(Last Updated On: August 29, 2018)

Exploring the Chatbot Experience

by | Best Practices, Chatbots

Chatbots are quickly becoming a popular feature for business websites. As AI technology progresses, it’s now easier than ever to provide your visitors with a handy chatbot to answer questions and, hopefully, create more leads and sales. While chatbots are certainly very useful, they aren’t perfect and can’t always replace human interaction. Let’s look at how to provide your customers with the best chatbot experience.

Pros and Cons of Chatbots

Pros

Gartner estimates that, by 2020, 25% of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants or chatbots. Clearly, this technology is rapidly advancing across all industries. There are quite a few advantages to using chatbots.

  • They are always available. Most smaller businesses can’t afford to provide live 24/7 customer service. A chatbot is available at all hours to answer questions and guide shopping choices.
  • Provide economical customer service. Once you have a chatbot in place, it’s quite a bit cheaper than paying customer service reps. Even if you only use chatbots to replace live agents part of the time, it can save your business quite a bit of money.
  • Fast and efficient. Chatbots can handle multiple queries at once and provide fast responses.
  • An efficient way to handle common queries. A high percentage of questions that customer service reps answer are quite common and don’t require any real expertise. Chatbots are an efficient way to handle FAQ. Virtual assistants can either answer these questions directly or provide links to your FAQ page. This saves your live agents time and lets them address more complicated questions.
  • They guide shoppers to the most appropriate items. People visiting a website don’t always know how to find what they’re looking for. They may not have the patience to spend time searching. A chatbot can (by answering a few simple questions) quickly guide visitors to the most appropriate products. This can help you increase sales.

Cons

As helpful as they are, chatbots do have certain limitations.

  • They’re only as useful as you program them to be. Today’s chatbots aren’t self-aware robots out of science fiction. They can only respond based on their programming. To get the most out of them, you need to do research and decide what will best serve your customers and visitors. This isn’t necessarily a “con,” unless you have unrealistic expectations for what virtual assistants can do.
  • They can’t handle complex issues. Some issues require human interaction. Customers who have a problem may get frustrated if they can only talk to a chatbot. You can avoid this by making it clear that you also provide personal customer service for such issues.
  • Not everyone likes them. It’s a simple reality of business that you can’t please everyone. Some people don’t like chatbots. However, one study found that 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for answering simple queries. As people get more accustomed to this technology, the percentage of people who embrace it will likely rise.

How to Improve the Chatbot Experience

How do you get the most out of chatbots while minimizing the potential drawbacks? Like any technology, you need to apply it in a strategic way and find an approach that’s customized to your needs. Here are some principles to keep in mind.

Define the Chatbot’s Purpose

Don’t expect your chatbot to be able to handle every issue, problem, or query. Start by defining the areas you want help with. For example, a bot can answer questions about products, encourage visitors to join your mailing list, or perhaps send people to the proper page on your website. You may start with one or two areas and expand the bot’s areas of expertise.

Use Chatbots and Live Agents Together

Since chatbots can’t replace humans, you need to find the right balance. Do your best to integrate chatbots with live chat and other types of customer service to provide customers with an integrated experience.

  • Use chatbots during hours when live customer service agents aren’t available.
  • Even when live agents are available, chatbots can gather preliminary information to improve service. The chatbot can direct the customer to the right agent who already has an idea of what the person needs.
  • Make it easy for customers to find alternatives to the chatbot when necessary. Your chatbot can send people to a live chat agent (if available) or advise people to call or email for complicated queries. You never want customers to feel frustrated that they can’t get the kind of help they need.

Make Your Chatbot User-Friendly

There are several ways to make chatbots more engaging to visitors so they’re more open to interacting with them.

  • Give your chatbot a personality. It helps to give your chatbot a name and personality. This will depend on your branding, of course. Some companies have a more formal image while others are more casual. Program your bot to come across as naturally as possible. As much as possible, you want to give people the illusion that they’re chatting with a person. For example, bots can use contractions (“I’m” instead of “I am”).
  • Show empathy. One of the advantages of live chat agents is that they can provide a sympathetic response when users are frustrated. While chatbots are obviously more limited in this way, they can be programmed to recognize and respond to human emotions based on language. If someone is upset with a product, for example, the chatbot might say “I’m sorry that you’re having this problem. Let’s see what I can do to help.” Emoticons are another way to give your bot some personality. Chatbots are quickly getting more sophisticated in their ability to convey emotions.
  • Encourage people to use the chatbot. As popular as they are, chatbots are still new to many people. They won’t start using yours unless you give them the proper cues. Create a welcome message from the bot that’s easy to see. Give them a box where they can start typing or a button to click on so they know how to get started.
  • Test and improve. Record all chat sessions and track the results. If you’re not getting the results you want, make changes. You can apply A/B testing to your chatbot. You can test elements such as the chatbot’s appearance, where you place the dialog box, the type of language the bot uses, and other factors.

As technology evolves and chatbots become more sophisticated, they’ll be increasingly helpful for customer service. At the same time, virtual customer assistants will never entirely replace human customer service. The trick is to find the right balance of the two. In this way, chatbots can improve your customer service while making life easier for your live support agents.