As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more accessible for small businesses, many are turning to chatbots to improve user experience and automate communication with prospects. Google has roughly 1 billion voice-enabled devices in the market currently. That means one in seven people worldwide has likely interacted with a bot, whether they realize it or not. For business leaders, keeping up with the Joneses means staying on top of what Google is doing, and Google seems to like chatbots — a lot.
This segment is growing—and it’s growing fast! Yahoo Finance reports the chatbot industry exceeded $1 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to over $10 billion by 2026. This tremendous growth is fueled by the many benefits that chatbots offer businesses as well as customers and prospects.
As it stands today, 38 percent of people say they prefer to speak with a bot compared with a real human being. One main benefit of utilizing bots for your online business is user experience. In the following blog, we’re going to talk all about chatbots, what they are and why they are important for better user experience (UX).
What is a Chatbot?
For a definition at face value, we need only to turn to Investopedia:
“A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both. Chatbot, short for chatterbot, is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) feature that can be embedded and used through any major messaging applications.”
Chatbots and Value: A Perfect Match
The goal of this article is to chat (pun totally intended) about how chatbots enhance UX, but we can’t do that without also talking about the added value they bring — especially when combined with stellar human customer service efforts.
Here’s why chatbots and value go hand-in-hand:
- Offer support round the clock: Running a business ‘after hours’ can be costly; with chatbots, companies can provide support to customers 24/7/365. Being available whenever customers need assistance rather than just between the hours of nine to five is a major value-add and makes for happier customers and overall increased value.
- Get qualified leads: A chatbot can be programmed to receive all kinds of information. A chatbot can easily qualify a lead based on a few initial questions, ask for the individual’s email address once qualified and pass this information to a sales rep. This frees up reps to do what they do best, build relationships, close deals and win business.
- Chatbots allow for increased social listening: Reps who would normally spend all day on the phone fielding inbound calls in a call center can instead use social listening tools. This allows them to jump into organic conversations on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, answering customer questions where the conversations are happening naturally and increasing brand awareness in the process.
Chatbots and Customer Service
In a world that’s highly digital, businesses big and small need to make sure customers feel like they’re a top priority. In the following section, we’ll look at the way chatbots improve customer service and user experience.
Provide Seamlessness 24/7
Chatbots provide a 24/7 seamless live chat experience. Unlike some tech solutions, there’s very little learning curve for customers to interact with chatbots. Chatbots are programmed to respond in a natural conversational way, making it incredibly easy for customers to get what they need. Chatbots can also be integrated into other company resources to submit referrals, alert management to issues, and log important data for the company.
Using chatbots is both a seamless and natural solution for companies, which can be working around the clock non-stop. Because chatbots can also be integrated with eCommerce sites, the customer journey also just got a little easier. They can pop up on product pages or at check out to offer customers more information about a product, or even additional discount incentives to buy now.
Essential for Branding
One especially valuable thing about chatbots is that they will act however you program them to act. Companies can design chatbots around their brand personality to ensure a cohesive impression for customers whether they interact with a human sales rep or a chatbot. Whether adding humor or charm, your chatbot can be as fun or straightforward as you want. Thinking about the tone of your chatbot’s personality is synonymous with thinking about your brand, mission and values, so make it count.
Chatbots Relieve Customer Service Pressures
This may come as a surprise, but many people do not enjoy making customer service calls. Hate is a strong word, but evidence strongly suggests people hate calling customer support.
Technical problems, noisy backgrounds, social anxieties, confusion, jargon and overseas support reps can all contribute to the frustration on a customer service call. It’s no wonder why more people might prefer to work with a chatbot if it could better take care of their needs on the first attempt.
Replace and Reinvent Outdated Tech
People get frustrated by interactive voice response (IVR) menus that make customers wait through a long list of options. You’ve probably had it happen to you too, one faulty button press can cause the whole process to start over. And sometimes going through a drawn-out information gathering process to fill in some form with a customer service rep is another problem for customers who just want to get answers fast.
These are two examples of technology that can be reinvented using or replaced using chatbots. With a responsive chatbot that understands customer context, your customers will never have to wait through another IVR menu. Surveys can also be assessed through an engaging bot, rendering forms irrelevant in the data collection process.
Better Digital Customer Service: Key to UX
UX and customer service go together like, well, peanut butter and jelly, or bacon and eggs, or milk and cookies. (Is it lunchtime yet?) Anyway, you get the point…they go well together.
Focusing on UX means thinking about what ways you can better serve customers through your website and technology infrastructure’s design. Using chatbots positively changes your digital architecture in a number of ways, including by:
- Providing a platform for 24/7 support and intake
- Infusing your brand and customer service values into your business technology infrastructure
- Replacing technology that is no longer relevant or needed
- Increasing productivity and encouraging efforts toward social listening
- Automating otherwise manual processes like lead generation
All of the above actions help create a more focused customer service experience as well as a better user experience when customers interact with your brand online. There are some chatbot traits that can be optimized to make them even more useful (and fun!) tools for your company.
Traits of Chatbots Optimized for UX
A world leader in research-based user experience, Neilsen Norman group recently explored chatbot optimization for UX and noted the following key concepts:
Interaction style: Businesses should include both a multiple-choice carousel of pre-decided links and buttons AND opportunities for customers to input sentences to tell their AI bot explicitly what they need. Links and buttons need to be clearly defined so users easily know to click on them.
Menus and resource links: Uniquely, chatbots have the ability to offer up a number of choices to consumers, and that includes links to other resources. According to Nielsen Norman, this is best handled with menus and links included in the chat window when the context requires it.
Conversations that guide: When it comes to chatbots, an unexpected query could throw a wrench in the whole thing, sometimes causing users to have to start back at the beginning of the conversation. This could negatively impact user experience, so bots must be optimized for more complex answer chains.
Carousels: Carousels are contentious in the world of digital products and SEO, but when it comes to chatbots they may be just what you need to offer comprehensive support. Using a slider underneath the chat window allows chat users to scroll through potential options, choosing what works best for them.
Personalization: This last one is actually not from Nielsen Norman research, but we felt it was worth a mention. In a digital climate where big-box retailers are increasing in online revenue and decreasing in foot traffic, there’s little more important than offering personalization to customers. Chatbots support the vision of greater personalization by listening to customer’s specific needs and providing relevant solutions.
SharpSpring: Experts on User Experience
In combination with consistently strong human customer service efforts, chatbots offer an amazing opportunity for businesses. Not only do they save time, money and other resources when properly implemented, but they also create a unique customer journey. They can remove several frustration points in your process replacing them with something more natural and intuitive.
We know how automated marketing can shape great user experiences on your website. We work with you to implement SharpSpring, so you can spend less time working on your digital marketing architecture and more time focusing on the big picture and increasing customer loyalty.
Originally published on the SharpSpring blog
My Left Foot is a Gold Certified SharpSpring partner.