Getting Chatty: How Chatbots Can Help You Keep Customers Happy

I recently shopped for software, found some tech help, scheduled a ride and discovered a great recipe for couscous, all with the help of chatbots. For the most part, the chatbots helped me find what I needed much more quickly and easily than I would have navigating a website, making a call or even using a company’s app.

“A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet,” according to Oxford Dictionaries. More and more businesses have been leveraging these virtual assistants to boost their marketing effectiveness and connect their customers with what they’re looking for – fast. In addition to solving customer problems, chatbots often direct them to products and services that might interest them. If you design it well, a chatbot can help you keep customers satisfied, learn more about what they want and need and create the positive brand experience that will keep them coming back.

All Chatbots Are Not Created Equal

Chatbots have different levels of sophistication. Some can only respond to basic and specific queries posed by their users, such as “What are your hours” and “When does my flight leave tomorrow?” (You’ll want to ensure these chatbots quickly route more complex questions to human customer service representatives or experts.) Other chatbots use artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand a user’s questions and continue learning, improving and customizing the experience through its conversations.

Chatbots can be found in many different places such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, company websites, and smartphone chatbot and text messaging (SMS) apps. Interested in creating one? The good news is that you don’t have to learn how to code. There are currently a variety of tools available that makes it easy to build your bot, and many are free, such as Chatfuel, Chatteron, itsalive, and ManyChat.

For both businesses and customers, chatbots can offer quite of few benefits, including:

Prompt Response

A chatbot can help customers avoid waiting on hold to get answers to simple questions. While a regular customer service representative or sales consultant can only respond to one person at a time, a chatbot can send many messages, and customize them to each user.

Time Savings

Chatbots can quickly guide customers to exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s help for a problem, information on a business or product or another objective.

Round-the-Clock Service

While your customer service or sales team might be off for the evening or weekend, your chatbot can be available 24 hours a day, every day.

Customer Data

By interacting with each user, more sophisticated chatbots can gather and analyze data that can help marketing teams better serve their customers and anticipate their needs in the future.

Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities

The more your chatbot gets to know your customers, the better it can point to additional products and services that might interest them. That can mean more revenue for your company.

Tech companies are finding new ways to leverage chatbots every day. Typical uses include improving customer care, generating leads and sales, gathering data for analysis, and making it easier for customers to interact with company applications. By improving customers’ experiences and learning more about what they want, chatbots can help you retain more of them and strengthen your brand identity at the same time.

Tips for Using Chatbots

Customers have different views of chatbots, often based on their personal preferences. For example, some prefer always talking to a human; others, often younger customers, enjoy the novelty of chatbots, along with their quick response.

While many chatbots do a great job of engaging customers and helping them find what they want, others can be an exercise in frustration. With some chatbots, including one I’ve used recently, a customer can get stuck in a seemingly endless chat loop where the chatbot can’t understand the question but keeps presenting the customer with irrelevant answers or product suggestions. It’s enough to send many customers off in a huff and even into the arms of a competitor in hopes of finding what they need.

To prevent that from happening, and create a chatbot that’s an asset to your marketing endeavors, here are a few tips:

  • Make it clear to people, right away, that they’re talking to a chatbot. As mentioned, some customers might not like the idea of talking to a non-human and could even feel duped if they thought they were chatting with a real person all along.
  • If your customer is dissatisfied with a chatbot, make sure the individual can quickly and easily connect with a human who can understand their needs and solve their problems.
  • Give the chatbot a personality that will appeal to your users. Make it relevant to the context. For instance, a chatbot geared toward selling makeup or music to a younger audience might take a more fun approach (offering features like games and quizzes along with its helpful information). One selling tech services or office supplies might be a bit more straightforward.
  • Most importantly, make the experience enjoyable. Customers should feel like they have someone – or something – in their corner, an assistant they like and can trust to help them quickly meet their objectives.

By Julie Vallone, ETMG Writer/Editor

When writer/editor Julie Vallone isn’t blogging about marketing hacks, lifestyle trends and quirky little grammar tips, she’s turning complex technical concepts into clear, engaging content guaranteed to remove the knitted brow from your favorite technophobe. In her “free” time, she’s a dedicated stage mom, creating big, elaborate props and calming her resident thespian, or she’s busy at home herding way too many cats.