A chatbot is a computer program that sales and service staff use to interact with customers. It is capable of simulating seamless conversations with customers and typically exists on channels like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and many others. Chatbots are transforming the way people interact with companies ― from a series of self-initiated tasks to quasi-conversation.
If you are in the market for a new chatbot, we recommend looking at Freshchat. This live chat software can help you communicate with visitors to your businesses website quickly and easily. It also comes with a chatbot to automatically greet your visitors and answer their questions. There is even a free version available so you can try it out for yourself. Click here to get started.
What is a Chatbot & How Does It Work?
You can think of a chatbot as a text-based automated attendant for your website. When visitors come to your page, these bots will automatically greet your visitors and give them a range of help options to route them to one of your employees. It can also answer frequently asked questions and even take customer information for later use in an email marketing system or a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
There are two common types of chatbots: one that functions based on a set of rules, and a more advanced version that uses machine learning or artificial intelligence. A chatbot functioning based on pre-programmed rules can only respond to specific commands. The other type gets smarter as it learns from different conversations it has. The type of chatbot you have is dependent on what chat software you have.
For years, this technology was too expensive to be viable for most organizations. Additionally, web browsers were not capable of handling these applications embedded within a website’s HTML code. Fortunately, advancements in technology, as well as lowered costs, have allowed small businesses to offer automated chatbots to web visitors.
Chatbots are becoming more popular because of their convenience. Many customers, especially younger ones, find it far more convenient to speak with your representatives via text chat than to call your organization on the phone. Being able to accommodate these associates could give your business a leg up on your competitors that do not offer such communication channels.
Who Chatbots Are Right For
Given the affordability and usefulness of chatbots, the technology can be very helpful for a lot of different kinds of businesses. After all, you can set it up to provide even basic information like business hours and location.
There are a few environments where chatbots are especially helpful:
- Sales Teams: Chatbots can greet your web visitors and ask what they are looking for. That information is then sent to your sales team or account management team, and then a sales representative can “jump in” to the chat window and speak with the visitor.
- Customer Support Staff: Many customers prefer to solve issues via text chat rather than over the phone. Chatbots can let your customers click an option for support and be connected to an agent quickly.
- eCommerce Sites: When people go to your store’s website, they can be greeted with an invitation to sign up to your company’s email list. They can also invite customers to your checkout page if they keep items in their cart for a certain amount of time.
All told, chatbots are becoming accessible enough for businesses of all sizes to implement. They are a modern, convenient way for customers to learn more about your company. They are also useful for harvesting information about your customers such as their name, email address, location, and phone number.
The cost of a chatbot will largely depend on the chat software that you adopt. Costs range from $10 per month for software like Botsify and go all the way up to $499 per month for advanced systems like TARS. Additionally, chatbots are often a free feature in many customer support services.
All told, there is no shortage of options to set up and deploy a chatbot to your website. On top of that, new services are launching all the time. The right option for you will depend on what exactly you want to accomplish with your bot and what your budget can accommodate.
Chatbots provide many benefits to small business. They can answer frequently asked questions for your audience. They can also connect your visitors to your human employees, gathering useful information about them in the process. Not only that, but they give your organization a more professional business presence.
Chatbot features include:
Chatbots can be deployed in a number of settings. The most common place for them is on your company’s website, where they can greet, help, and route your visitors as soon as they sign on to your page. However, many chatbot services, like Chatfuel, allow you to integrate bots with your Facebook page, so that you can engage your social media audience.
Much like how an auto-attendant greets and routes callers without human intervention, a chatbot can help your customers get in touch with the right staff via text chat. For example, someone can come to your website and scroll through menu options in the chatbot window, eventually clicking on “support.” The system then pings one of your support agents, who will then join the chat conversation and help the customer.
If you’ve ever spoken with a chatbot yourself, you might have been asked to provide your name, phone number, and email address before getting connected with a real person. This function exists to take your information and put it on the company’s marketing list. If you adopt such a system, you will quickly grow a list of prospective clients to send email marketing messages to for years to come.
Once you have a chatbot in place, it’s helpful to know how your audience interacts with your chatbot. Many systems come with reporting features that let you know who is talking to your chatbots, for how long, where they are, and through what channels they are communicating. You can use this information to learn more about your customers and make you a smarter marketer in the process.
