This post is from guest author Megan Wright, editor of ChamberofCommerce.com, an online business directory that supports rapid business growth.
For many of us, the word “chatbots” triggers memories of primitive platforms that were only responsive to basic commands, offering rudimentary banter for people who were trying to personify technology.
Today, businesses use chatbots to improve customer experience, and chatbots have evolved well beyond the basic bots you might be picturing. Modern-day chatbots can now leverage artificial intelligence to transform into virtual teammates, digital assistants, and always-on co-workers.
Whether they're utilized internally or externally as cost-saving customer service “reps” trained to help website visitors, chatbots are designed for people to engage with, rely on, and trust. But before you add chatbots to your customer experience arsenal, it's essential to answer these six questions to assess your options:
What will my chatbot do?
A majority of brands launch chatbots to let customers access information through virtual assistants and messaging apps.
A great example of this is asking your Amazon Echo for your checking account’s balance. In this case, the chatbot simply lets a customer interact with information that's already available through a mobile app or website.
However, this emerging tech is rapidly evolving into something more sophisticated, with the ability to engage with customers to accomplish more complex tasks. For example, chatbots could help customers conduct product research by asking questions that can help narrow down their options (just like a store assistant would do).
If a customer is ready to make a purchase, AI chatbots can automate that process so that every step executes within one interface. By automating revenue-generating activities, businesses can influence the bottom line indirectly by reducing costs, as well as directly by allowing customers to make purchases, complete up-well workflows, etc.
Ultimately, what you’d like your chatbot to do depends on which aspect of the customer journey you intend to improve the most.
Where will my chatbot live?
In other words, where will your customers interact with the chatbot?
Some of the channels to consider include your mobile app, your website, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage. For the best adoption rates, you should prioritize channels that your existing and potential customers are already using. For instance, if you sell mainly to Android device users, iMessage will obviously not be an excellent platform to start with.
Are my competitors using a chatbot?
Before implementing a new tool, it's always a good idea to identify whether your competitor is using it.
If you determine your competition already has a chatbot, try to look for ways you can improve on what you’ll be implementing. And if you don’t know whether your competitors are using chatbots, revisit your most recent SWOT analysis or start by performing one.
What is the return on investment?
Are you experiencing inefficiencies in any aspect of your business’s information access? A chatbot could be a handy addition by shortening the amount of time spent on activities and simplifying tasks that don’t use your live agents’ time wisely. Besides reducing the operational costs, chatbots are proving to be great lead-generation drivers and can have the added benefit of supercharging your conversion rates.
If you really want to be data-driven, calculate your potential ROI here.
Will the chatbot integrate with my CX team?
Adding a chatbot will mark the beginning of a relationship between your employees and a digital partner.
When implementing a chatbot, think about how it will be onboarded and continuously trained. Is the chatbot purpose-built with CX teams in mind, or will this chatbot drain your IT team’s resources? Any new tool involves a learning curve, but you can give your team an advantage by choosing a solution that plays nicely with non-technical users.
There can be confusion surrounding who owns the chatbot strategy, implementation and optimization. Be sure to set appropriate expectations internally and collaborate on getting your virtual teammate up to speed.
What information sources will my chatbot use?
A chatbot works best when it has access to customer data, so it’s important to understand what sources to leverage. Consider your use case and decide if it is useful for your chatbot to have access to shipping information, reservation systems, existing documents, product inventories, or any other relevant sources. Then, make sure you choose a solution that integrates with these data sources and can use APIs to seamlessly access your customers’ info.
Adding a chatbot to your customer experience arsenal can be a great way to automate processes and improve your customer-facing touch points. By considering the six questions above, you can ensure you're prepared and can develop the best bot to meet your business's needs.
If you’re interested in learning more about the case for implementing a CX chatbot, check out this post for a breakdown of the main case drivers.