Customer service is vital to the business puzzle. People don’t want to wait around for quality service anymore. They want to get their answers right away, and if they can’t, they’ll go elsewhere.
Customers put a lot of value in 24/7 customer support, but not every business has the ability to hire a support team that’s constantly fielding requests. That’s why chatbots have become such a huge hit across so many industries.
With a chatbot, you can bring the power of artificial intelligence to your customer service team, handling issues in a natural, informative, and effective way. This not only allows you to offer up support at all times but also lets you keep your human support agents reserved for some of the more complicated issues that require direct personal attention.
But as chatbots have become more prevalent throughout the business world, many questions and misconceptions have risen concerning them and their use. Is this truly the next big thing in customer support? How can you implement one? And is it easy to set them up?
This article will cover all of this and so much more!
Common questions about chatbots
1. What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is automated technology that human customers can interact with through both text and voice-based communications. Chatbots are often rolled out through messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but they can also appear on mobile apps, websites, or call-in phone lines.
Your chatbot is essentially a digital assistant that can listen to a user’s request, understand what they want, and respond naturally. If you have a quality chatbot installed, it’s possible that your customers might not even know they’re conversing with a machine.
2. Is chatbot technology new?
We’ve had conversational chatbots for quite a long time, dating back several decades. They’ve only started to become more widely adopted and affordable over the last ten years.
The goal of chatbot technology has always been to mimic human conversation in a believable way, but it took quite a while for that technology to get to an acceptable level.
The first chatbot to ever be rolled out was called ELIZA, and it came from the mind of MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum all the way back in 1966. It was designed to work as an artificial therapist that could listen to patients’ problems and respond accordingly.
3. Who uses chatbots?
While the original idea for a customer chatbot was developed for use as a sort of robo-therapist, that isn’t their primary use in today’s business world.
Mostly, chatbots are used by businesses looking for an affordable way to offer 24/7 customer support. They’re not intended to fully replace human support agents, but they help offer support outside of business hours and field some simpler, frequently asked questions that customers clog up support lines with. This frees up human representatives for some of the more complicated and time-consuming issues that require a human mind.
Businesses have found a lot of uses for chatbots over the years.
For example, in the delivery industry, booking courier services online is supposed to be an easy way to send a package. But with the outdated and unresponsive websites that most courier companies have today, booking online could be more than what a customer bargained for. Thankfully, today’s technology provides chatbots that can help deliver the swift, secure, and personalized express services that courier companies owe their customers.
Additionally, companies like Meta have made it possible to implement social media chatbots that businesses can use on platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
4. Where do chatbots source their information from?
Chatbots aren’t all-seeing and all-knowing. They need to be taught the information that you want them to share. That means you’ll need to program any chatbot you want to roll out with all of the information it can possibly need.
This data can come from your internal databases, documents, knowledge base, website, reservation system, shopping partner, product inventory, and more.
The first thing you need to do is take an inventory of which data sources you’re going to pull from and work out how the bot will be able to access them. Sometimes this means using additional tech, like an open API, to ensure that the chatbot can get all the information it needs to craft meaningful responses when speaking with your customers.
5. How long does it take to implement a chatbot?
Chatbot implementation isn’t quick. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks to three months, depending on your requirements and the system’s complexities. It all depends on what you need it to do and how many data sources you’re going to be drawing from.
A simple textbot that doesn’t need to know a lot will still take several weeks whereas a deep learning chatbot can take months before being full operational, depending on the complexity of your project. But for the best and most effective chatbot experience, plan on this being something you sink a few months into perfecting. It’s better to take more time and roll out a fully capable chatbot than it is to put out a half-finished one that will irritate your customers.
Common misconceptions about chatbots
1. Developing a chatbot is easy and quick
This is one of the most common misconceptions about chatbots out there, mostly because of some deceptive marketing practices by less-than-reputable companies.
If someone is offering you a chatbot that can be set up in 15 or 20 minutes, that’s not a service you should be trying to use. A chatbot is only useful if it’s intelligent and can provide detailed replies to your audience on command. These quick-setup chatbots often have a hard time determining the intent of your customers, which doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to create a conversational experience.
As mentioned in the section above, a quality chatbot will take weeks or even months to set up properly. However, once that’s done, you’ll have an effective conversational customer support system that’s available to everyone 24/7 and will provide a quality experience.