There is a demand for this exciting new technology, so many new solutions have launched in recent years. There are chatbots that you can build yourself and insert into your websites code, and those that come bundled with communication suites or business account management software and can do the work of deploying the bot for you.
Prominent chatbot software providers include:
Freshchat allows businesses to engage visitors with live chat as well as a customizable, automated chatbot that can ask and answer basic visitor questions and collect lead information. It’s also more affordable at the highest tier compared to other software options with similar features. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial of any of the plans reviewed or use the free version for as long as you like.
Chatfuel is a bot building tool that lets you build and deploy chatbots for your company’s Facebook page. It lets your audience send you messages via Facebook Messenger and receive automated responses in turn. No coding knowledge is required to use Chatfuel. Pricing for the service starts at just $15 per month. Click the link below for more information.
Flow XO offers a visualized interface for building complex chatbots. The service, which starts at $19 per month, offers guided help for deploying your chatbot across platforms, whether that is on your company’s website, mobile app, or social media channel. There is even a free trial that lets you send up to 500 messages. Click the link below to get started.
Drift is a chatbot provider that specializes in bots for sales and marketing purposes. One of its best features is the fact that your web visitors can book appointments with sales reps right from the chat window without any of your employees having to intervene. These meetings are then saved in both party’s email calendars. Click the link below for more information.
TARS is a drag-and-drop chatbot builder with a design focus on helping you grow your list of sales leads. The service, which starts at $99 per month, can take prospect information and determine the quality of potential leads after they have entered their name and email. To learn more, visit the company’s website today.
Pros & Cons of Chatbots
Chatbots can be an effective way of communicating with your associates across digital channels. However, they require a little bit of technical skill and can make your company look cold and unwelcoming. There are positives, as well as negatives, to the functionality.
Pros of Chatbots
- Convenience: Many customers prefer to speak with your company via text rather than over the phone or in person. Chatbots make it easier to do this.
- Marketing Features: Asking all of your web visitors to provide their name and email address can grow your list of contacts by an order of magnitude.
- Business Presence: If you have a chatbot greet your customers, it makes your organization look established and more respectable.
Cons of Chatbots
- Tech Complications: The process of setting up and deploying a chatbot on your website can be difficult for less tech-savvy business owners.
- Security Concerns: Some customers might be turned off at the idea of being asked to provide their information every time they visit your website.
- Unwelcoming Image: If you have a friendly, warm business presence, having a chatbot could make your company look cold and unwelcoming to your loyal customers.
What Users Think About Chatbots
Chatbots have immense potential to help small businesses serve customers more efficiently. If you cannot envision a use for chatbots yourself, it may be helpful to hear some of these real-world examples of chatbots helping organizations.
Real-world use cases include:
“I implemented a chatbot on SYNCR Music back in January with the aim of cutting down time spent on customer service time in the office and to also be able to directly market new content that came on the site. We’ve just surpassed 1000 chat bot users and are constantly beating our goals for users on the site and applications to various opportunities that we are marketing.”
― Sam Daly, SYNCR Music
“I run a local marketing strategy agency in NYC ― we use chatbots for ourselves and virtually all our clients. It acts as another tool in our marketing arsenal and is MUCH more effective than popups or bars.”
― Chris Hanson, You Don’t Need a CMO, Inc.
We’ve been using a Drift chatbot on our site for several months ― it’s great for engaging site visitors and quickly directing them to the most valuable content for their particular questions. It results in a much more customized experience for each site visitor, and moves them down the sales funnel with less friction and fewer team resources.”
― Emma Valentiner, SEO Manager at LeadCrunch.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I have to tell customers it’s a bot?
Yes. Under California and European law, it is illegal to have a chatbot represent your company without disclosing it as such. Similar laws are expected to be passed in other locations as well. Always make it clear to your audience that they are speaking with a chatbot.
Can chatbots recognize repeat visitors?
Depending on the software, yes. If your customer has login information for your page saved on their web browser, it is possible that some chatbots will recognize that and greet users by name. This can go a long way in making your customers feel more welcome.
Chatbot capabilities are increasing from day to day. Chatbots are becoming more and more intelligent and businesses are able to use them in many interesting ways. Best of all, they are becoming so affordable that even the smallest of organizations can implement them.
Freshchat makes it easy to set up and deploy chatbots for your business. It offers advanced features like a chatbot builder, smart chat routing, and visitor tracking. Click the link below to start your free trial.