Once there was Web 2.0 then came the Facebook Apps and Mobile Apps. Recently we have been hearing a lot about Data Analytics, Machine Learning, AI and now Chatbots!
It is easy for a layman to get overwhelmed with these tech jargons. However, one should definitely dig a little deeper whenever time permits as most of them have substance. One such term is “Chatbot”. Before I try to decode it further let me take you little back in history.
I started using the Internet around 2002 using a dial-up connection. The first thing I learnt was to search readymade code through Google. Since then this experience has remained pretty much the same. Similar pattern is used to shop something online, gather knowledge around any topic, make connections and even to find an AC repair mechanic. Essentially most of us follow search, select, read and discover on the Internet.
Let us call it the traditional user experience.
Now let us examine a more recent trend.
In last 5 years with rise of messaging apps, I see a lot of people around me busy chatting or forwarding messages on Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, SMS, etc. Young internet users are so quick at texting that they prefer it over any other experience.
Let us call this a conversational user experience.
In this new experience, user is able to consume the offerings of the Internet in a simple and seamless chat interface.
The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to download and learn a new app every time you want to accomplish something. It is a much easier and cleaner way of doing things.
So now how can we bring more internet offerings to the conversational experience? That is where we see the rise of Chatbots in last 1-2 years.
So what is a Chatbot?
A Chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. (the definition I found from Beginner’s Guide.)
Some nuances in the definition:
It can be powered by rules and sometimes Artificial Intelligence. This creates two category of Chatbots. One is completely rule-based and cannot answer beyond rules and other will be having intelligence to learn on its own and also answer things beyond already fed logic.
Another thing is interaction via a chat interface. As the word chatbot suggests, the interaction is through chat.
These chatbots can be published on various platforms like your websites, kiosks, Facebook Messenger, etc.
Is it something where the world is moving? I would say Yes.
We see heavy investments being done by Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon in building chatbot infrastructure and chatbot publishing platforms. You can check out videos from Facebook Messenger Bots and AWS Lex to know yourself. These companies are building infrastructure to reach to masses via conversational experiences.
Okay, now does this affect your business? The real question.
Yes for sure. All businesses will be affected with this trend. You should not just see Chatbot as a forceful adoption of a new tech trend but actually as an opportunity to upsell and acquire new customers. Let us understand with examples.
Let’s say you are running a school. You can create a chatbot which answers most of the questions any parent can have around child education, child’s progress. It can also give personalized tips to parents based on their child’s progress. With this kind of chatbot you can setup a kiosk at your school and give interactive experience to everyone visiting your school. You can also plugin the same bot on Facebook Messenger for those chat-savvy new-age moms! This way information about school, education and your child’s progress can be made available very easily.
If you are running a restaurant, you can create a chatbot to communicate with your customers and suggests them food items based on their past order history or general ordering trend. This can help restaurant owner increase the Average Order Value and eventually help the order directly being pushed to kitchen without needing a person! Imagine an automatic ordering kiosk at your restaurant or an ordering chatbot on FB Messenger taking orders on their own!
Chatbots are even cooler at after sales customer service. Suppose you are selling electronic goods from your store or e-commerce platform. With a simple chatbot, any of your customers can come to Facebook Messenger and get answers to simple questions around maintenance and even file a complaint. This complaint can directly go in your CRM and assigned to the service engineer without any manual intervention and any training to the end user. This can help you greatly improve service and reduce cost.
Let us take an example of a non-profit organisation providing guidance around old-age illness. In the current scenario you have a website and a blog with extremely rich content. Right now your users will have to go through a lot of information to find out answers to very common questions. Instead with a chatbot you can directly answer common questions in a more convenient user experience (chat) in very less time compared to reading through the whole article or page.
If your are selling your items through an e-commerce site. The chatbot can help your customer place an order by chatting with your bot without leaving their Facebook Messenger. This way users can discover their products via conversation as opposed to choosing and filtering items. This can greatly increase reach of your offering.
In current scheme of things, a finance consultant advising around financial planning will have a website, FAQs and possibly a daily newsfeed for her users. We all know that these offerings have very less open rate and people have no time to read website contents and FAQs. Instead a chatbot can be very specific in answering their common questions. This will increase your engagement with your users by providing them context specific advice and eventually more customers signing up for your services.
I think you get the idea!
But before you pick your phone and call your developer, let me tell you it is not a panacea. It can fail as well and here is an explanation around it.
Obviously I am very upbeat about this whole Chatbot thing but I am not claiming that it is the only interface, which will survive in future. It is a trend right now, but I do not see it fading away. It is here to stay for long and it will affect a lot of human behaviour and thus most of the businesses.
If done it in a right away, Chatbots can have a huge impact on your business to make it future-ready giving you the competitive advantage. I strongly suggest that you invest your time understanding Chatbot and its effect on your business.
And if you don’t have a developer, who can do it for you, well here we are! We will jointly figure out if you need a Chatbot and what is the best way to make one.