What are Chatbots and How Can I Use Them in My Business?

concept image of message screen with chatbot

Communicating with your customers is vital to running a successful business, and like much of the world, communication has gone digital. Emails, text messages and even Facebook messages are supplanting face-to-face communications, often because digital is simply more convenient for consumers. In fact, Gartner anticipates by 2020 customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships with businesses without interacting with a human.

So, instead of letting your Facebook messenger inbox accumulate with unanswered inquiries, you may want to consider using these up-and-coming digital helpers: Chatbots.

What are chatbots?

Chatbots are automated computer programs that use artificial intelligence to talk to and with consumers. Chatbots reply to consumer inquiries automatically based on scripts you create.  They typically live in online chat programs like Facebook Messenger or Slack.

You’ve probably interacted with a chatbot before. When visiting your favorite retailer’s Facebook page or website and a window appeared saying, “Hi, can I help you find something?”—that’s probably a chatbot.

Why use chatbots for business?

Chatbots are programmed to understand consumer inquiries and then answer them. So instead of spending hours on hold with customer service or scrolling through a company’s website, the chatbot can instantly answer or find what the consumer is looking for – and if it doesn’t know, it can put them in contact with someone who can.  That means chatbots can help you utilize your and your employees’ strengths for tasks other than answering Facebook Messages.

What’s more, your customers are increasingly expecting quick answers from businesses online. According to Facebook, 10 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses every month. And 78 percent of people who own smartphones are expected to use a type of online messenger every month by the end of 2018.

What are examples of chatbots for customer service?

Chatbots are able to do a variety of tasks with the right programming, but they boil down to two main types:

  • Rule-based chatbots are considered simpler chatbots. They are similar to automated phone lines – think, “Press 2 to make an appointment.” These chatbots provide pre-written questions for customers to pick or respond to – for example, “What are your hours of operation?”  It only responds to specific commands given to it by the programmer.
  • A.I. (artificial intelligence) chatbots are more advanced. These already understand basic language—so pre-written commands aren’t necessary. They identify the context and intent of a question to formulate responses.

Depending on your business, you may not need the more advanced bots.

What platforms support chatbots?

When choosing a chatbot, consider how your customers are currently connecting with you. If your audience is primarily on Facebook, a Twitter chatbot won’t be as useful as others.

Wherever your customers like to communicate, here are the three common places you’ll find and can use a chatbot:

  • Message-based social apps: WhatsApp, Slack, and Kik are all examples of messaging apps that are alternatives to text messaging.  WhatsApp allows businesses to create a profile and communicate with their customers directly.  A chatbot would live inside this app and help you respond efficiently to consumer questions.
  • Social media chatbots: Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat all have chatbot capabilities. These bots live within the Facebook or Twitter direct message functionality and can do anything from sending messages and ads to your target audience (like email, but with Facebook) to greeting potential customers when they come to your page. When a consumer asks a question, the bot—with your guidance—can either give a response or put them in touch with the right person from your business.
  • Website chatbots: The benefit of a website is providing on-demand information to your customers, no matter what time of day they need to know. With a chatbot, your online customer service can be 24/7, too.

How can chatbots help my business?

  • They reach your consumer where they spend a lot of their time—online.
  • They can provide 24-hour customer service and quick responses to your most common customer inquiries.
  • They can support with the buying process by helping customers find the products on your site or in your store.
     

How can I build a chatbot?

If you’re a programmer and know how to code, you may be able to create your own chatbot. But if you aren’t a master coder, consider hiring a software development company or using a chatbot builder like MobileMonkey, Botsify or Chatfuel.

It’s important to communicate with your customers—and your insurance agent, too.  Get in touch with your local Erie Insurance agent and learn more about business insurance. Keep your focus on making your business the best it can be while ERIE helps you select the best coverage to keep your growing venture protected.

Learn how these up-and-coming digital helpers can make a business owner’s life easier. /blog/chatbots-for-business Erie Insurance