Before the pandemic AI chatbots were mainly known as a digital marketing tool and were used for marketing campaigns to engage with customers and collect customer information such as email, phone, and more. Globally, in the last few years, banks, insurance companies, the medical sector, the tourism industry, real estate, governments, and others started using AI chatbots as tools for business development strategies and competitiveness. In addition to large enterprises from various industries, small businesses started using the chatbot technology to improve customer communication and business operations. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and organizations such as hotels, online stores, beauty salons, and more turned their attention to this technology to optimize staff time and business resources.
AI chatbots have a very wide range of applications due to the technology specifics. They can be used by most businesses no matter what their size is, according to their business, staff, and customers’ needs. The first step is a clear answer to the question: what are the needs to be automated or optimized? Why and how the AI chatbot would be essential to businesses and will it help them, their customers, and employees?
The pandemic highlighted the need for fast and remote customer service, offering digital self-service and online communication, which is one of the benefits of a chatbot implementation for business. During the pandemic, many businesses focused on digitalization, part of which was to have a chatbot to help with the automation of routine tasks and customer service. Not only does it answer customer questions and inquiries 24/7, provide information instantly, and engage with customers, but the chatbot also helps with gathering customer behavior data to analyze trends based on customers’ interests. This assists the goal to increase business effectiveness as well as improve operations, management, and marketing.
It’s essential to know what a chatbot is, how it works and what it is used for, to really understand how important it is for businesses. The conversational AI chatbot is easy to use by customers and accessible for any business. The necessity of using a chatbot by the business is dictated by the change in customer behavior and habits. Customers prefer digital solutions. They want the best answers instantly, on their phones, and in chat format. COVID-19 accelerated digital habits and broadened customer interests and needs in unexpected directions such as safety and health concerns, social distance, avoiding crowds, the need for digital-first assistance, the need for self-service, and avoiding meetings face-to-face with staff. In the last few years, crisis after crisis, customers have more questions, expectations, and requirements than ever before. All this requires businesses to invest in measures such as digitalization of operations and services, immediate assistance, and up-to-date information, 24/7. On the other hand, businesses must reduce costs, face a shortage of staff and work in an aggressive competitive environment and inflation. In this complex situation, solutions must be digital, innovative, and accessible for the business to solve its problems. The AI chatbot is one of these technologies which helps with that. According to a report from April’22 about the top 12 customer service technologies, published by CBInsights, AI-enabled chatbots were placed on the top as the first choice as a technology that businesses must prioritize today to stay competitive. Leaders in all industries are already doing it.
The development of the technology and its capabilities leads to other important benefits. According to Juniper Research (2021), sales, in other words, conversational commerce (SMS, chatbots, and smart speakers), will reach $290 billion by 2025. Also, by 2025, half of all sales are expected to happen in chatbots. Sales through a chatbot are expected to reach $145 billion by 2025, an increase of 590% compared to 2021.
The reasons why a chatbot for businesses is needed are many, but here we will point out three of them, which are valid for all businesses, no matter what type of chatbot they have and for what they use it for, in order to find out why AI chatbot is a “must-have” for business, customers, and employees.
The AI chatbot is available day and night for customers and employees of the business and about 50% of existing chatbots are on business websites. It helps automating routine customer communication without the need for the staff to be constantly online. The AI chatbot answers instantly on customer questions at any time of the day. According to statistics from chatbots made on the Umni platform, an average of 35% of users are looking for information out of working hours (18:00-08:00), and a lack of available information and answers to customers can lead to missed sales and opportunities. Customers can go to look for answers on competitor sites, which offer the same or similar products and services, and the only reason will be that they didn’t find it first on the business site at the right moment. The AI chatbot helps retaining users to the site and attract their attention by always being online providing on-demand service, to make sure that they are all served at any time of the day.
Before the pandemic, a few years ago, according to various researches, over 50% of customers were sure that businesses need to be online and ready to communicate 24/7 via chat in addition to phone calls, emails, and SMS, and the pandemic significantly increased these expectations. If a business uses traditional ways of communication and not an AI chatbot, then the time to invest in such software solution is now to have a fully functioning tool in a few months to meet customer expectations. According to Research and Markets, the chatbot market was valued at $17.17 billion in 2020, and it is expected to reach $102.29 billion by 2026 because chatbots will be used by more and more businesses.
The accessibility of the chatbot is a benefit to the business itself. Most platforms offer businesses to make their own chatbot by themselves without technical knowledge and skills but allow creation only of a basic bot (without conversational AI and integrations). However, the recommendation is that if the business wants well developed and helpful assistant, it must have conversational AI to meet the needs of the customers, who are in a hurry, do not want to scroll all over the website and the chatbot, and just want to ask something and receive answers instantly. In this case, platforms such as Umni’s platform allow businesses to create, train and maintain a chatbot with conversational AI, with built-in forms without any technical knowledge and skills.
Today, the AI chatbot is an affordable service not only for customers and employees’ usage but for creation and maintenance by the business team.
