Does Your Business Need Chat Bots?

Human Chat Bots Mix

In our previous posts, we explained what chat bots are, why they’re exciting, and some of the challenges they present. In this post, we explore the “so what?”

So, What Should Your Business Be Doing About Chat Bots?

Definitely don’t ignore them. Whether you’re ecommerce, brick and mortar, or both, you should starting thinking about incorporating chat bots in your customer engagement strategy.

Chat Bots in the Short Term

Despite their limitations, chat bots might have a place in your business right now. For certain tasks they may perform better than your existing solutions or allow you to access new audiences.

Here are some criteria for chat bots that may be worth building today:

  1. Simple tasks that are of a repetitive, structured nature. For example, tracking the status of an order (e.g. Order # 2348a7 – is my dry cleaning ready?)
  2. Tasks that can be broken down into predictable steps even if the entire process is not that simple. For example, ordering a pizza can be broken down into 10 questions the chat bot might ask the customer.
  3. To avoid fees caused by using expensive apps and services. The chat bot may not be as efficient as having customers make appointment/orders/reservations through an app that writes directly into your system, but it can get you 80% of the way there with little manual input. This may be worth it to save on charges made by apps like OpenTable, DoorDash etc.
  4. Lead generation chat bots that are meant to simply get the conversation started, qualify the customer with a few questions, and pass the conversation to a human. For example, a chat bot could qualify customers for a mortgage or car loan and then help them set up a call or meeting with a salesperson.

Chat Bots in the Long Term

Thinking about chat bots actually starts with thinking about messaging. Since messaging is where customers are you need to be there as well. Once you start messaging with customers, opportunities for automation, chat bots, and other efficiencies will emerge. Here’s a typical progression of business messaging and chat bots strategy:

  1. Add messaging as a channel for customer communications. Start with a small group like your VIP customers or constrain it by geography or product. Select only the 1-4 messaging channels your customers are most likely to use (e.g. SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter, Messenger) and add more later as needed. Maintain the same operational flows you currently use to handle customer inquiries, whether human or automated. At this stage, your business is just collecting data and reducing the volume of calls.
  2. Expand the program as you work out the kinks of customer and employee adoption. Prior to additional rollouts, formalize marketing, training, and privacy policies that will govern the program. It’s important to have an understanding of what is expected of the program. Measuring and tracking results is critical to program success. Is your goal purely to reduce customer call volume? Generate more leads? Hold employees more accountable? Freshen up the brand to millennials? Messaging can help with all of these but businesses need to define their specific goal/s in order to achieve success.
  3. After enough customer conversations have taken place, candidates for new automation opportunities will emerge. With sufficient data, certain flows can be automated, saving time and human resources. The automation might relate to the conversation itself (i.e. chat bots), or it might be related to efficiencies in backend flows (for example, automatically track a package en route). Don’t expect automation to go from 0-100% too quickly. There are efficiencies that will be revealed almost immediately and others that will take a long time if ever.
  4. Integrate with internal and external systems. It is often the case that whether human powered or automated, to provide a stellar customer experience with messaging, businesses need to integrate with existing systems. Some of those integrations such as CRM systems are obvious and readily available while others might require custom work (Check our OwnerListens integrations here). Prioritizing which integrations to start with involves a mix of the expected ROI and the anticipated complexity of the integration. In general, it’s best to start with low hanging fruit to quickly increase efficiency and tackle the the older, more complex systems later.

Next steps

The future is bright for messaging and for chat bots but it’s even brighter for businesses who think about this sea change methodically and strategically rather than jumping on a trend and ending up with a potentially embarrassing result that backfires.

To talk about messaging or chat bots for your business or to setup a demo, text or call us at: 650-825-1166. You can even use our Message Mate on the bottom of your screen (bottom right on Desktop).

We’re also on Messenger, WeChat, Line and many other IM apps. Pick your favorite and message us! 

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