8 ways chatbots are helping businesses

Ever sent a message to a business and had it responded immediately? Unlike human operators, chatbots are always available and ready to fulfill requests.

Have you talked to a chatbot yet? Every other company seems to have one these days, and while not all implementations of the technology are good, the idea itself can yield great results. Here are some of the best ways chatbots are being used today.

Automatic responses

Ever sent a message to a business and had it responded to immediately? Unlike human operators, chatbots are always available and ready to fulfill requests.

How elaborate these automatic responses are will vary from business to business. Some chatbots will simply tell customers the company’s business hours and when they can expect a human operator to be available — often coupled with a pleasant welcome message. Such simple responses may seem trivial, but it’s a way better alternative than having customers met with complete silence when messaging a company for the first time.

Meanwhile, other bots are programmed to handle more complex tasks on behalf of operators. They can filter prospective customers, collect relevant data, direct customers to the right sector or operator to suit their needs, and some can even book appointments and answer general queries about a company’s business.

Reduce costs

As with many other forms of automation, one of the purposes of chatbots is to reduce the amount of human labor necessary to achieve the goals of a pursuit. When you reduce the amount of labor required to complete a task, you also tend to reduce the costs associated with that task. This isn’t always true, but it holds true in the case of chatbot applications.

By reducing the workload of human operators, chatbots can reduce how many hours each operator has to work, or even reduce the number needed to dedicate to customer service entirely. Not only that, but the operators who do remain won’t have to feel bored while answering the same questions and requests over and over. You can let the bot handle the menial tasks, allowing human operators to interact with customers only when their talent is truly necessary.

And yes, human operators are still likely to be necessary, even with a good chatbot solution. But if you run a small or medium-sized operation, you may very well be able to bring down the number of operators required to just one.

Customer information

One of the boring tasks that can be automated now is the process of collecting relevant customer information. Bots can be programmed to talk to customers through the process of providing your company with general data points such as age, date of birth, budget, project timeframe, etc. This won’t just save time; it can make the process much smoother.

Say, for example, you are an insurance company, so you need to collect all sorts of important document numbers and information from any prospective client. Before bots, that task would either require human interaction or involve your customers filling up a big – and often intimidating – online form. The latter would often lead to frustration and customers taking their business elsewhere or giving up on their purchase entirely. A form kills a customer’s rhythm, forcing them to slow down when they might be excited to start interacting with your products.

Bots can facilitate the data collection process by turning what used to be a form into a conversation. Via text, the bot can ask direct questions, and help guide and motivate them throughout the process, all while answering questions like “why is this important?” and “where can I find this information?”.

On top of that, chatbots come with the advantage of making the process free of social pressure, which is another selling point.

Now, a human touch when reminding a customer of an important meeting might be the best solution.

Pressure-free customer service

The lack of social pressure is one of the selling points of chatbots for introverted and socially anxious customers. When talking to human operators, this category of customers may fear that if they take too long to respond, it means that they are wasting the operator’s time and making other customers wait to get service. That anxiety can lead to mistakes, or even to the customer avoiding interacting with your company to begin with.

When said customer has the option to deal with a bot, however, things get easier. Then they know they can calmly answer the bot’s question on the timeframe that is more comfortable for them. The bot won’t get bored, won’t get annoyed, and won’t forget a single piece of information — which means the customer can answer all questions within an hour or within a week. It makes little difference to the bot.

Reminders and follow-ups

For company employees and customers alike, chatbots can work as a digital assistant, delivering timely reminders of meetings, scheduled appointments, due payments, and anything else the parties involved may find relevant.

Now, a human touch when reminding a customer of an important meeting might be the best solution. But when it comes to letting them know that a bill is past-due, customers might feel more comfortable if they know the answer came from an automatic machine, rather than a company employee who might be judging them.

Customer engagement

One thing a lot of companies are doing now is having a chatbot available on their website. A bit that says “Hi!” whenever the customer accesses the page, offering to help the customer with whatever they need.

That’s one of the benefits of chatbots. They can be programmed to be proactive, reach out to people, and break the ice. That, of course, cannot be done in any situation — if you unleash your bot to go around saying hi to strangers online it becomes spam. However, programming it to be a friendly voice that welcomes customers to your sites and offers to explain your services can be a good way to drive up customer engagement.

Does it make every customer happy? Of course not. But the customers who do engage with the bot have an exponentially higher chance of eventually making a purchase if compared to customers who just browsed the webpage. Currently, chatbots also have the advantage of being novel enough that customers might engage with yours just to see what happens. Especially if its text is well-written and engaging.

Browsing catalogs

While harder to implement, bots can be made to help customers browse a company’s entire catalog. This works well for stores with lots of options, such as clothing stores, real estate agencies, and car dealerships.

If the implementation is done correctly, a bot can help match customers to the perfect product or set of products that meet their needs, priorities, and their budget. This matchmaking process can be especially useful for customers who might not be skilled with search engines in general, as it breaks down the search process into a simple text conversation.

Consistent personality

No one likes being on the phone with an employee who’s trying too hard to sound cheerful. Bots, on the other hand, only need to be programmed once to sound cheerful, welcoming, or business-like. Then they’ll consistently hold that “tone” across all user interactions, never being tired, never sounding too forced. This is assuming the technology is well implemented, and the messages are well-written, of course.

The latter is really the key when it comes to chatbots. Many customers are getting turned off by the idea not because the concept itself is flawed, but because many companies implement bots poorly, generating bad customer impressions. This is one of the reasons why having a great bot can help your company stand out.