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Chatbots - An Overview

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Sarah Lee Parker

Chatbots are now the most popular method of connecting with your audience. As chatbots grow in popularity, more and more features, benefits and options are developed and added. Chatbots are not just automated robotic replies any more. Today we have a look at what sort of chatbots are out there, what they do, and how they can help your business.

Connecting with customers has never been easier, and chatbots are immediate, easy to use and a powerful addition to any website.

A green chat symbol on a black background.
Chats are often preferred as a less invasive way to communicating with people.

The term ‘chatbot’ means a chat program or app. Often found on websites but did you know that chatbot software can also be inside other messaging systems, such as Facebook’s Messenger? Often the beginning of the conversation will be handled by the bot, and then depending on the customer’s needs, the bot will be triggered in a number of ways, and might eventually pass you on to a human being. With natural language processing (LNP) bots are getting better and better at responding to your questions, and it is entirely possibly you may not realise you are talking to an Artificial Intelligence (AI)!

Chatbots are used everywhere and can be a very powerful way to connect, keep, and update your customers.

For example, the Friday morning news quiz by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) is a lighthearted, fun way to start your Friday morning. The popups are designed to be engaging, and every trick from humour and animated gifs are used to increase the engagement and enjoyment of the interaction. The same quiz style set up can be used to issue newsletters, specials and announcements, create experiences for your customers, and make sales.

You can also start your chatbot experiences for free, with services like ManyChat, or LandBot.

These services act as a central point for you to be able to use and manage all of your messaging channels, such as Facebook Messenger, SMS, email, and WhatsApp.

Services Chatbots can integrate with:

  • PayPal
  • Shopify
  • WooCommerce
  • GoogleSheets
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Zapier
  • and others!

As with any medium for mass connection with customers, putting some thought and effort into your first chatbot experience is a must. The first decision is always what do you want the chatbot to do? Some of the options are listed below, and there’s new ways to use messaging every day.

  • Amuse people such as the Friday Morning News quiz
  • Provide IT or product support
  • Sell something
  • Answer some questions
  • Provide product recommendations.
  • Automate refunds
  • Navigation services (I can’t find…)
Yellow background with a non-descript black mobile phone with green screen. Text boxes around the phone read Help, Medic, Covid-19, and Oh, no
Phones and screens are a distraction while trying to work out workflows.

I always advise planning user experience flows away from a computer. Working out what your customers want, what questions they are likely to ask, and what steps you want them to go through all need your full attention, and computers are distracting tools.

You should investigate the questions your customers have asked in the past, and find ways to deliver great answers that sound empathic and deliver the outcome the customer is seeking. Drawing out the flow of questions also means your chatbot can drill down into the customer needs before sending the chat to a person.

A whiteboard with a hand drawing a flowchart in red ink.
Taking to the whiteboard or blank paper is great for minimising distractions and plotting customer experience. Taking a higher level view reaps great benefits.

The great value of chatbots is that the customers will initiate the contact. A solid chatbot is a valuable part of your online business, but needs to fit within your customer attraction process. A customer who reaches out to you is a customer already on the steps towards buying from you! A well designed chatbot can make the process easy and streamlined, minimising staff requirements and support.

A lot of people prefer to use a messaging system over talking to a person. This can be due to social anxiety, people being busy, or a desire to ‘not intrude’ on a business if the query is out of office hours. A well written chatbot can act like a staff member in handling simple queries and making sales.

Managing your messaging as part of your online business brand is crucial for successful messaging tactics.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look deeper chatbots at chatbots, what they are and what they can do! If you have more questions about how to incorporate webchat messaging into your customer experience, contact us today!

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