Chatbots, also known as Virtual Assistants, enable conversations through Chat or Voice mode with customers for sorting their queries, booking, and processing orders, etc.; it is achieved by employing a technology called Natural Language Processing, with the help of which one can simulate conversation with a human being and understand simple Natural Languages like English or Hindi. It focuses on understanding unstructured human language by deconstructing the keywords, verbs, nouns, etc., and deciphering the same. It can also perform Voice Processing and transform voice communications into a normalized, structured language that the Application can interpret.
Chatbot Benefits for Customers
Due to a shortage of manpower for customer support and to achieve greater efficiency in communication, consumers are often requested to converse with chatbots to obtain the information they desire. For example, a consumer may type in his request for the status of his order when the Chatbot asks him the order number and date, determine the approximate delivery time from the database and communicate the same to the consumer. The beauty of a chatbot is its constant ability to update its knowledge base. Here it mimics an intelligent human being’s behavior –if we do not know an answer today, we update our knowledge to provide an accurate answer next time.
The Architecture of a Chatbot
The Chatbot will essentially communicate with the databases at the backend to fetch information and convey the same to the customer. The database will be communicated through Application Programming interfaces (or APIs). The advantage is that this can be done instantly, whereas a human being must type in his queries to the software, look at it, and then speak. There is a normal human lag, whereas software can accomplish this in a fraction of a second.
Use of Chatbots in Boosting Sales
Before the mature e-commerce era, customers with questions, concerns, or complaints had to email or call a business for a response from a human. A Chatbot, on the other hand,
- Eliminates long wait times for phone-based customer support or manual email, chat, and web-based support, because it can be made available to any number of users simultaneously and is faster than a human being.
- Promotes efficiency and reduces costs. Some call land during off-peak hours that may go unattended. Even if an executive is posted, he may be grossly underutilized as the queries during those hours are not too many. A chatbot operates 24/7 and is faster in its response.
- Eliminates the need for training an employee who has just joined
- Automates workflows and frees up employees from repetitive tasks.
- Scales up with minimal effort as the volume of traffic increases.
The following factors could be broadly listed as how organizations can use Chatbots to boost their sales.
- Lead generation: A customer who has come to know about your website may have several queries on your product features. Chatbots will help in responding to these queries instantly. As a prerequisite, as many questions as possible will have to be anticipated, and the answers stored before launching the product. However, as stated above, if unanticipated questions are encountered, the Chatbot must be programmed to direct the questions to a Customer Service Executive, who will reply.
- Eligibility for loans and insurance policies: It can ask the prospective candidate standard questions and perform a credit check on the background, informing him whether he meets the eligibility criteria.
- Close deals: The customer can be asked whether the quoted prices and other terms and conditions are acceptable, and if the customer accepts it, the deal is declared closed and approval obtained from him. A standard contract document or a note will then be posted to the customer, who will sign and return it – all achievable through Chatbots.
- Communicate leads to the Sales Team: The contact details of every customer who converses with the Chatbot on inquiries regarding a product or service offered by the organization are noted and, along with the conversation, sent to the Sales Team, who will then speak to him. A new lead has been generated through a Chatbot.
- Multi-channel Chatbots: Many users prefer to communicate through WhatsApp, Facebook, or other social media channels or emails. Chatbots can integrate with these Media seamlessly and satisfy the customer’s queries.
- Abandonment: A customer who has expressed interest in a product but backed out midway is said to have abandoned the site. Alternatively, he may have loaded his cart but abandoned it after loading a few products. Chatbots help identify at what stage he has opted out. For example, a white goods manufacturer may be facing a question about the various shades of refrigerators offered. If the customer logs out at this stage, he is looking for a different shade. The software can perform this analysis and reports mailed to the sales team in real-time or periodically.
- Multi-lingual support: 58 % of small organizations (which will be more for large organizations) are reported to have global customers today. Hiring experts in all languages at the call center is impossible. The customer’s contacts can be passed on to the sales team in that country after obtaining them by communicating a few sentences in his language.
- Proactive sales pitches: Chatbots can proactively dial a customer or invite him to a chat on WhatsApp or other messaging platforms to generate interest in the products or services offered. A widely-used method is to entice him with a discount coupon – to start with!
- Recognizing the customer: When he types his mobile number, the bot can recognize the customer and start chatting with him. For example, a mobile manufacturer may display a message like, “Hey, Vikas, I remember the last time you enquired about the battery longitude of our Model Number S12085. Did it fulfill your expectations?” This immediately creates a lasting impression. Live agents do the same, but there is invariably a lag, as our experience suggests.
- Replacing forms with conversations: A Chatbot can prevent the need to fill up a form with customer details. For example, his PAN Number will be obtained in a normal conversational style.
- Demographic analysis: By asking simple questions like his/her age, gender, preferences, etc., the right products corresponding to his natural preferences based on his demographic profile can be derived at the backend through Analytics and communicated. Also, cross-selling and upselling are achieved by offering products at a higher or comparable price point based on his likes and dislikes derived from past conversations and his demographic profile.
- Ordering efficiency: Orders can be placed in advance for real-time applications like a restaurant. Orders can also be canceled with ease through the bot.
- Easier to obtain feedback: In e-commerce setups, most customers skip the feedback. Here, it is easier to nudge him to fill it up – especially ratings with stars or a simple click on why he is dissatisfied with the service. Chatbots can obtain feedback whenever they engage with the customer.
- Provide details about his order: when it left the warehouse, where it has reached, at what stage the order is in, etc. This is more critical for e-Commerce companies but is also helpful when a company is dealing with its distributor or retailer.
Selection of a Suitable Chatbot Satisfying Your Business Needs
- Choose a solution suitable for your immediate goals, but only after ensuring it is scalable. Your needs may increase as your organization grows or it realizes the benefits of deploying a Chatbot.
- Test the software thoroughly: Draw the flowchart or detail the process in a tabular form, and test to ensure the process is religiously followed. Note the expected and actual responses. Wherever they do not match, inform the software provider.
The following is an example of a Process for a simple operation where queries on an e-Commerce company, its terms, and conditions, packing details, policies, etc., are being responded to.
- Understand the training needs: As mentioned earlier, any Chatbot will require training to increase its knowledge level with time. The modus operandi will have to be planned, and the Chatbot will have to support this. Is it automatic, or is it able to use historical Chatlogs and transcripts to create these intents, thereby saving an executive’s time?
- Does it support Social Media integration? –WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as also emails.
Studies indicate that 50% of businesses plan to spend more on Chatbots than mobile apps in the future and that Chatbots could handle 68.9% of chats from start to finish in 2019. You have no option – they will become more of an imperative sooner rather than later – not a choice.
The Key Chatbots in Use Today
Some of the Chatbots in wide use today are IBM Watson, HubSpot, Chatbot Builder, Intercom, WP-Chatbot, Salesforce Einstein, and Genesys DX.
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