These days, people don’t always like to ring up a business to discuss something. Whether you have a phobia of phone calls, have had bad experiences previously, or simply prefer to communicate via other means, there are other contact methods available. One of the newer methods of communication is a chatbot, which can be plugged into your website or social media pages.
For a lot of businesses, there are just not enough staff members to respond to all customer queries. So chatbots are a fantastic solution – it’s much cheaper to purchase this technology than hire loads of new employees!
A study from Juniper Research furthermore showed that chatbots can save you a lot of business hours. In 2020, it was estimated that 2.2 billion customer service hours were saved through chatbots, and by 2023, it’s believed that they’ll save companies 27 billion hours.
So far, chatbots sound like the answer to all our customer service prayers, but is this really the case? Do they make the customer journey less personal? We’ve explored the pros and cons of chatbots in more detail below.
The name ‘chatbot’ implies that this technology is essentially a robot that can chat to customers. This is a slight oversimplification – technically, a chatbot is a computer programme, which can even learn over time. This is referred to as a machine-learning AI chatbot, and their software is usually more complicated than with a rules-based chatbot.
Chatbots can communicate with your customers through written text, voice command, or a combination of the two. The great thing about these digital customer service agents is that, even if it’s outside of your office hours, chatbots can still respond to messages.
Machine-Learning AI Chatbots
With an AI chatbot, the software is programmed to self-learn when introduced to new concepts, words, and questions. This means that over time, the accuracy of the answers given will improve, and the bots may also be able to deal with higher volumes of messages at any one time.
Perhaps the most famous example of an AI bot is Amazon’s Alexa. If you have an Alexa device in your home, you may have noticed that they become more attuned to your preferences and habits over time. The idea is that, through your history with the AI, it’s able to give you a better experience.
Some people are slightly put off by machine learning. Especially if they have seen the Terminator movies a few times, and know the potential consequences of smart machines… If this is the case, a rules-based chatbot is probably the answer for you – they follow sets of rules, using a flowchart system, to reach an answer.
This type of bot is easy to interact with, and is perfect for answering straightforward questions, such as what your opening hours are, or what your returns policy is. Rules-based bots are also incredibly simple to set up on a site.
Whether you opt for a rules-based or AI chatbot, they come with a number of advantages, for both your business and your customers. However, bots do sometimes have certain limitations, which you should consider before investing in this technology.
In terms of the advantages of a chatbot, most of these are fairly obvious, but there are a few benefits you may not have even considered!
According to research conducted on behalf of Sprout Social, 77% of customers expect to get a response to their query within 24 hours. And if you’re a small business, that’s not always a realistic timeframe. But with a chatbot, customers can get an instant response.
Although the rest of the business may be closed for the night, a chatbot can keep on answering questions. You may prefer to provide your customers with human interactions generally speaking, but a bot can fill in the gaps when your team isn’t able to respond.
If your staff have to answer the same questions over and over again, it can start to grate on them, and they could experience burnout. Any repetitive queries, such as those found on your FAQ page, can be addressed by the bot, while your team can respond to the more complex questions.
Employing a chatbot can save your business money. Rather than hiring additional staff to get back to customers, you can simply install a bot on your website. And you don’t even have to pay it extra for working unsociable hours!
When it comes to the disadvantages of chatbots, for most people, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. But it’s nonetheless important to think about any downsides to bots prior to sticking them on your website.
Bots Can Only Go So Far
Not everyone likes speaking to a bot, so bear this in mind when installing one. And if a customer asks to speak to a member of your team instead, if they have to wait for a long period of time, this can reflect badly on the business. You have to be prepared to quickly answer any questions the chatbot can’t address, and be clear about your opening hours, so you manage expectations.
Circular Customer Service
If a customer were to ask the same sort of questions a few times, and are presented with the same script, this can get frustrating. Nobody wants a repetitive experience when speaking with a company. It’s therefore a good idea to regularly refresh your content, as well as the rules your chatbot follows.
This is particularly true of rules-based bots – they only have a set number of scenarios they can deal with. If the bot is asked a question outside of its repertoire, it will be up to a customer service agent to step in and respond. This can make the customer journey a little bit clunky, so the handover from chatbot to agent has to be as seamless as possible.