As a small business owner interested in streamlining marketing or customer service, using a chatbot should be something that’s worth taking a closer look at. Here's why...
Technological advancements have disrupted customer service through digital channels. Nowadays, customers demand instantaneous interactions and there is no other option but chatbots. According to Gartner, in 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with a company without human interaction. This trend shows that customer service is transforming at a pace unimaginable and companies need to start leveraging chatbots in businesses to deliver extraordinary customer experiences and meet consumer expectations.
Chatbots aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for decades in one form or another.
According to Kelly Noble Mirabella, from Spiderworking, "Ironically, a lot of people think that they’ve never used a chatbot, they’ve never experienced it, when in fact they have. Because Siri and Google and Alexa and all those voice-activated speaking bots, if you will, are actually audio chatbots."
Yet the last couple of years have ushered in a new wave of chatbots that take their functionality to all-new levels. If you’re a small-business owner interested in streamlining marketing or customer service, then using a chatbot is something that’s worth taking a closer look at.
But the problem is, most small businesses aren’t really aware of how a chatbot can help them grow their customer management. Let’s dive in to see what is a chatbot, explore its applications in business and more.
So, what exactly are chatbots? A chatbot is an automated system of communication that can instantly communicate with clients or visitors on a website. Most chatbots use a chat interface for communication.
They’re compatible with all the major chat message interfaces, including Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, and more. They can also be designed specifically for use with a private chat or messaging services. Chatbots are governed by a predetermined set of rules. The best of the best combine these rules with artificial intelligence.
In other words, these chatbots can actually relay complex information and make informed decisions instead of just spitting out the same information over and over again.
So what are chatbots used for? Typically, for businesses at least, they are used for functions such as customer service, generating new leads, and making the sales process easier. However, new chatbots are being introduced all the time that help customers with all sorts of different problems.
How to Tell if A Chatbot is Right for Your Business
If you’re not sure if a chatbot is necessary for your business, ask yourself if:
- You have a messaging strategy in place, or do you receive the same questions over and over again from prospects or existing customers?
- Your audience technologically adept enough to embrace a chatbot?
- You have the resources available to set up a chatbot and monitor how it performs?
If you answered “yes” to all those questions, your business would probably benefit from having a chatbot.
There’s a reason so many businesses, both large and small, have jumped on chatbot apps and technology. And the reason is that chatbot apps bring about a variety of important benefits.
1. Growing the Business
Chatbot apps enable small businesses without extensive resources to find new leads, convert customers, and provide better customer service by creating chatbots. Gone are the days where customers would wait for you to respond. With so much competition, customers often get in touch with multiple businesses at the same time and you have to race against time to be the first to respond to win the customer. With chatbots, you can do this easily. The visitors on your website or other online platforms will automatically get answers to all their questions during the customer journey process. This will help the customers to make informed decisions resulting in a better user experience and increased brand loyalty.
2. Less Time/Less Money
Chatbot apps are an affordable means of providing a better customer experience. They don’t take time away from otherwise busy employees and don’t cost much money to use. By implementing chatbots in small or medium-sized businesses, you can cut down the expenses of hiring multiple customer service representatives. Chatbots are available 24/7 and never get tired of responding to customer queries; hence you won’t have to worry about training the resources or hire more employees when your customer base grows. This makes chatbots a sustainable solution for small businesses.
To build a basic bot through a chatbot app is remarkably easy and affordable.
4. Simple Interface
Chatbot apps are easy for customers to use. Design yours with a simple interface to make interaction a breeze.
5. Forefront of Technology
There’s no denying that they are going to be an online business standard in the next few years. Incorporating them into your small business plan now ensures you’ll be at the forefront of this technology.
Chatbots aren’t without their fair share of problems. Yet many of these problems stem from the fact that the technology is still relatively new. In other words, changes are always being made to improve chatbots. The main issue small business owners want to look out for is sacrificing authenticity by using chatbots. Rely too much on the technology, and you lose that face-to-face, person-to-person feeling of customer interactions. For small businesses, building an authentic brand and creating solid relationships with your audience is beyond important. Don’t let your chatbot take away from that.
