Contrary to popular belief, chatbots have been around since 1966. ELIZA was the first chatbot, created by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT. However, it is only with modern AI technology and internet capabilities that chatbots have become an important business asset. Today, they can be reliable customer support for Tier 1 issues. In fact, chatbots can be programmed to improve customer experience significantly. But does your small business really need a chatbot? Or is it only suitable for enterprises? Let's find out.
Benefits of Chatbots for Small Businesses
Messaging apps are fast overtaking social media in terms of popularity. As of 2019, the top 3 global messaging apps - WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger - had 4 billion monthly active users, worldwide. Given the reach of messaging apps, chatbots can be incredibly useful for getting a deeper understanding of your customers. They can be programmed to automate consumer surveys, which can be fed into your preferred CRM for insights and tracking. Some other prominent benefits of chatbots are:
1. Better Customer Experience
Chatbots can be used to handle routine customer queries and even make product recommendations. Sephora, a well-known cosmetic brand, launched a Facebook Messenger bot. Customers can book a makeover appointment at Sephora stores through the chatbot. They can also ask the bot for product recommendations based on lipstick shades that they like on celebrities.
Similarly, an Insurance company in UK launched a bot through which customers could file insurance claims. The company witnessed a 20% increase in customer interactions after the launch of the bot.
2. Cost Savings
Chatbots can handle simple queries, such as the status of an order, or information on flights. By helping customers with basic queries, they minimize calls to the front desk. Even when a query needs to be escalated to a live agent, the customer service call is likely to be shorter. Chatbots can gather basic information on customers, which means live agents can get to solving customer queries straightaway. According to a 2017 research paper, chatbots can help businesses cut operational costs by as much as $8 billion.
3. More Sales
When used creatively, chatbots can drive brand awareness and even sales. For example, if you are an online travel company, you could send your customers useful travel content through bots to build trust. You could follow that up with personalized offers and discounts to push sales. You can also take inspiration from Domino's Tinder bot, which helps people with cheesy pickup lines. Campaigns such as Dominos' can be great for building social media traction.
4. Better Efficiency
Chatbots can help businesses deliver primary support to customers before they are escalated to a human agent. This has several business benefits, such as faster resolution time and improved response time to queries. Since bots are computer programs, they are also a scalable customer service solution. When the traffic increases, they can scale up seamlessly to meet the increased demand without missing out on any customer.
Automation with the help of chatbots also gives live agents more time to resolve queries to customers' satisfaction, which can drastically improve customer satisfaction. In fact, the approach can be applied to governments and health services, too.
For example, the Ministry of Health in Egypt launched a WhatsApp chatbot that answers people's queries on COVID-19. Health ministries and governments around the world have taken a similar approach to reduce pressure on support staff answering questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
How Small Businesses Can Use Chatbots to Accelerate Buyers' Journey?
In the age of digital media, customers are more distracted than ever before. Buyer journeys, too, are a lot more fragmented. Supplying consumers with relevant information quickly can counter those two factors that can impact sales. Here are 3 practical ways you can use chatbots to accelerate buyers' journey:
a. Use chatbots for surveys
Use chatbots to collect information on your buyers. You can use the onboarding experience, for instance, to collect relevant information, such as demographics and their preferred content. You could also take a short survey immediately after someone has bought a product from you. Feed this information into your preferred CRM to improve personalized recommendations for your customers. You can make direct product recommendations, based on this information; or you could point them to relevant content in order to build loyalty. How you use the information will depend on your business goals.
b. Use chatbots for 24/7 business
Give your buyers information when they are looking for it. Use chatbots for automated messaging during odd hours. Take a leaf out of OgoLord International Limited's book, a food trading company in Africa. The company uses a WhatsApp bot to answer customer queries from the US, Spain, and other countries. By answering questions when a potential buyer is looking for answers, OgoLord, effectively, accelerates the buyer's journey. Thus, it stands a better chance of making a sale.
c. Use self-service chatbots for ease of business
If you run any kind of delivery service, you can use chatbots for customer payments. Banks and financial companies, such as MasterCard, use chatbots for common banking tasks like payment alerts. You can also use chatbots to authenticate customer information and make the onboarding process simpler.
Does Your Small Business Need a Chatbot?
If your business satisfies any of the following criteria, it can benefit immensely from a chatbot:
- A large majority of your customers use messaging apps or social media
- You have potential clients in different time zones that you would love to cater to
- A sufficient volume of your customer support queries are similar in nature and/or predictable
- Your business has a low user-retention rate
The rise of messaging apps has meant that it is becoming simpler to integrate chatbots in your marketing and messaging strategy. Enterprises around the world are adopting chatbots to reduce operational costs. The chatbot market is expected to grow at close to 30% (CAGR), between 2019-2024. It might be time to look seriously into using chatbots for business benefits, otherwise, you might be left behind by your competition.
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