Is it Time For Your Business to Offer a Chatbot?

Have you noticed the way today’s consumers are demanding more and more instant gratification? Patience isn’t what it used to be. When someone wants something, they want it NOW, and that includes answers to questions and responsive customer service.

With that in mind, have you wondered if offering a chatbot to interact with your clients would be a good idea? Or do you find the concept a little too… creepy?

It’s become a familiar sight on the internet. You visit a website and a little chat window appears in the right-hand corner, asking if you could use some assistance. Many people might assume that it’s a helpful employee on the other end of that window, ready to chat. And, in a way, that’s true. The difference is that the employee isn’t a real person, it’s a bot.

What Is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that’s designed to simulate conversations with your customers in a web chat format. Your customers can type anything they like into the chat window, just like they usually would, and your chatbot will respond to them. If a chatbot is programmed correctly, there’s a good chance that your customer won’t even realize they’re talking with a computer instead of a real person!

The question is, could your company benefit from offering a chatbot? Let’s take a look:

Can a Chatbot Actually Do the Job of Responding to My Customers?

The Ultimate Chatbot: Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation gives a knowing smile

Artificial intelligence is getting better and better every year. Although we’re years away from something like Data, today in 2018, AI can actually fool many people into thinking it’s a real person. Yep, that’s not something on the horizon for us to experience later in the future; it’s already true right now, today. It might not look like a human, but when it comes to virtual correspondence, you may never notice the difference.

Generally, there are two types of chatbots out there.

Command-based chatbots work through the process of looking at the words in the question a customer asks and then matching them to the most likely pre-programmed response. Although this can be effective, it’s hardly the most personal and customized experience.

Newer and more advanced chatbots, on the other hand, can respond to customers in natural language, learning as they go from their “experience” talking with customers. These chatbots can offer a much more human-like exchange in the sense that they’re genuinely responding to customers rather than giving them pre-programmed lines.

Neither of these methods is perfect, however. Command-based chatbots can only answer the questions they’ve been programmed to understand, while AI-based chatbots can often misunderstand customers’ queries, giving

them more of a “word-salad” response rather than a coherent answer.

That said, the AI chatbots are getting better and better. Some of the most advanced are so “life-like” that many people can’t even tell they’re talking to one. Which is kind of scary or super neat, depending on your outlook. 

With Chatbots, You Can Offer 24/7 Support

Although the average workday is 9 to 5, the average customer-day is considerably longer, as in 24/7! It’s impossible for you to be there all day to answer questions from your customers, and it would be way too expensive to hire an employee to do it.

Enter a chatbot.

A chatbot will allow you to “be there” for your customers whenever they need you. Although a chatbot won’t make a perfect replacement for a person (Yet! Gulp!), they can fill a gap for those times when you can’t be there. Many companies use chatbots as a supplement to their already existing customer service model. They offer live customer support through chat during work hours, and the chatbot takes over come quitting time.

A chatbot doesn’t need to be a cold, dry, dull conversation companion either. You can program jokes and lots of personality into the responses so that it seems to “come alive” when a customer reaches out to talk with one.

It Can Replace Frequently Asked Questions Pages

Does your website have an FAQ section?

A lot of customer service boils down to the same questions being asked over and over again. The way that many companies deal with this issue is to create an FAQ page on their website that answers these questions. This can feel a little impersonal though, with the customer having to look for the answer rather than being helped by a customer service representative. A much better option might be to use a chatbot.

You can program a chatbot to answer your customers’ most frequently asked questions in an interactive, real-time way. Your customers won’t need to look anything up, they just need to type in their query and your chatbot will come up with the answer immediately.

This also gives you a powerful feedback mechanism. If your customers are repeatedly asking a chatbot a question that you haven’t thought of, you can program in a new response, adding a level of responsiveness that an FAQ page could never have.

The Big Advantage: Instant Gratification

With the highly competitive nature of the online business landscape, anything you can do to engage browsers on your website quickly is a huge advantage. Otherwise, they might leave and check out one of your competitors’ websites and they may never visit you again.

With a chatbot, you can grab and hold your visitors’ attention and give them the feeling of a hands-on customer service experience. If your chatbot is able to answer their questions quickly and effectively, that might be the instant gratification that your lead was looking for to keep them engaged. Many businesses find that this helps them to close more deals, and who doesn’t want that?

How About a First-Hand Look?

Many companies have been using chatbots for years through platforms like Facebook Messenger. If you’d like a firsthand look at how useful they can be, go to your favourite company’s Facebook page that offers chatbot integration and start a conversation. A great example of this would be Lyft’s Facebook page. There, you can actually request a car, or even find out where your driver is while you wait. You might be surprised at how smooth and natural the conversation with the chatbot can seem!

Or, you could grab your phone. Although your phone’s AI (Siri, Google Assistant, etc.) is voice-based, it offers a very similar experience to a text-only chatbot. Ask your phone a question and see what it says. Ask it a follow-up question. Ask it to tell you a joke! Now, imagine that you’re doing this online, but using a keyboard instead. That’s how a chatbot works in a nutshell. Well, technically that’s a chatbot in a phone, but you get the idea! You may also be interested to read our blog post about voice search.

My Advice? Give It a Try!

Heck yeah, if a chatbot could help capture more leads and win over more customers, then why not give it a try?

Over the last few years, companies have been moving to chatbots as a way to augment their customer service. As AI continues to advance, these chatbots are being given more and more complex responsibilities. Although chatbots have become widely used, we’re still only on the ground floor of this technology. This makes it the perfect time to hop on board and see how a chatbot can offer your clients an improved customer service experience!

For a list of resources and chatbot recommendations, here is a list from

Have you had good experiences using a chatbot? Did you ever have a negative run-in? We’d love to hear about it below!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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