It’s an open secret: chatbots and marketing automation tools have gained popularity in recent years. Companies who were once skeptical are catching on to the advantages of these tools and how they can significantly improve productivity and customer experience while reducing costs.
Moreover, chatbots are no longer simple, limited programs unable to understand human behaviour. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), they are quickly evolving into highly sophisticated conversation systems.
As the world embraces this technology, there are several questions to be answered before deciding if your brand strategy should include a website chatbot or not:
- What is a chatbot?
- What are the different types?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Are they really worth it?
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program that simulates interactions with humans by processing voice or text requests to deliver quick, relevant responses. You can find them in a variety of applications, including virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant), automated text chats on a website, mobile and messaging applications, as well as by phone.
Types of chatbots
There are essentially two types of chatbots:
These are the simplest form of conversational bots since they work with a fixed set of information and predefined options. They are typically used to automate customer support for generic, repetitive questions through menus and buttons or keyword recognition.
These chatbots use natural language processing (NPL) and machine learning (ML) technology to understand sentence structure. In other words, they recognize the intent of the requests and progressively get better at answering them.
Chatbots and marketing automation
By integrating chatbots to marketing automation tools, you can leverage the data collected from the bots to align your marketing and sales effort. Examples of this could include a targeted campaign or follow-up on a potential sale.
Chatbots and customer service
Advancements in chatbot technology have made a real impact on both employee and customer experience. In 2019, chatbots handled 69% of their chats from start to finish, earning an average satisfaction score of 87.6% (Comm100). In addition to relieving pressure on customer service teams, they help classify information before transferring to human agents. As a result, these agents respond faster and with greater precision. Finally, they allow companies to provide their customers with 24/7 support at a much lower cost than hiring night staff.
That said, chatbots have several advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
Advantages of chatbots
Chatbots don’t receive a salary. By automating interactions that would otherwise require an employee to handle, you’re saving on operational costs that you can allocate elsewhere. Consider this: it’s estimated that 90% of queries in the finance and healthcare are going to be handled by chatbots by 2022, resulting in cost savings between $0.50 to $0.70 per customer interaction (CNBC).
By leaving the simple, generic queries to your chatbot, you’re freeing up your customer service team to address more complex issues.
24/7 customer support
Chatbots work around the clock to provide continuous customer support. This is especially important for companies looking to maintain customer engagement and loyalty, when today’s customers expect flawless, immediate answers. If a potential customer initiates a chat on your website and does not get a timely response, they will likely go elsewhere. Thus, a sales opportunity will be lost.
Automated learning & data collection
AI-powered chatbots get smarter every day as they collect more and more data from their interactions. This requires no training on your part. The data collected, whether from an AI-powered or rule-based chatbot, can help you better understand your customers and improve the customer experience.
Managing multiple queries
Chatbots can handle multiple queries simultaneously. This eliminates any wait-time for your customers, regardless of the time of day or periods of increased demand.
Disadvantages of chatbots
They can still feel like machines
Although chatbots can generate faster response and resolution times, they’re usually very distinguishable from humans. Their biggest flaw is that they lack in personalization, emotion and decision-making. Simple rule-based bots can also be very limited in their interactions, which can result in awkward conversations or create an endless loop of “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand your question.”
Depending on the complexity, chatbots can be expensive to develop. A custom-built chatbot can easily set you back between $15,000 to $30,000, so you’ll want to carefully calculate if your potential cost savings justify the initial investment.
AI learning curve
An AI-based chatbot can take a long time to develop if there is low traffic and insufficient data. Companies with limited or unorganized datasets may even resort to open-source training data, which implies additional costs.
Not fit for all businesses
Some business models are simply too complex to warrant the investment or have target groups that may not respond well to automated interactions. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding to implement a chatbot.
Are chatbots worth it?
We’ve listed some of the advantages and disadvantages, but it all comes down to this: are they really worth it?
It’s expected that 70% of customer interactions will involve AI applications like chatbots by 2022 (Gartner). Accordingly, brands have no choice but to consider them while designing their marketing automation strategy.
Most often, the financial benefits far exceed the setup costs. A study by Juniper Research even suggests that chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion per year by 2022. What’s more, 57% of business leaders around the world agree that they deliver large ROI for the minimal effort they require (Accenture).
Finally, a 2019 survey showed that 74% of customers used them for researching or buying products and services. This is perhaps evidence that the 24/7 convenience and rapid responses of chatbots are making up for their current limitations.
No matter how hesitant you may be, if you’re looking for ways to grow your profits and improve your customer experience, chatbots may be just what your brand strategy needs.