Get your small business on board
As consumers, most of us have engaged with chatbots a time or two.
Sometimes we don’t even know the person on the other side of an online conversation isn’t even human, but a piece of artificial intelligence programmed to respond to our every need. And if we are given the right product recommendation or our service need is quickly resolved, we don’t care. Right?
In fact, according to recent Capterra survey, nearly 65 percent
of U.S. millennials want to use chatbots when engaging with brands. But less than 30 percent of small businesses in retail, services, construction, manufacturing and other vertical industries are incorporating chatbots for engaging with customers.
Fear of technology is likely one reason. Lack of time and money is probably another. Whatever the case, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that do not embrace bots are missing an opportunity to level the playing field with larger brands.
Bots enable you to market and sell to a wider range of customers. Many companies are using chatbots to sell product on social media sites, such as Facebook. Indeed, a recent HubSpot Research study
found 47 percent of shoppers are open to buying items from a bot.
Chatbots also let you more efficiently deal with common but time-consuming customer issues - such as how to exchange or return an item - so support staff can spend time on more complex matters. And while many people still like to engage with other people when they have the time, nearly 70 percent of consumers prefer chatbots for quick conversations with brands, according to a Salesforce study
Given all of this, it’s clear most SMBs can or should consider embracing chatbots to become more competitive, efficient and appealing to customers. But deploying bots can be challenging.
“Small businesses are in a precarious position: They must find and deploy technology that will keep them competitive against their peers and large enterprises,” says Lauren Maffeo, senior content analyst at Capterra, in a statement.
Companies that wait five to seven years to adopt a new technology may never catch up to competitors that started sooner. Yet, small businesses have minimal margin for error when choosing the best technologies for their business needs.
So, how can you climb aboard the chatbot train? Here are five nuggets of advice to get you on track:
1. Know why you’re doing it
It goes without saying that you should have a strategic plan for your chatbot. Plunging in without knowing your business objectives would be a huge mistake.
Be clear in your mind, if not on paper or your computer, whether you are hoping to reduce calls to your support team, generate a certain number of leads, close sales or improve customer satisfaction. It can be one or more of these.
But identify what it is you’re trying to accomplish and assign some metrics or key performance indictors (KPIs) against each goal so you can measure success, or lack of it. You need to know how your investment is paying off in order to adjust over time.
2. Identify your audience
It goes without saying that you’re creating a chatbot to engage with customers in some way, and you probably know your customers very well. But to build a bot, it’s important to also look at how those customers engage on various platforms because it’s not always the same.
Customers coming to your Facebook page, for example, probably know you pretty well. They might be looking for more service and support. Folks going to your Web page, on the other hand, might be in exploratory mode and want more product related information. Consumers looking you up on Twitter might be wondering what products you might be announcing in coming months.
Decide which group of customers you’re trying to serve and build a chatbot for the right platform.
3. Don’t build a bot from scratch
As anyone who’s tried (and failed) to build their own chatbot platform can attest, it can be hard. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment or a closet coder, don’t do it. It’s a waste of your time and energy.
4. Create an experience
As you prepare to build the bot, you’ll want to make sure you map out your customer’s entire conversation journey.
For instance, when someone visits your Web site, you might want a chatbot to welcome them with a snappy and compelling offer to assist them with anything they need, and a series of questions designed to guide them to a resolution. Part of that dialog should include an offer to connect them with a live person if the bot is unable to assist them.
The point is to make sure your storyboard covers off on every possibility. Sketch out the various paths a customer might take on your site to find information, purchase a product, inquire about their account or just get a little guidance on something. Again, there is plenty on the Web to help you build this storyboard. Sprout Social has a pretty detailed example
, if you’re in a hurry.
5. Test, test, test
Ultimately, you want the chatbot experience to be as fluid and pleasant as possible. So, you’re going to want to test every step of the conversation to gain better insight and understanding of a customer’s journey.
Do it yourself. Ask coworkers, family and friends to do so as well. Encourage everyone to not only see how quickly their test concerns are met, but what happens when they ask odd or confusing questions. Tell them not to suppress their thoughts and to give you their straight, honest feedback. You’d be surprised how many much-needed fixes might be suggested during this process.
Today, anyone hoping to grow their venture should consider a chatbot. Customers want bots (at least some of the time) and expect to be able to use them. These ideas will hopefully get you started down the path to successful implementation.