2. All chatbots use artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is a fantastic tool that a lot of chatbots make great use of. However, to say that it’s used by all chatbots everywhere is a sweeping generalization that’s just not true.
Much like there are different levels of businesses, from startups to major enterprises, there are also different chatbots. Some of them use advanced AI to serve audiences worldwide, providing fully conversational interactions that will improve your overall customer experience.
However, some run on scripts that go from one point to the next on rails and aren’t designed for actual conversation. Some chatbots exist only to send automated messages when prompted. A chatbot with AI will use advanced machine learning to improve over time, coming to learn the intentions and emotions of your audience based on what they’re saying.
So, while the best chatbots use AI, it’s not something that all chatbots offer. Make sure you check any system you’re considering to ensure that it’s AI-capable.
3. Chatbots are exclusive to Facebook
When most people think of Chatbots, they think of Facebook Messenger. That’s because it’s a platform where many people regularly interact with chatbot systems. However, the misconception arose that chatbots were exclusive to Facebook Messenger, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
You can implement chatbots on a wealth of popular platforms, including Instagram, Google Business Messages, Twitter, WhatsApp, and many more as seen in the image above. You can use these platforms to bring your customer support to multiple platforms, pulling from the same data and serving the public at the same high level.
Don’t think that you can’t use a chatbot for your business just because you aren’t using Facebook. Chatbot integrations are constantly expanding to new platforms, so check with your chosen service to see where it can be implemented.
4. You can’t interact with a human agent and a chatbot simultaneously
The question is often asked whether chatbots can completely replace people working in the field of online customer services. The answer is still unknown, but the fact is that they can combine many functions. Thanks to chatbots and Q/A dashboards, even website product pages can be organized so that users can select their desired products, get necessary information, and make a purchase without having to contact a real person.
Even healthcare brands are using this kind of website design. For example, on the Hims website, it is possible to buy Minoxidil online and get comprehensive information about it independently.
But a common misconception still persists that you’re either interacting with a human agent or a chatbot, not both at the same time. This is actually not true. There’s such a thing as hybrid chatbots, which can include a human representative and an AI conversational program within the same conversation.
AI can handle repetitive, simple-to-answer questions, like order statuses. But you’ll still need human support agents for more advanced or sensitive issues. The AI will pre-qualify all conversations to determine whether or not it can resolve your issue. The conversation is passed along automatically if it’s determined that a human support agent is needed to best help the customer.
5. People don’t want to communicate with chatbots
One of the big misconceptions surrounding chatbots is that customers don’t want to use them, or that human beings are somehow uncomfortable communicating with a machine. That has been proven false in the past. People want to receive quality customer support quickly and at a time of their choosing.
That’s why you see a lot of businesses including chatbots on both their social profiles and dedicated support pages.
Having a support page on your website with an effective chatbot for the customer to reach out to is actually crucial for building rapport and gaining customer trust. They need to feel like they can reach out for help whenever they need it, but you also need to address their needs as fast as possible. That is why conversational AI and chatbots come into play.
Take Samsara as an example of a website with a dedicated support page. It not only has guides and resources for its customers on compliance, maintenance, DVIRs, and much more, but also includes a chatbot if customers have further questions or need additional help.
A 2019 survey actually showed that 54% of consumers would choose chatbot interactions over speaking to a human if it saves them time. So it’s not that people don’t want to communicate with chatbots or somehow don’t trust them. They don’t want to communicate with bad chatbots that will waste their time.
That’s why, when looking for a chatbot to include on your dedicated support page, you shouldn’t be focused on whether people want the service. Rather, you should focus on providing them with the best quality chatbot service possible.
Chatbots are becoming a regular part of the customer support world, and failing to have a quality chatbot in place might place severe limits on your ability to serve your audience in the way they expect.
That’s why chatbots are so in demand right now, and as we continue to develop AI-based initiatives, they’re only going to get bigger and more powerful.
To review, in this article, we covered:
- What a chatbot is
- When chatbot technology was created
- Who uses chatbots
- Where chatbots get their information from
- How long it takes to implement chatbots
We also set the record straight on five common misconceptions, making it known that:
- Developing a chatbot is not a simple or quick process
- Not all chatbots use AI
- Chatbots aren’t exclusive to Facebook
- It’s possible to interact with a chatbot and a human support agent at the same time
- People want to communicate with quality chatbots
Take this information to heart when it’s time for you to select that chatbot service to take your customer support to the next level.