How Small Businesses Can Use A Chatbot App
You now know how chatbot apps benefit small businesses. But how do you actually use them?
The top ways to effectively use chatbot apps to grow your small business include:
1. Customer Resource
Chatbots are a lot smarter than most people assume. For example, they actually remember the information users tell them. They’re able to learn this information and use it to better help future users. Use it as a frontline customer resource, especially to field basic questions and concerns.
2. Simplify Sales
In addition to providing information, chatbots influence sales. The best bots created with top chatbot apps, automate the sales process to streamline it from start to finish. Use a bot to simplify sales on both ends of the equation, for the customer and your small business.
3. Influence Decisions
Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t have the resources to give every new customer one-on-one attention. That’s where chatbot apps come into the picture yet again. These bots can make recommendations for users based on a variety of data gathered from simple questions and previous interactions. Chatbots free up company time while providing a dynamic new form of 24/7 sales support.
4. Increase Engagement
Facebook has recently opened the gates to its Messenger platform. The changes allow businesses to use chatbot apps within this service. Not only does this help with improving customer service and boosting sales, it also directly correlates to increased customer engagement on this social media platform. Use a well-developed chatbot to drive new users to your small business social media accounts.
5. Streamline Payments
The latest and greatest chatbot apps use features that allow them to act as a streamlined payment system. Customers can actually pay for their products without ever leaving the chat interface. Bots that store payment details of regular customers make ordering new products or services as easy as a click of the button.
6. Answer Questions
Perhaps the easiest and most popular way to use a chatbot app for your small business is to answer basic customer questions. A chatbot loaded with FAQs is often very effective at providing sufficient answers to customer queries, especially in fields that use a lot of specific jargon. Use a chatbot to weed out basic customer questions from the pack before directing customers to a live representative.
Best Chatbot Apps for Small Businesses
Choosing a chatbot app that fits your requirements is crucial.
Developed by 500 Apps, Botup is a chatbot app that can create multi-purpose chatbots in seconds to complete any task. Here are some of its top features.
- Analytics and Seamless engagement
- Easy Conversions
- Automate Lead Generation
Price: Botup has a 30-day free trial. The official monthly plan starts at $10 while you can get unlimited access to all apps and features for $50 per month.
Intercom is a Conversational Relationship Platform (CRP). With Intercom, you can build better customer relationships through personalized, messenger-based experiences across the customer journey. Here are some of the top features of this chatbot app.
- Live Chat
- Email Marketing
- Lead Generation
Price: Intercom pricing starts at $39.00 per month. They do not have a free version. However, Intercom offers a free trial.
Businesses use Drift to provide a modern buying experience for potential customers, generate more qualified leads, and dramatically accelerate the sales cycle. This chatbot app connects businesses with website visitors in real-time using bots and artificial intelligence. Here are some of its top features.
- Live Chat
- Account-based marketing
- Conversational AI platform
Price: There is a free version. Drift also offers a free trial.
To Sum It Up
Chatbot apps are promising. Many consumers are already using them, and many more would soon begin to use them. Chatbots have been proven to reduce wait times, increase engagement, and they are definitely on their way to being as valuable a communication channel as email and phone calls. With Artificial Intelligence and chatbots, small and medium-sized businesses are now open to same possibilities that were previously only available to large corporations.
Chatbot apps are still a new technology (at least as far as being effective goes). Incorporate one into your small business plan to get a leg up on the competition. It is recommended you start with a basic customer service chatbot. Developing a standard “question, reply, question, reply” chatbot uploaded with the most common customer questions is cheap and easy.
They also free up valuable employee time!
Test the waters with such a basic bot and build from there. The opportunities are literally endless when it comes to the new breed of bots for small businesses! And you can start here