AI chatbots can be used by various industries for the automation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and routine tasks, which frees time to staff to deal with more complex tasks with higher added value for the business and its customers. Answering questions constantly such as what products and services the business offer, what is the delivery time, how to return a product, etc. is wasting too much time of an employee, in which he or she can help with business, products and services development, and marketing and sales. The solution is to automate FAQs in a more interesting and engaging to customers way by a conversational AI chatbot. An AI chatbot can help businesses save from 6 to 12 minutes of conversation per customer to the staff, answering routine questions, which are, according to many researches by businesses, at least 70-75% of overall customer communication. According to a study by Business Insider Intelligence, the use of customer service chatbots can reduce company costs for customer communication by up to 30% by automating daily recurring tasks which distract staff from their main work. One of Umni’s customers – the largest Russian tour operator operating in Bulgaria and in the Balkans region, TEZ Tour, saved employees from Marketing Department and Reservations Department 850 working hours in 10 months by using a chatbot. You can read the whole case study about TEZ Tour here.
By using a chatbot with conversational AI for automating FAQs allows staff to have time to analyze statistics from the collected questions and improve business information to keep it up-to-date and help customers on an ongoing basis. The more customers ask the AI chatbot, the smarter it becomes, and the more statistics are collected, the more the business learns about customer behavior and makes intelligent decisions.
According to a report earlier this year, the 2022 Digital Experience Benchmark of analyst company Contentsquare, up to 65% of users leave a business website after viewing only one page. It turns out that 54% of users do not reach the middle of a page. If they do not find what they are looking for quickly and easily, they go to another site.
Using an AI chatbot helps keep customers’ attention on the site longer by answering their questions instantly and providing interesting and useful information for business products and services. At the same time, the chatbot gathers data about customer behavior. As a result, the chance for customers to leave the site will decrease, the average session duration will increase, as well as the possibility of purchase after the customer has found the information, he or she is interested in would increase too. In addition, chatbot functionalities allow customers to be directed to a specific page of the site with specific information or action in the chatbot, which improves the website experience. Businesses get access to systematized statistics about customer behavior – what users have seen, what they searched for, what time of the day, and other data. The analysis of this data leads to additional benefits, and to timely, more focused, and intelligent decisions. All these benefits are essential to not miss any opportunities and for customers to not use other alternatives by contacting competitors.
More about the statistics. The AI chatbot automatically collects data about customer behavior (not personal data) – general data about what time of the day they were in the chatbot, what they were looking for (clicks and questions), how much time they spent in the bot, which are the most frequently asked questions and the most frequently viewed information cards, which forms were sent, how many times and from where (city) and others. Analyzing this data helps businesses better understand customers and offer them exactly what they are looking for, improving existing products and services and providing new ones based on customer search in the chatbot.
By using this technology, the business will be one step ahead of its competitors, keep customer attention, make the experience on its website more meaningful, improve the service and receive an opportunity to generate more revenue, all that means to be more successful.
The no-code platform of Umni provides businesses with the opportunity to make a chatbot with conversational artificial intelligence, to train it, maintain it, in different languages. This way, the service is easy to use, the content can be correctеd, added, and upgraded quickly and whenever it is needed, for flexible reactions to market changes, and the price is extremely affordable.
Umni provides a pre-trained conversational AI module (centralized AI) for hotels, restaurants, SPA businesses, and some other industries. For example, the hotel AI module is already trained to 600+ hotel topics with 5500+ customer questions. This means that the hotel AI chatbot is ready to answer customer questions from day 1 of its implementation.
The centralized AI can also be used by businesses that have many offices, branches, or franchisees. The AI module is trained for the whole business and then all the offices or branches can have access to the management of the answers according to their specifics and needs.
An AI chatbot made on the Umni platform allows businesses to create user paths inside of it – from getting to know products and services to their request or order. Customers can ask their questions, the AI chatbot will answer them and redirect them to an order form or to a specific page of the site with more information about the exact product or service. Businesses can direct customers to a specific place in the chatbot via direct links from social media, by email, in messenger, or via QR code – offline, anywhere. This functionality helps marketing and sales departments – with only 1 click or scan customers can reach promotions of products and services, information or instructions, bookings, sign-up for a consultation, or other important actions they need to do.
The AI chatbot can be in many languages and the Umni platform allows the predefined information (cards) to be duplicated and translated automatically from one language to another – for direct access, attracting customers easy and fast, and reaching new and foreign markets.
Another important functionality of the AI chatbot is creating forms with which businesses can collect customer information, requests, registration information, or other, for the needs of Marketing and Sales departments, and for customer support in compliance with the rules of personal data. Each form in the chatbot can direct the collected information to a different department or person in the team with an SMS notification, which speeds up the whole process of customer service and the customer-chatbot-team relationship.
In the coming years, the development of AI chatbots and their accessibility and usefulness will lead to more SMEs together with large enterprises adopting this technology achieving higher results. With the AI chatbot implementation on the business website, it will be constantly online to answer customer questions instantly, it will help with the automation of frequently asked questions to free time for staff to do more complex tasks and it is an affordable and easy-to-use tool. By having it, the business will have another channel for generating revenue and improve the overall customer communication and experience.
For businesses, the AI chatbot on the site is already a “must-have”, because it allows the company to provide information to customers in a more interesting way by offering digital self-service around the clock, releasing staff from routine tasks, and keeping customers on the business website longer, directing traffic to it in a focused and smart way, adding one more sales channel.
Customers are digital-first and businesses that have AI chatbot on their website will become more preferred than others, no matter what their industry is. Young and talented people look for digitalized companies, which will help them integrate into the team without any problems, and develop their professional skills, which is one more benefit of the AI chatbot that releases staff from routine tasks and helps the onboarding of new employees.
We live in a world, which constantly changes due to innovation and technologies and if the business does not adapt to these new technology standards, it will not be successful and competitive enough in a long term.