive tasks with great speed, cost-effective, easy to implement, maintain and use. The biggest challenge you need to pay attention the most is, the conversation capability or “personality” of your chatbot in order to increase or even just retain your brand perception and customers.

Monitoring Consumer Data & Gaining Insights

As mentioned above, chatbots are great tools to communicate with customers. With the feedback they collect through simple questions, you can make improvements on your services/products and even optimize your website by adjusting low converting pages. For example, if your landing page generates a good amount of organic traffic but doesn’t convert well, your chatbot can reach out to customers visiting this page with a survey to collect more information on why they are leaving the page without purchasing etc. Chatbots can be also used to track purchasing patterns and consumer behaviours by monitoring user data. According to Forbes, this helps a company to decide “which products to market differently, which to market more and which to redevelop for relaunch”. In other words, companies can track the commands and responses given by their users to the chatbot, predict the responses based on consumer language and direct the bot to suggest a different or a more convenient product or service to the users in addition to notifying sales and marketing departments for personalized services.

Better Lead Generation, Qualification and Nurturing

Personalized messaging that assists consumers along “buyer’s journey” is possible with the consumer information that chatbots receive. A bot can ask the necessary and related questions, persuade the user and generate a lead for you. Chatbots ensure the flow is in the right direction to get higher conversion rates. In addition to generating potential customers and notifying the sales teams, a chatbot can also help you to determine the unqualified leads through identified KPIs (budget, relevancy, timeline, resources etc.) and prevent you to deal with time-consuming leads.Writing emails and visiting people at their offices is unconventional especially when you have not made initial contact with that person. On the other hand, chatbots are integrated with social platforms such as Facebook messenger and twitter and chat up prospective clients in a more intimate and conversational manner. They sell the ideas of the organizations and get contacts from potential buyers. They then forward these details to the sales department for a follow-up.

Easier Approach to Global Markets

Whether you are already an international brand with customers globally, or a local brand who is ready for global business, chatbots can solve your customer care problems in multiple languages and 24/7, 365 days a year. This allows your business to scale up its operations to new markets without having to worry about multiplying incoming requests to be handled.

Automation of Repetitive Work:

No one likes doing the same work again and again over brief period of time. In the case of humans, such tasks are prone to errors. Chatbots now help automate tasks which are to be done frequently and at the right time. Also, now there are numerous slack bots which automate repetitive tasks. This helps people save time and increase productivity. For example, there are new items bought from your eCommerce site or there is a bug reported then it sends a short summary to a slack channel.

Keeping Up with the Trends: Being Present on Messaging Platforms

Business Insider showed us (on the chart above) that messaging applications had reached more users than social media networks in the first quarter of 2015. Since customers’ preferences verge to interact with brands via chat -as it’s easier and faster to use- businesses have now the opportunity to reach more customers via Chatbots while staying trendy for their customers. Furthermore, 65% of smartphone users don’t download any new apps in a month. Since users have their core apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp etc., they don’t look for new ones. Therefore, integrating your own chatbot into one of the popular platforms that your customers use daily, can be better than building a new app by saving money and time.

Currently, almost half of consumers still prefer human contact at the other end of the line, so chatbots are primarily used for answering simple, everyday questions. A third of consumers indicate that they would be happy to use chatbots for all interactions, as long as the option is also offered to easily contact a person, when needed.

Looking at the challenges for chatbots, the lack of human finesse is seen as the biggest obstacle. Other major challenges identified are development and maintenance and finding the right balance between human interactions and interactions with chatbots. Developers have their hands full in the coming period with the further development of chatbots, so that, like Charly, they can do more than just simple interactions. For example, it is assumed that chatbots will be playing a significant role in e-commerce in the future. But one essential aspect for this is an integrated payment system. If that doesn’t arrive, the chatbot will never be able to serve as an effective sales tool.

The added value a chatbot can have for the customer journey has not yet reached its peak, by a long way. In the last 10 years, the chatbot has evolved from a paperclip in Microsoft Office to a mirror dispensing clothing advice. The meteoric development of artificial intelligence and machine learning will only further increase the power of the chatbot. There are a lot of benefits related to having a chatbot.  And with new advancements coming every year like AI, NLP and Machine Learning which makes the bot more intelligent to a point where it does not need to be told by an employee what to do is not too far away. Hence, it is safe to say that the future of chatbots is bright.

Why is Chatbot efficient for your business?

There is no business which doesn’t want to grow and growth comes out of two things – quality product and market presence. You need both of them together to grow and sustain. Lets us see how chatbot can help your business :

  • The Smart AI technology in Chatbot will ensure it uses right expressions while conversing.
  • The knowledge of Chatbot can be vast which it can use efficiently in chats.
  • The response time taken by chats is within a second not letting customer wait.
  • The data of chat though bots can be used more appropriately for the quality analysis.
  • This will not only save lots of time but also money that is spent on different platforms.
  • Chatbots will not only answer the queries but can initiate the action if programed accordingly.

Messenger is on the verge of initiating a revolution of chat customer service. Facebook is generating tons of new data about how they want these chatbots to work and that is expected ultimately to make them more useful. Messenger is not alone working around bot technology, there is Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Microsoft’s Tay and Amazon’s Alexa that are sure to give a great competition to Chatbot. Even instant messaging apps like Telegram and Hike have already launched their bots on their chat services.

As the industry grows, more competitors will enter the market and growth will be exponential. Chatbots will be almost indistinguishable from their human counterparts, if anything, even better.  To understand what the future of chatbots holds, let’s familiarize ourselves with three basic acronyms, NLP (Natural Language Processing), NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and NLG (Natural Language Generation).

1. NLP is a blanket term used to describe a machine’s ability to ingest what is said to it, break it down, comprehend its meaning, determine appropriate action, and respond back in language the user will understand.

2. NLU is a subset of NLP that deals with the much narrower, but equally important facet of how to best handle unstructured inputs and convert them into a structured form that a machine can understand and act upon. While humans are able to effortlessly handle mispronunciations, swapped words, contractions, colloquialisms, and other quirks, machines are less adept at handling unpredictable inputs.

3. NLG, simply put, is what happens when computers write language. NLG processes turn structured data into text.

As we keep improvingthe underlying technology through trial and error, NLP will grow more efficient, capable of handling more complex commands and delivering more poignant outputs. Chatbots will also be able to have multi-linguistic conversations, not only understanding hybrid languages like ‘Hinglish’ (Hindi crossed with English) with NLU, but with advanced NLG, will also be able to reciprocate in kind.

The biggest difference between chatbots and humans at this point of time though, is what the industry calls empathy understanding. Chatbots simply aren’t as adept as humans at understanding conversational undertones. Which while immediately apparent to a human being, is difficult for a machine to comprehend. Progress is being made in this field though and soon machines will not only be able to understand what you’re saying, but also how you’re saying it and what you’re feeling while you’re saying it.