Chatbots sit in an interesting space in the digital world. On the one hand, they clearly offer potential. The ability to answer queries and take the menial workload off means more work-hours saved.
And yet, there are considerable hurdles to implement them. Firstly, AI-powered chatbots are hardly perfect. How many times have we had a hilarious encounter with a chatbot which keeps giving us answers we never asked?
Often, the very utility of conversational AI-powered chatbots is questionable. Chatbots can at best answer simple questions. But, depending on the complexity of a website, such abilities may not be required at all.
All of this of course leaves many business owners hanging in the dark. Should they go for a chatbot or not? In the following paragraphs, we shall explore what chatbots are and whether they might be an asset worth investing in.
While chatbots may have started as simple query-answer engines, they’ve morphed into far more sophisticated tools today. So, we have two types of chatbots available today —
The original, simple chatbot which spits out programmed answers to expected questions. It simply says something like “I don’t understand,” or “let me redirect you to someone” when confronted with a question it can’t answer. A simple chatbot workflow looks like —
Conversational AI solutions capable of understanding user intent. Apple’s Siri would be a good example here. These systems have complex modules including Automated Language Recognition (ALR), Spoken Language Understanding (SLU), Dialog Manager (DM) and Natural Language Generation (NLG). A conversational UI will look something like —
The evolution of man-machine conversation is an interesting one, albeit beyond the scope of this article. Check out this piece on the difference between chatbots and conversational AI from which the definitions above are taken.
Right, so chatbots have come a long way. But, do you even need one? Unfortunately, this is a tricky question to answer.
At the surface, chatbots do offer value. Any website could use a chatbot since they help users find the information they are looking for faster than searching the site manually. They also have a great ROI when compared to conventional labor scenarios like hiring a college student to work online and support your business. They are fairly different from team chat softwares.
Even so, chatbots aren’t exactly a fire and forget investment. You will need to set aside time and money to make them work. Not to mention, since conversational AI is an evolving technology, your chatbot will need periodic updates and maintenance.
But while the decision may seem perplexing, there are a few telltale signs you can use to determine whether you need a chatbot or not.
The more technical a product gets, the more questions it inspires. More often than not, most questions will be similar. While you can always put together a FAQ section, chances are your audience may not be able to get to it, or will simply not bother to read it. Conversational AI chatbot solutions for websites will be ideal here.
For example, a European telecom company set up a pilot program to test conversational chatbots for common inquiries. After about five weeks of training, the chatbot was able to resolve 82% of the questions on its own, and 88% with some human help.
The same can hold true for any company offering technical products or services. The SaaS investment service EarlyBird for instance offers a service for parents looking to invest in their children.
In this case, anyone visiting can have a plethora of questions that the site can’t answer on the homepage itself. How does the investment work? Is there a maturity period? Will the investment command an interest? A conversational virtual assistant can prove valuable here.
Since the website already has an FAQ section, this can be expanded into a conversational AI chatbot.
Likewise, Inflow Inventory which offers an inventory software solution has quite a lot to explain in very short space. It can easily use a chatbot to answer questions its visitors are bound to have.
There’s a rule in the digital marketing world — if someone can’t find what they’re looking for in 15 seconds, they’ll leave. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for eCommerce websites with a lot to sell. That’s why businesses should create videos and embed them on the various pages of their website.
The more products you offer, the more content you need to put on your site. Consequently, there’s a greater chance someone won’t find what they’re looking for and leave. While search bars can help here, the problem can exacerbate if many of the products are similar in nature.
Check out LFA capsules fillers for example —
The website clearly has many products that are hard to tell apart. But, since a visitor may have specific requirements, they’ll have to go through the site to find the right fit. In this case, LFA capsule fillers can build some clever conversational engineering into their website and help visitors find what they’re looking for faster.
Similarly, the website Preply which offers an online space for tutors and language students to collaborate can also use a chatbot. First-time visitors might struggle to find the right tutor, in which case a conversational chatbot can understand their requirements, and direct them to the right tutor.
Currently, they offer live chat support only when agents are available. Visitors to their website need to check their support page for support timings and other ways to get help.
It takes a lot of time to train support staff to communicate properly with customers. And yet more often than not, they tend to answer questions that could’ve been solved with a simple search. Think questions like —
An AI chatbot can easily answer such questions. But, a chatbot can solve other problems too. Even though many of a customer’s questions will be simple, they may still have to face common customer support issues.
It can take far longer to get an available agent. Or, the support person may not know the answer. Or, the query gets redirected several times.
A chatbot is on 24/7, so, no waiting. It will also either know or won’t know, so, no umms or ughs. Finally, it can direct people to the exact resource since it can scan an entire database in a second or so.