In just a few years chatbots have become an essential tool in the marketing world where empowering consumers with instant information is key to customer satisfaction. In fact, chatbots are the future of marketing and customer support.
Today, chatbots are prevalent on all major social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, and WeChat, in addition to being deployed on brands’ websites.
What exactly are chatbots? Chatbots are Artificial Intelligence-powered software – also known as bots or robots – that function as part of an automated chat messaging system and provide instant, pre-set answers to brand-related queries from customers.
Chatbots have the unique ability to ‘converse’ with a human user by simulating a natural human conversation, providing specific multilingual responses and keeping in context a user’s past conversations and preferences.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of chatbots:
In the last few years these unassuming virtual assistants have become instrumental in enhancing and refining the brand-customer engagement, ensuring that the customer’s need for assistance is immediately addressed and allowing a brand’s service offering to continue without any hiccups.
- Instant availability
Chatbots are steadily becoming a widely used tool of brand engagement for several reasons. The most important, understandably, is the instant availability and response factor. Remember the frustration of waiting for several hours for assistance regarding brand-related queries? Not anymore, thanks to the super-efficient chatbots.
- 24/7 service
With service that works 24/7 and with no downtime whatsoever, the interactive chatbots ensure that customers receive responses to their queries and needs in a matter of seconds; totally eliminating the need for customers to physically queue up at a customer service desk or on an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Also, as opposed to a team of humans, a single chatbot can communicate with hundreds of thousands of users at any given point in time.
- Cost-effective platform
Moreover, chatbots provide brands with a cost-effective platform which allows them constant engagement with their customers, while giving a clear insight into what the customers need. On the back of this customer satisfaction, brands have a viable platform to significantly increase sales.
- Lead generation
Chatbots are also a great tool for lead generation since the chatbot dashboard provides instant data on users per channel, region, type and frequency of queries, etc. Since all the data is automatically recorded/documented, it is easier and faster to extract when needed.
- Clear customer segmentation
Based on customers’ chat history, chatbots allows brands to understand their customers and segment them into various categories, thus making it easier for brands to target specific groups of customers for different products or services.
- Personality-based option
As voice recognition apps, such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, find a firm foothold among users, and thanks to the machine learning capability of chatbots, customers can create their own personality-based chatbot.
WORKING ON SOLUTIONS
Although it is advantageous for brands to adopt and deploy chatbots, there are a few challenges that chatbot developers have to contend with.
- Viable payment
A viable payment module is still work-in-progress, although we are now seeing a few effective ones in the market. It must also be noted that up until now, keeping a proprietary payment system on a chatbot platform is both time-consuming and requires high maintenance. This is why brands generally outsource the payment operation to a trusted third party who can handle the transaction process.
- WhatsApp buttons
WhatsApp is working to accommodate chatbot buttons on their platform. However, we still have some ground to cover until chatbots on WhatsApp are as interactive and as immersive as on Facebook Messenger.
- Lengthy verification for governments
Another challenge that chatbot developers currently face is that of being able to quickly on-board government entities on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp platform, due to a lengthy verification process.
- General misconceptions
There is also the challenge that chatbots are generally regarded as being non-emotive and mechanical. This can be addressed by channelling queries to a brand’s human resources so that customers have an alternative in case a chatbot is unable to provide answers.
These are a few minor hitches, but with new upgrades and better design, we are working our way around them, even as the positive market sentiment and favourable reception to chatbots means that the platform is here to stay and grow in leaps and bounds. As per businessinsider.com, the chatbot market size is poised to reach $9.4 billion by 2024, from $2.6 billion in 2019.
Beyond doubt, brands are beginning to quickly appreciate chatbots’ many benefits and are increasingly willing to induct and deploy them. Customers too, are quickly warming up to their 24/7 robotic ‘friend’ – a win-win for all!
Rest assured, the only way up for chatbots is North.