I just had an interesting online exchange with Christine as I was trying to find a calculator for one of my kids. As the questions got more specific, the answers got a little more off base. It dawned on me that perhaps Christine wasn’t, as the thumbnail image implied, a perky blonde customer service rep. So I asked.
Me: Are you a person or a bot?
Christine: I am a real live person. And a bot.
Christine: There is a Christine bot and a real Christine. The bot talks to you and then the person reads the chat.
That just raised more questions, and neither the bot nor the person could help me.
As organizations are looking for more sophisticated ways to interact with their audiences, chatbots have become the darling of marketers. These computer programs (or chat robots) automate predictable tasks and are programmed with responses. Using artificial intelligence, or AI, chatbots can range from simple (“show me the calendar of events”) to more sophisticated (“find flights to New York on Thursday before noon”), and offer users a human-like conversation that puts 24-hour customer service at the forefront of your organization. Users can interact with chatbots on websites, a mobile messenger (think iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Skype, or WhatsApp), or via texts. The benefit? Positive user experiences that lead to brand loyalty, which is a goal for just about every marketer out there. For example…
I’ve been slow to warm to the email provider my company uses. But with the latest upgrade I’ve noticed something I really like. If I email a blog post to my boss, he can choose an automatic reply: Looks good! Looks great! I’ll let you know! You deserve a raise! (Okay, that’s not a real one.)
When a colleague emailed me asking for a favor, I could quickly hit the button that says, “Sure, I’d be happy to help.” These are very simple bots, also using AI, basically looking at how I respond to messages and giving me a “one click” response option. They’re definitely enhancing my user experience and getting me a little more efficient – why type 20 characters when I can click just one pre-written phrase?
Of course, bots aren’t foolproof guarantors of success. Robots can only do what humans have taught them to do, and users can come up with all sorts of creative ways to ask a question. When the chatbot helps a user, that experience is positive. Without the right technology and care, though, you could frustrate your site visitors more than you help them. For example, it’s safe to say that Christine and I will not be friends.
So, with all the hype around chatbots, should you even consider building one for your website? Let’s break it down.
Many businesses have been quick to jump on the chatbot bandwagon, but they haven’t built their bot carefully. And a bad bot is much worse than no bot at all! The first moment the bot glitches, responds in robot language, or doesn’t understand your question, that site visit is done. And chances are good the user won’t be back.
To Bot or Not?
Not every business or every website should integrate a chatbot into their system. Here are some indications it might be right for you:
• Do your site visitors have pretty routine questions and need answers quickly?
• Does your site have an abundance of content that might be hard to sift through?
• Are you selling something that could be easily found on the site by a bot?
• Do you have a need for FAQ that can be delivered in a more exciting and interactive way with a bot?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a chatbot might be perfect for your business or organization. If not, it’s likely more of a smoke and mirrors screen your visitors will see through and then quickly run away.
A few tips: Make sure the bot is targeted to your audience, so it doesn’t become a source of frustration. A well-crafted bot leads to a memorable and positive user experience, which builds loyalty. And ensure that the bot you build can be integrated into a mobile messenger, which will expand the options for how users connect with your organization. This will make the experience even more organic and positive for your audience.
Remember, your goal is for the user to think they are talking to you.
How Can You Build a Bot?
It’s easier than you think…many sites will let you build a bot for free! If you want to check it out, here’s a list of bot-building websites that will allow you to create the chatbot of your dreams (or at least the one that will appeal to your audience).
Happy bot building!