We’ve all grown familiar with chatbots—those friendly automated helpers that pop up and greet us when we visit a company’s website. Your business may already have a chatbot of some kind, helping you drive e-commerce or provide customer service online.
But even companies using chatbots may not fully grasp all of their business benefits or the many ways that chatbots can improve the customer experience (CX). Thanks to the power of AI, the most sophisticated chatbots today can use machine learning and natural language processing to provide more value than ever to both businesses and their customers.
So why do businesses turn to chatbots, and what makes them so useful when implemented correctly? Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of chatbot technology, how effective it can be, and how to overcome challenges and realize the full potential of chatbots.
7 ways chatbots benefit your business
Various types of chatbots can be used to engage, assist, and communicate with both existing and potential customers. Chatbots can interact with online users across many different digital channels including brand websites, social media, messaging apps, and SMS. High-quality chatbots can help customers with anything from product recommendations to post-purchase support, and the range of tasks they can handle continues to expand as conversational AI capabilities grow.
Chatbots can yield significant benefits for customer service, support, and engagement, at any stage of the path to purchase. Let’s take a quick look at a half dozen ways that chatbots can help your business achieve its goals.
1. 24/7 customer service
Unlike human agents, customer service chatbots are always available and can respond to customer queries around the clock. That makes it easier and more cost-effective for businesses to provide the convenient, “always-on” customer service that consumers increasingly demand.
2. Frictionless customer interactions
Through one-on-one conversation, chatbots can provide customers with personalized guidance and support at any point in their journey – before, during, or after a purchase – and on a wide range of digital platforms. By helping customers get what they want faster and more easily, chatbots can facilitate ecommerce transactions and provide a more satisfying experience.
3. Fewer repetitive tasks
Chatbots can automate your responses to routine, repetitive queries that can take up valuable time. With this time freed up, customer care agents are able to focus on resolving more complex customer issues and providing timely, high-quality service to those who need human assistance.
4. Reduced operating costs
By deflecting routine queries and offering easy self-service, chatbots can cut the cost of providing customer care and support. According to Business Insider, chatbots could save $11 billion per year for businesses in healthcare, banking, and retail by 2023.
5. Increased leads and sales
While communicating with users, chatbots can use the information they gather to prequalify potential customers and direct them to your sales team. Such targeted lead generation can lead to more sales opportunities and revenue.
6. Customer insights
Chatbot conversations generate unstructured data that analysts can mine for useful intelligence on consumer preferences and behavior. Such insights can not only be used to improve your chatbots’ performance, but also to inform your broader decision-making about marketing and CX.
7. Constant improvement through machine learning
The most advanced AI-based chatbots can learn from past interactions and improve their own performance over time. That means your customer experience is always getting better without the need for your service team to make constant manual adjustments to your chatbots’ behavior.
5 ways chatbots improve the customer experience
Many of the business advantages of using chatbots stem from their ability to enhance customer interactions. So, let’s take a closer look at what that means to your current and potential customers. How do they benefit from a state-of-the-art chatbot experience?
1. Instant answers and fast transactions
Chatbots, unlike human agents, can always reply to customer queries without any wait or hold times. And if they can’t provide an immediate answer, they can start working on a solution right away. This results in happier customers and fewer complaints. Emplifi research found that slow response times were the experience that most negatively affected consumer attitudes toward a brand. To prevent this, a well-implemented chatbot can satisfy customers’ desire for fast, easy transactions, whether they are making a purchase or returning a product.
2. Less stress
Chatbots allow customers to perform tasks on their own schedules, without needing to wait or deal with a human agent. Such hassle-free self-service, available 24/7, is critical to the customer experience: 75% of US consumers consider it important to have access to a fully self-serve customer care option.
3. Consistent responses
Human agents can vary widely in their skill, knowledge, and communication style —sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. A customer service chatbot armed with a strong knowledge base can provide consistency in its answers as well as in tone, voice, and style. This gives customers the brand experience they’ve come to expect from you, with every interaction.
4. Omnichannel experiences
A chatbot can deliver self-service via many different digital tools and platforms—including social media, messaging apps, company websites, branded apps, and SMS. At the same time, it can draw on a complete history of a customer’s interactions with your brand across all channels. This allows you to provide a seamless experience; customers can begin a chatbot conversation on one channel and continue it on another without having to start over again.
In communicating one-on-one with customers, a sophisticated chatbot can offer an experience that feels almost like talking with a human being. Chatbots can also offer assistance, product recommendations, and promotions tailored to individual profiles and histories. Such interactions can help you meet and exceed the expectations of consumers in an era of personalized experiences.
Make the most of your chatbots
As we’ve seen, a capable chatbot can make life better for customers and deliver measurable results for your business. But none of these gains will happen automatically. The quality of your chatbot solution plays a key role in your outcomes, and a flawed implementation risks putting your business at a disadvantage with both customers and competitors.
To get the best return on investment, follow best practices and pay careful attention to selecting the right technology, tools, and vendor. Cutting-edge conversational AI, intelligent escalation, and a thoughtful combination of automation with the human touch will all boost your chances of success.
For more in-depth advice, download "So You Want to Buy a Chatbot?", our step-by-step guide to choosing the right chatbot solution.