Is a Chatbot Right for My Small Business?
A chatbot is an automated software app that conducts conversations online in lieu of a human agent. Chatbots can be used for customer service, user support, scheduling, transactions, and lead generation. They can lower the cost of helping potential customers, however, small businesses should be aware that many consumers feel disillusioned by the lack of productive interactions with virtual assistants. Businesses must decide if the reduction in service costs and human workload is worth possibly frustrating their customers.
Types of Chatbot
Generally, there are two types of chatbots, rule-based and AI-based. Rule-based chatbots work using a predefined set of possible user questions and potential answers. They cannot answer questions that aren’t part of the predefined set. However, rule-based chatbots work well for answering basic questions without spending money on a customer service representative.
On the other hand, AI-based chatbots “learn” and process language, allowing them to answer questions that a rule-based one couldn’t. Of course, this makes AI-based chatbots more expensive.
Technological difficulty increases with complexity, a rule-based app with a menu is the most basic option, then we have keyword recognition, and at the top, the AI ability to understand context.
For simple questions, chatbots can be a great fit. Hosts like WordPress provide basic plugins that allow customers to interface with a virtual assistant. It’s important to have a responsive protocol in place for customers who want answers to more complex queries. In cases where the customer feels pressure to have their question answered as soon as possible, there needs to be an effective system in place to alleviate that pressure.
When virtual assistants are unable to answer a potential customer’s question, a lack of a simple and timely follow up method leaves the customer frustrated. If you use a chatbot, or are considering one, it’s essential that you respond to the inquiries the chatbot is unable to solve as quickly as possible.
A chatbot does not eliminate the need for customer service and relationship building. In fact, a CGS survey found that 71% of customers would be less likely to use a brand that didn’t have human agents available.
A chatbot might be right for your business if any of the following are true:
- Your customer service department receives recurring requests from customers that are easy to answer
- You are an ecommerce business
- You want to automate tasks with leads such as scheduling or offering discounts
- You’re in a service-heavy industry
- You serve a younger demographic
- You have a strong service department that can act as a safety net (ability to escalate to a human)
- You have the scale to make it worthwhile
- Your customers need help 24 hours a day
The best chatbots are well integrated with real customer service agents. Chatbots that answer questions quickly increase customer satisfaction. They are especially helpful during employee off-hours as part of a 24/7 service strategy. Note that customers rarely fully resolve issues or accomplish an objective via automation. That means that the goal of a virtual assistant is not to eliminate the need to speak to a human, but to facilitate the customer service transition and decrease the agent’s workload.
Keeping all this in mind, you may have decided a chatbot is right for your business. If you have a chatbot, or want to get one, avoid this one HUGE mistake: Using a chatbot that doesn’t match your team’s service quality. A bad chatbot is worse than no chatbot at all! If you aren’t willing to invest enough time and money into your virtual assistant, you risk hurting customer perception of your brand and driving away business.
Generally, the cost can be broken down into three parts: the development fee, a recurring monthly fee, and a consumption fee based on the number of customer interactions. If you want to implement a chatbot, read this article to decide which app is right for your business.
Your web hosting provider can help you integrate an automated virtual assistant into your site. Learn more about web hosting by reading this blog.
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Sheri Holshouser is a marketing manager based in Dallas, Texas. In her free time, she likes to read science fiction novels and play with her pug Chloe. Learn more about her professional qualifications on LinkedIn.