If you’ve been reading the latest reports about chatbots, you may be wondering if they’re a fad or something serious. At first glance, these automated messaging bots sound like one of those tech tricks that’s very showy but doesn’t lead to much ROI in the long run. So let’s take a look at the evidence, and see how the data stacks up so you can make an informed decision if a conversational interface is the right route to take with your business.
These conversational bots are designed for very specific purposes – and those purposes happen to align exactly with what sales and marketing teams want to do. According to the latest 2017 report on Inbound Marketing from Hubspot, marketing automation remains one of the top priorities for firms. Additionally, when global businesses were asked to name their top sales priorities, the universal answer was “closing more deals” and the second top priority, across the board, was “improving the efficiency of the sales funnel.”
These goals all point directly at chatbots and their ability to hasten purchase decisions. For the next few years, at least, expect plentiful investment in chatbots as they become one of the primary means used to meet current goals.
More than half of people surveyed have reported that a business needs to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And that doesn’t just mean “available to buy things online.” It means available to discuss products, answer questions, and provide important services. Unless you have a whole lot of cash to spend outsourcing customer reps, that’s just not going to happen – at least, not without a chatbot. One of the best advantages of chatbots is that they really can answer questions and facilitate purchases at any time of day, available to all customers. Of course, chatbots aren’t the only tools that automate like this (automated phone responses come to mind), but they are currently the best and most flexible options.
Chatbots don’t exactly bring a new form of conversation to the table. Everyone these days knows how to chat through a messaging program. What makes chatbots really valuable is that they are better at it than traditional options. Yes, you can accomplish most of what chatbots do via a series of emails, but that takes much longer and depends on individual availability. Sure, you could call up a rep to ask specific questions or order new inventory, but a chatbot lets you do it all much more quickly.
If you want to know whether or not a bit of technology is going to stick around, look to see if it makes things faster. That’s one of the best signs that an innovation is here to stay, and chatbots have that feature locked down.
Just recently Facebook, one of the biggest proponents of chatbots, announced they are they are working with developers to create specific chatbots for Groups that can provide useful information to new members. Meanwhile, other developers are working on advanced bots that mimic real conversational abilities so closely, buyers may not know they are talking to a program instead of a person. Chatbots can be developed and personalized for any social site or website: Every one of them is different. In the space of a few years we’ve gone from basic, “Let me show you the latest news!” bots to highly advanced automated sales assistants, and we’re just beginning. There’s a lot of progress left to be made here.
Let’s break this down a little. When considering investment in a new tool like a bot, most businesses weigh the risks carefully. Chatbots are in an especially good zone here: The risks they present are risks that businesses already have to deal with. The security concerns they bring up are concerns companies are already dealing with when it comes to cloud data. The sunk costs associated with them are part of budgets already being spent on Facebook or web maintenance, just rerouted a little. The effects on customers are shared by all moves toward online communication and automation. A bot presents very little new risk, which makes them easier to adopt…and less likely to be discarded over time.