What are chatbots and why your company might need one

Chatbots are programs that people interact with via a chat box. They are built to automatically respond to incoming messages. Chatbots are programmed to respond the same way every time and they can also adapt their responses to fit a certain situation using machine learning. For example, when we send a question or tell the bot to do something, it will perform the appropriate action. Bots are found in platforms such as Facebook messenger, text messaging, and digital workspace Slack.

Why might your company need one? Well, people are now using messenger apps more than social networks. Over two billion messages are sent between businesses and people every month. As a business, these apps are where you want to build online.

Chatbots are essentially digital employees that can answer easy, frequently asked questions from customers as quick as possible. They can also operate limitless conversations whereas humans can only deal with two to three conversations at a time. By utilising both humans and bots, your business will be able to further boost itself into new markets.

If your business gets countless questions, using messenger marketing tactics such as a Facebook chatbot is very beneficial. By having the chatbot as the initial contact, the bot can redirect customer calls to humans only when necessary.

Conversational marketing, a form of marketing where a business listens to their customer’s needs, is now as important as ever because of chatbots. Bots assist customers in choosing the right product or service for their needs and are interactive. This means your business can reach more people at the same time, thus improving customer service.

What other companies are using them and how

In Feb 2017, Domino’s pizza chain in the USA launched a Chatbot, named Dom, on Facebook Messenger that takes delivery orders. All you must do is type PIZZA or send a pizza emoji in the chat box, click send, and a menu will come up from which you can order from! In the past, users had to create a Dominos profile before they could order through Facebook Messenger but now anyone can order from Dom!
Retail giant H&M has developed a bot for the Kik messaging app. This bot asks customers about what their taste in style is. Once a response is received the bot will then make outfit recommendations geared toward the customer’s preference. The bot also allows users to share an item of clothing they like, and the bot will put together pieces from H&M’s catalogue to design a whole outfit. Not only does the bot help you create outfits but it also allows you to vote and browse outfits created by other users. It’s your personal stylist!
Similarly, eBay has a virtual shopping assistant they call ShopBot which assists customers to find the product they are looking for on EBay. By asking questions that the customer is prompted to answer, it can save them countless hours searching EBay for their ideal product. Additionally, eBay utilises a Facebook Messenger bot to provide timely reminders to customers that an auction is about to end – thus, prompting last minute bids.

What your options are for creating a chat bot - DIY and getting it done for you

In order to create a chat bot yourself, one will need to find out what type of problem your bot will solve, what social network your bot will live in, what server to run it from and what service to use to build the bot.

You don’t need to know how to code in order to create a Chatbot. Platform Chatfuel makes it easy for anyone to create their own bot. Bots created using Chatfuel can share content to your followers automatically, gather information using forms inside Facebook messenger, and let users ask for information. It also provides Artificial Intelligence technology for scripting interactive conversations and to provide the correct response to a request. Worldwide companies such as Adidas, British Airways and Volkswagen are using Chatfuel for their Facebook Messenger chatbots.

Understanding your existing website & social network/s and how your chat bot might interact with these

It is important to tailor your chatbots to suit the social media channel you are using. The chatbot you would use on your website might be completely different to the one you would use on Facebook Messenger.
Facebook chatbots utilise automated messages that seek to determine what support/assistance the user needs, so that the customer service experience for them is a positive one.
Sometimes a person may not know what information they are seeking. They may have heard about your business and decided to check out your website. Perhaps they haven’t even heard of your business but have made a general search for a good or service. By having a chatbot in place to welcome them, and to provide them with directed assistance, you have the opportunity to secure that person as a long-term customer.

Let’s not forget the importance of your existing customers and potential customers wanting to contact your business 24/7. You might be a 9am to 5pm business but you need to be available outside your usual business hours. This is where a chatbot can help customers still gain access to the help and information they need.

Objectives you can fulfill with bots

Chatbots promote content and engage with customers, thus boosting your content marketing efforts. For example, you could connect a chatbot to a post on your business page. Once a person comments on the post, your messenger bot will automatically message the person. This messenger marketing tactic engages customers and helps build your business email list.

Through conversational marketing, listen to the ideas that your Facebook fans and customers suggest to you. People love it when they get content they can directly relate to and feel hugely complimented if you take up their suggestion. Don’t forget to let them know how grateful you are when you have a new content piece based on their idea ready to go.

Messenger chatbots can generate leads on autopilot if you link it to your Facebook Ad Campaign. From asking questions and gathering customer info, the bot can qualify leads then sends the new lead to email or CRM.

Examples of bots already in existence

  • Transactional bots – These bots interact with external systems, moving data from one platform to the other, completing a specific transaction. For example, Birdly is a Slackbot, which you activate via specific /slash commands, and it will go retrieve specific data for you.
  • Informational bots – They surface helpful information such as breaking news stories. An example of an informational bot is TechCrunch which has a personalised news recommendation bit that sends you content via Facebook Messenger. Some also broadcast data as it becomes available.
  • Crawlers – Crawlers in the background, gathering data from other API’s or websites, based on your directives. Some monitor systems for change, such as Pricing Assistant which crawls through ecommerce websites and monitors price changes. Others, such as Alerbot, monitor websites for errors, performance issues and server uptime.

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