Article as seen in the Socially Inclined Magazine. Sign up to receive the monthly magazine free each month here http://get.sociallyinclined.com/magazine
There is no question that technology has changed the way we do business, both as vendors and as consumers. While we may still have an occasional need to go to a store and stand in line at a customer service desk, a significant percentage of people do their shopping online – and they want their customer service to be available there too. Many companies have integrated customer service into their social media accounts, and some even offer live chat on their websites.
Those are all great options – but they also require you to pay a flesh-and-blood person to be on the other end of those interactions. What if there were another way? That’s where chatbots come in.
What is a Chatbot?
Chatbots are the new kid on the technological block, so it’s likely you haven’t heard of them before. Basically, a chatbot is a computer program that integrates with an existing Messaging platform, such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, Discord, or Kik. The program is designed to interact with people based on their questions and comments. In other words, it’s like a robot employee.
There are two basic types of chatbot:
How Small Business Can Benefit from Using Chatbots
How can your business benefit from using a chatbot? A 2016 survey showed that 54% of respondents would prefer to interact with their favorite brands via a messaging service. As consumers grow accustomed to receiving service online that number is likely to increase. Using a chatbot is a good way to give your customers what they want without having to pay a live customer service rep to be available 24 hours a day.
There are two primary ways that small businesses can utilize chatbots to assist their customers, improve customer service, and increase sales.
The first potential application that local businesses can have for chatbots is to provide their customers with necessary information and direction at all hours of the day and night. For example, a chatbot might be able to:
Sales and Conversion
The other potential application that a local business might have for a chatbot is to use it as a 24-hour sales assistant and conversion specialist. A lot of times, customers need some guidance while using a website. They might prefer to ask a question rather than navigating a menu or trying to find what they want on their own. A chatbot that is programmed to assist with sales can:
How to Get Started
If you want to design a chatbot for your business, there are some things you need to know to get started. The first is that, while it may be prohibitively expensive to hire someone to create a bespoke chatbot for your company, some designers are offering a variety of chatbot templates that can be adapted with specific functionalities to meet your needs. Some companies to check out include are Rapidfy and SaltMinesGroup
If your company has a presence on Facebook, you can also check out their chatbot page to learn more about the options available. Their platform makes it possible to create a chatbot with the functionalities that will be most useful to your business, including some that allow you to show customers products and assist purchases. You can find more information on Facebook here.
You also have the option of trying to develop a bot on your own. There are a number of websites that provide basic guidance to help walk you through the process. Here are a few to try:
Chatbots offer small businesses a way to harness technology to provide customers with 24 hour service at a fraction of what it would cost to pay a round-the-clock staff. While there are some start-up costs involved, a well-designed bot can pay for itself in increased sales and customer satisfaction.
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