No more will you hear about chatbots being the next big thing, because they're already here, and they're here to stay. The evolution of artificial intelligence is now in full swing and chatbots are only a faint splash on a huge wave of progress. Indeed, they have become increasingly popular in recent years, 2017 becoming known as the “year of the chatbot”. Data from Google Trends shows over the last five years, search volume around “chatbots” grew 19x as individuals and businesses began to realize their value.
A chatbot is a computer program specifically designed to communicate with human users over the Internet by automatically engaging with received messages. It is an assistant that communicates with users through text messages, a virtual companion that integrates into websites, applications or instant messengers and helps businesses to get closer to customers. For instance, Chatbots leverage chat mediums like SMS text, website chat windows and social messaging services across platforms like Facebook and Twitter to receive and respond to messages. Chatbots can be programmed to respond the same way each time, to respond differently to messages containing certain keywords and even to use machine learning to adapt their responses to fit the situation. The business world is experiencing two concurrent trends related to chatbots — chatbots are more popular than ever and chatbots are more advanced than ever. Today the number of users of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and their analogs is skyrocketing, Facebook Messenger alone has more than 1.2 billion monthly users.
Online chatbots save time and efforts by automating customer support. Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human. However, the opportunities provided by chatbot systems go far beyond giving responses to customers’ inquiries. Both startups and savvy companies are now incorporating interactive agents into their daily operations, communication with customers and sales processes. Consumers also benefit from chatbots and they are getting increasingly interested in this technology. As chatbots have grown and improved, businesses such as American Express and H&M have started using them to provide proactive support and supercharge their customer service experience. Chatbots attached to Facebook’s Messenger increased from 30,000 in 2016 to over 100,000 in 2017. By the year 2020, 80% of businesses want their own, and 60% of the youth population already uses them daily.
Facebook recently released a host of data proving the value of bots for business:
• 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses monthly
• 56% of people would rather message than call customer service
• 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses they can message
A study presented at the 4th International Conference on Internet Science in November, 2017 identified reasons why people choose to interact with chatbots. According to this research, the main factors that motivate people to use chatbots are:
• Productivity: Chatbots provide the assistance or access to information quickly and efficiently.
• Entertainment: Chatbots amuse people by giving them funny tips, they also help killing time when users have nothing to do.
• Social and relational factors: Chatbots fuel conversions and enhance social experiences. Chatting with bots also helps to avoid loneliness, gives a chance to talk without being judged and improves conversational skills.
• Curiosity: The novelty of chatbots sparks curiosity. People want to explore their abilities and to try something new.• Social and relational factors: Chatbots fuel conversions and enhance social experiences. Chatting with bots also helps to avoid loneliness, gives a chance to talk without being judged and improves conversational skills.
However, chatbots aren’t just convenient for your consumers, they’re also great for your business. One way to stay competitive in modern business is to automate as many of your processes as possible. The value in chatbots comes from their ability to automate conversations throughout your organization. Below are some key benefits businesses realize when using chatbots.
• Chatbots will engage customers in a unique way! According to an online survey, 44% of U.S. consumers prefer chatbots to humans when it comes to customer relations. This means businesses can excite their customers when adopting a new chatbot. Traditionally, customer questions are routed to businesses via email or the telephone, which makes user experiences fairly standard and non-customized. But chatbots offer a new, fun and interactive way to engage with brands. Chatbots are well-designed to meet customer expectations and promote brand values to a wide range of prospects, providing friendly interactions and creating a good rapport with customers. Customers expect smooth interactions, requiring expedient responses to customer complaints or queries. Chatbots are able to match these expectations, instantly delivering possible resolutions.
• Chatbots help cut down on operational costs: Every year, around 265 billion customer support requests are made, costing businesses a whopping $1.3 trillion to service. These costs can be significantly reduced with the help of AI chatbots. According to Chatbots Magazine, implementing virtual agents or chatbots can help businesses to save up to 30%. Chatbots give support and solve repetitive customer queries, freeing up service agents to handle more complex queries and provide better service to the customers. By automating conversations that would otherwise require an employee to answer, organizations save time and money that can then be allocated to other efforts. Instead of having your reps spending all of their time answering inbound questions, they can reallocate their time and effort proactively. Therefore, chatbots help raise productivity for agents. Hiring agents with 24/7/365 presence and adding the resources needed to give support to the customers round the clock, can prove simply too costly for many companies. According to industry research, chatbots are predicted to deal with 90% of all customer inquiries within 5 years. This means that by 2022, it’s expected that they will cut business costs by $8 billion.
• Chatbots offer progressive avenues for marketing and sales: Effective chatbots can close sales through robust marketing. For example through:
o Improved customer engagement - chatbots can establish personalized interactions with customers, providing credible shopping advice based on their purchase history and preferences.
o Marketing funnel guidance - chatbots won’t keep customers waiting. They seamlessly guide them through every aspect of the sale, addressing each query as it arises.
o Relevant notifications - chatbots are knowledgeable about predicting customer behavior. Because of this, they can push the appropriate notifications to the right people, every time. This also helps in showcasing new products/services and guiding users to better outcomes
o Broadened reach - chatbots can reach out to a huge range of prospects through social media in a way no human could ever hope to achieve.
o Heightened brand value - chatbots can catch customer attention through historical interactions. Customer feedback and data is gathered and analyzed. This is then used to effectively communicate to the right people in the right way.
• Chatbots impact businesses by improving sales and customer services: Chatbots collect customer information like name, profession, and contact details to create customer profiles. In this way, chatbots can be used for both sales and marketing purposes. They keep existing customers engaged with brands and products through push notifications. Chatbots act like a bridge between brands and customers, providing 24/7 interaction. They communicate like humans, but reduce human error and aren’t affected by emotions. Performing routine tasks easily, chatbots enhance customer service. They can also provide customers with complete product details if needed.
• Chatbots improve with consistent evaluation and optimization: As with anything, chatbots require continuous evaluation and optimization. Chatbot performance must be tracked based on relevant areas like user experience, linguistic capabilities, and usability. Create a learning cycle, devising necessary changes based on the analysis and then observing the difference your optimizations make towards achieving definitive goals. Chatbot optimization includes:
o Varying invites and welcome messages.
o Incorporating additional information about the brand.
o Adding new products.
o Pricing changes.
o Broadcasting new and more attractive offers.
• Provide ‘After Hours’ Support: By using a robust chatbot when your business is closed, customers still gain access to the information they need. This is especially important as consumers expect a quicker response than brands can guarantee. Chatbots help you significantly decrease the average time to respond, bringing you closer to your customers’ expectations.
Many business owners are just beginning to understand what benefits chatbots can bring to them. This technology is still in an early stage, its capabilities continue increasing and the best chatbots have yet to be created. With the advancements of artificial intelligence and machine learning, they are set to become more and more intelligent, leaving the future of chatbots looking very bright. Lotus Analytics aims to improve customer and user experience through personalization with Chatbot software that automates customer support and repetitive tasks, speed up response times, boosts conversion rates and generates leads seamlessly.