Do you need a chatbot?


What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that gives the impression that a user is having a conversation with a human being over the internet. A chatbot is designed to answer commonly asked questions quickly – without the need to wait for a live chat operative – who is expensive to hire and may take time to offer a response.

This is artificial intelligence at its best. The computer mimics conversation – very much like a tennis match – with a question followed by a response – followed by a question – then hit back a response. This is clever – but only so clever – it requires the human in the conversation to stick to a set of prescribed inputs.

You are likely aware of Siri – and have, like everyone else, asked it to rap and to tell you a story, asked Siri to marry you – as well as what the weather will be like that day. This is a chatbot.

There are two types of chatbot. One is unintelligent – in other words it responds using predefined conversation written by humans. The other – well – this is an AI chatbot that responds intelligently using machine learning – think Terminator – think i-Robot… but as part of a messenger service (and without guns).

The benefits of a chatbot

Simple and silly questions are the tip of the iceberg of possibility with chatbots – just imagine if you could persuade the chatbot to say the name of your company in response to a question from a consumer… imagine if you could replace some of your customer service operatives with a bot that could answer questions instantly… just imagine the money that can be made and saved.

To be fair, there has been a lot of fuss made about chatbots in a short period and this might all seem like hype or a fad – so, let’s consider how a chatbot might be essential to your digital marketing strategy.

Bots can communicate with website visitors

This is probably the most popular way of using a bot. The reputation of your website and your company as a whole can be impacted by your response time to customer enquiries. You can program a chatbot to answer the most frequently asked questions and then to divert enquiries to a human operator when it cannot answer with predefined responses. This can also help you prioritise the customer responses that come into your support team or sales team – they can divert the most crucial to operators whilst dealing with the menial themselves.

The more your company appears responsive and caring towards customer concerns – the better your reputation – the better the word of mouth. Over half those consumers surveyed said they expected live chat and appreciated this as a service from companies. A bot could provide the means of providing such a service in a financially viable way.

Be aware! The bot will need to sound as human as possible. The best bot out there is on – which comes across as slightly passive-aggressive – but no less human because of this.

Help users research your brand more effectively

It might be that users want to find out about you using your bot. However, knowing what to ask your bot to get the best response can be hit and miss for the user. Therefore, you might want to make this more efficient by including a “what can you do?” command. Here the bot can then offer a list of questions that the user can select from to learn more about you or your company. You can also add in some funny ones or some commands that reveal something of your brand personality – remember not to be too robotic with your chatbot.

Manage your leads

It is possible to program a chatbot to help you manage your leads. You can design it with a set of predefined questions and responses that help you understand where your customers are in the sales funnel and what action needs to happen now to move them forward. This can help a sales person keep track of where they are in their daily work.

However, it is also possible to have your bot take a customer a good way through the sales funnel for you – but the tip to success here is knowing when you need a living, breathing person to take over. One of your sales reps will still need to close the deal – but the bot can do some of the initial grunt work – probably a lot more effectively than people.

Personalise your content

There is a way to use a bot to personalise the content shown on your website and in your ads – and in a way that doesn’t feel too creepy to the user. You can set up a bot to ask your user questions about what they want and need from your site. The responses to the questions can then be used to help filter the content on the site to suit the individual. This is better than having access to the browser history of customers through pixels and cookies – as the user has voluntarily given the information and is actively looking for a personalised approach from the company.

CNN use such a bot on their site to personalise the news that the user receives in their feed. The user can ask questions about the news and from a history of these questions the site intuitively fills up the feed they receive when they come back to the site. A little bit of personalisation goes a long way – especially if it can be done without appearing too creepy.

In short

A chatbot is a means of interacting with your user on a personal level but in a way that is affordable. So much of digital marketing is about customer experience and making the user feel personally connected to a company. To do this with live, breathing, humans can be prohibitively expensive. However, if you can support this approach with machine-learning bots – then you can go along way to personalised and instant responses to the needs of the customer.