The pandemic opened the door for the AI chatbots to be helpful in solving such major challenges as face-to-face communication between customers and employees, the need to decrease the fixed costs, and the lack of staff when reopening, therefore be adopted fast and successfully by various businesses in almost all industries.
Last year, Gartner named digital self-service as the core activity businesses needed to maintain their business and recover. Chatbots were listed in the top 5 solutions to implement. CBInsights also included chatbots with AI among 24 technologies that will shape and change the world and the business in the post-covid time. Businesses could do much more for customers and their experience, and for employees if they combine the traditional elements of human service with the latest technology.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about chatbots and how they can be useful for businesses and organizations in their better positioning and communication with customers online, as well as a few important things to know before starting planning the AI assistant.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a software solution that is implemented on a website, in a messenger, in a mobile application or elsewhere providing users with information through text, images, video, audio, links, and more. Chatbots can perform a variety of tasks, from answering frequently asked questions to automating reservations, service inquiries, gathering customer information, questionnaires, and more. The functionalities of each specific chatbot depend on what the business assigns to it to do, where it will be implemented, and with whom it will communicate – with clients, partners, or staff.
Some 43% of the existing chatbots are located on websites, and the trend in 2021 and for the years to come is the number of chatbots located on the business website to increase as this allows the business to have better control over the content and functionalities and to not depend on various messengers as a technology.
What types of businesses and projects are chatbots suitable for?
Chatbots have a very wide range of uses due to the specifics of the technology itself and can be used in most businesses, according to the needs of the business and with a clear answer to the question: what do we need to automate or optimize?
Before the pandemic, chatbots were known mainly as a tool for digital marketing and were used for marketing campaigns, collecting emails and phones, and push notifications for news and promotions. However, in the past years, banks, insurance companies, and medical sectors were among the top adopters of this technology used mainly for customer service and support.
The pandemic put the focus on the need for fast contactless remote online customer service and communication, and chatbots shone with many benefits and opportunities in this regard. Many businesses have focused on automating routine tasks and customer service with the use of chatbots – to take customer questions and inquiries 24/7, to provide instant information, to check status or to accept a service inquiry, to make a reservation. This is the first line of service that bots do well and is usually routine work for the employees that they would gladly not do themselves.
Chatbots over the past year have become a mandatory element on the websites and Messenger accounts of many businesses. Finally, businesses also began to use chatbots for their internal needs – communication with staff, training, Human Resources, and more.
Three things that business owners and managers do not know about chatbots, but are important to know to use them properly in their business?
The first and especially important thing is that the chatbot is not a plug-and-play solution. A good chatbot can start at a basic level when users just click on the buttons in it, but this is the stage where feedback is collected on how users use it and what they are looking for to identify the future direction of chatbot development. Chatbots are long-term projects that require attention, analysis, and upgrades so that one day a business can have a fully developed smart digital assistant. The chatbot itself provides feedback on customer behavior, which is important for making informed intelligent decisions in marketing, sales, and operations.
Integrations come in second place. They allow chatbots to automate routine tasks. Most businesses perceive bots as some standalone solution on their website or in a messenger and miss the opportunity to integrate chatbots with their reservation system, CRM, or other platforms and software that they use to allow customers to complete tasks in the bot without leaving it. For example, this is the case with reservations or accepting service requests via a bot, or checking status, or changing the date and time for an already booked service.
Third, the ability to use conversational AI in chatbots is underestimated. It is wrong to label bots as “dumb” when they fail to answer a customer question – they just need time and data, same as a new employee. The challenge for using AI is the need for the business to provide a large amount of data – in the case of chatbots, this is collected customer questions so that the AI module can be trained to work well. For this reason, the advice to any business that thinks long-term in this direction is to start this process now so that it can have a working solution in 6 months or a year. It is also recommended to work with an AI chatbot service provider that has industry experience. One such company is Umni.bg with a focus on turning customer questions into industry-focused trained conversational AI as well as having a background in a chatbot agency creating custom-made chatbots for various businesses.
Trends that are coming strong
A recent study showed that investment in AI projects will increase by 30% this year. The use of conversational AI in chatbots and turning communication into a stream of useful business data is a major trend in the development of this technology.
Another trend is the gamification in chatbots to constantly engage customers with interesting and useful content, games, quizzes, and more. This is evergreen content that keeps customers interested in the company and turns them into loyal users.
New in the field is also the incorporation of AR and VR in bots. It really has a wow effect. For example, instead of looking at a picture of a hotel room or a meeting hall, with one click in the bot customer can “walk in” and look at everything down to the smallest detail. And then to ask a question, that the bot would answer instantly through the activated conversational AI that would at the end provide the customer with the option to book. All in one place.
How can a company prepare a good project for a chatbot solution?
The company must identify those routine customer assistance tasks that take staff time but are identical enough as a process and can be automated to optimize and improve team performance and provide customers with a 24/7 instant self-service option. At the same time, the business shall begin collecting the frequently asked questions and structuring them into groups under topics if conversational AI will be included in the chatbot development. It is important that there is at least 1 person or a team that is n charge of the bot planning, creation, implementation, and continuous supervision, adjustment, and development. And one more tip: make sure you know how your customers will find the chatbot easily from the beginning of the project and plan its promotion accordingly.
A good inquiry for chatbot development would answer questions such as:
what do our business want to automate, how do we expect this to happen – what functionalities will there be in the chatbot, will there be integrations with business systems, and what they will be, will conversational AI be used? Also, how many languages the bot will work on and where it will perform – on the site and/or in the messenger, what volume of communication it is expected to be redirected to the bot.
How do consumers get to the chatbot of a business?
This is an extremely important issue because it concerns the long-term planning and marketing of the company that is implementing a chatbot in its digital ecosystem. It is not enough to just implement a chatbot and expect it to do a great job. If customers do not know about it and are not actively directed to use it, even if the chatbot is greatly developed, it will be like a Porsche locked in the garage.
Based on the location of the chatbot, the chatbot can have its own separate landing page or be placed on a specific page, have its own URL link and QR code, and individual parts of the bot could also have their own link and code. Users could be directed to the bot or to specific parts of it if technically possible in the specific bot, such as an order form, from anywhere online and offline. This allows the chatbot to become the main point of communication with the business, which would accelerate it and improve it.
For the company, this means that the chatbot should be promoted regularly and everywhere as an element of the overall business promotion – as a link or QR-code: in posts on social media and in direct mailing or SMS to customers, as CTA on the site and in other online media, as an element in the signature of employees in emails, as a QR-code of business cards, brochures and other printed materials, and even on the packaging or labels of the business goods such as amenities, compliments, giveaways, souvenirs, memorabilia.
How long it takes to create a chatbot?
The development time depends on what the chatbot should do: whether it is a simple bot with one or two forms or a smart one, if there are integrations, conversational AI module, integrations with other systems, forms/questionnaires, and other functionalities, as well as how long it would take the business to prepare the content for the chatbot. It can take from a few hours to months. The conversational AI module will continue being developed after the bot will be implemented.