Chat Bots 101: Background and Key Issues to Consider Before Incorporating Them Into Your SMB eCommerce Strategy

Thanks to artificial intelligence, chat bots essentially have all the answers. Just ask one for a recommendation on a customer service tool that would allow your business to easily and cost-effectively improve the customer experience by providing instant, automated and personalized interaction at every touchpoint, and it would probably tell you to invest in a chat bot.

Chat bot

Not only would that chat bot be perfectly accurate and helpful in doing so, but it would also make the recommendation without a hint of the annoying false modesty to which humans are so prone. Just one of the ways these tools are, perhaps, our better.

Allow chat bots to introduce themselves

According to a study undertaken by Nuance, 67% of customers would rather use self-service than speak to a customer service representative, and understandably so. Self-service customer care tools, such as a chat bot, provide instant support, are always available, and enable customers to gain information for themselves on their terms and schedule, making for an empowering customer service experience.

Chat bots are commonly available on a company’s website, but today’s leading chat bots are also available in SMS messages as well as in major messaging programs like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and Kik. According to Business Intelligence, messaging apps have surpassed social networks in popularity, with many users using these apps to connect with brands. By providing a customer support option on platforms where customers already are, companies are enabling them to get in touch without requiring extra effort.

Not all chat bots are created equal

There are two main types of customer service chat bots, and what differentiates them is how they function. More rudimentary chat bots are preprogrammed and can respond to a number of questions or commands by drawing from a set database of answers or responses. These chat bots are limited in that they’re only as smart as they’re programmed to be, and they can only understand specific commands. While this type of chat bot may have its place in some customer service strategies, if you’re a company looking to truly enhance the customer experience, these are not the droids you’re looking for.

Customer service chatbot

A next-level customer service chat bot such as the type offered by customer care self-service leaders Nanorep is powered by artificial intelligence that gives it a boundless capacity for learning, allowing it to gain knowledge with every conversation in which it participates. Instead of having a finite knowledge resource from which it draws, its knowledge base expands every time it helps a customer.

Not only that, but this leading crop of chat bots uses advanced functionality, including a proprietary Natural Language Understanding (NLU) algorithm, which gives it the ability to understand the kind of language people actually use to converse, such as short-forms, slang, misspellings, complex sentences and fragments. Customers can converse naturally, and in return are conversed with naturally, receiving personalized and relevant information or assistance.

The best chat bots can provide a customer service experience comparable to the kind a customer would receive when seeking assistance from an excellent salesperson in a brick and mortar store, including everything from help with product research to personalized recommendations and information on sales. Chat bots can even complete transactions, accepting payment and arranging shipping or scheduling services and appointments. They can connect customers with technical support documents or a technical support person if indeed they can’t suggest a good enough response. They even be used to automate internal business tasks, such as sending customer data to your CRM system, software updates and so much more.

On a service level though, the point is that they do a fantastic job helping customers move smoothly through the sales funnel, eliminating extra steps and the potential pain points that can accompany having to shift between channels in order to conduct research and complete a purchase.

Bottom line benefits and establishing a strategy

There aren’t many online businesses that wouldn’t benefit from the kind of top-notch automated customer service a chat bot offers, but small to mid-size businesses are uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of these tools. A chat bot provides a major improvement in the amount and quality of customer service an SMB can provide while potentially allowing them to cut down on customer service expenditures, cutting back on telephone agents, as well as email and social media monitoring. This type of self-service solution is also infinitely scalable, able to handle as many customer service requests as needed for a growing and changing business with fluctuating needs.

Customer service robot

However, the incredible flexibility of chat bots requires careful thought about how best to put them into action – trying to take advantage of every single capability will often result in chaos. The right approach would be to take a good look at your business and ask yourself a number of questions:

  • What functions will the chat bot serve?
  • What existing processes will the chat bot be able to replace or streamline?
  • What resources will it require to provide a seamless experience using it?
  • How will improve the interactions we have with customers?
  • How will it influence the overall customer experience?
  • Are we looking to facilitate in-house communication or rather customer facing interactions?

Working through these tough questions is no easy task, as there are plenty of variables to consider as well as plenty of platforms and tools. However, the more thought you put into this step, and the better you define what you require, the more effective the result will be.

Welcome our new customer service overlords

It’s easy to joke that chat bots provide a superior customer service experience than human employees do. The truth of the matter is that chat bots are the ideal counterpart to human customer service representatives, especially since a chat bot can easily transfer a customer to a human agent within the same conversation in the same platform if necessary. Customer service chat bots integrate easily with all existing customer service efforts, making them a natural addition to an organization. If you’re not quite sure about that, just ask a chat bot.

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