Chatbots: What’s All The Hype About Hal?

Bot Fact from Fiction

It’s amusing to read the latest Google News ‘chatbot’ search – the hype, the predictions, the visions of ever-loving glory in a world free of humans interfering with customer service – totally clean, very cheap, and constantly evolving with AI tools.

Isn’t it time that businesses took a step back of all the anticipation surrounding chatbots and realize that most appalling of truths: sometimes your customers need to be able to talk to an actual human being.

Not that chatbots can’t assist a growing business trying to field an ever-growing amount of customer requests daily. But at the end of the day, how ‘revolutionary’ really can chatbots be when (unfortunately?) this world is still mostly human beings buying things from other human beings. Sure when the bots take us over and it’s bots selling to bots, then chatbots will be able to move front and center of the customer experience. Until then, chatbots need to be viewed within the larger perennial issue of ‘customer service and sales.’

Chatbots for Small Business?

Customer experience – ugh – what despair these words usually deliver to busy small business owners trying to keep it all together. Yes small business needs to focus on the customer experience. But aren’t most small businesses so close to their customers everyday that customer experience ‘strategy’ is basically the business plan itself? Chatbots by definition separate the customer from your business. And while they can provide a step up in customer service offerings, chatbots can easily feel remote and clunky, especially when compared to human interaction.

Which gets to the real possible benefit of chatbots for small business at present, better customer service at lower cost. Or at least comparable customer service at lower cost. Much lower cost potentially, when you consider all the costs surrounding the employment of a human being, free coffee and refrigerator storage allowance just to name a few.

Chatbots get customers to where they want to go faster. Think reservation and catalog searching. And when you add even basic AI tools to the mix, chatbots can quickly deliver information to customers how and when they want it. And of course, at significantly less cost than a human being providing that information.

Where They Can Fit Into Your Customer Service

For small business the allure of chatbots has never been more enticing. Cheap to build, cheap to maintain, juiced with new cloud based AI services, chatbots have a lot of potential. In 2018 though, chatbots for small business need be thoroughly scrutinized to make sure they aren’t making the whole customer service experience worse than better. How many times would you rather have a new prospect on the phone rather than on an automated chatbot? Still chatbots for small business can:

  1. Manage growing inbound inquiries: If your find your inbound system frequently taxed by periodic surges investment in chatbot tech is justified.
  2. Tame a large product catalog: If you feel your customers get frustrated at your spec sheets, catalogs, and product descriptions chatbots are a great way to help customers find specific product information quickly.
  3. Market research: Perhaps chatbots greatest benefit right now is the feedback you can get from customers experience with them. How your customers navigate chatbots can provide instant insights into how customers want to buy, and the common questions they seek answers to can help better define your marketing and sales collateral.

Chatbots have tremendous upside but can make more mischief than money for small business that can’t afford to smooth out the rough edges of chatbot tech or integrate chatbots within a larger sales apparatus effectively.




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