What’s All the Fuss About ChatBots?

Artificial intelligence and chatbots. They sound like the stuff of science fiction movies. But by the end of 2020, chatbots leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to be in use on over 80% of business websites.

So what’s all the fuss about this futuristic tech, and can it work for your small business? Let’s find out. 


What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program designed to interact with website visitors by carrying out text-based conversations with users on the other end. Depending on the level of programming and scripting, these conversations can range from eerily (and sometimes disastrously) human-like to, well, robotic. 

It’s safe to say that a comfortable middle ground for most small and medium-sized businesses lies somewhere between HAL 9000 and your standard press one for English, two for Spanish phone tree.


How Do Chatbots Work?

Chatbots can work in several ways, depending on the complexity of the programming involved and the desired outcome. Some are built with Natural Language Processing (NLP), which, according to chatbot expert Daniel Ilkovich allows the chatbot to “…extract the user’s intent out of a sentence and turn it into a command a machine can understand.” Other chatbots utilize more advanced machine learning to learn and adapt to human speech patterns.


How are SMBs Using Chatbots?

Again, for most small businesses, the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. Most business websites employ chatbots that rely on scripts of varying complexity. The conversations can seem highly natural, but the level of interaction is dependent on the time invested in scripting and developing branching logic for the bot to follow. 

For most businesses, the end goal of a chatbot is to drive the user to take a particular action the company feels is of value. Here are a few of the most common actions chatbots can drive on your website:

Leave a Review

Chatbots can prompt users to leave a review or testimonial for your company. Considering reviews can make or break your business, this can be an incredibly valuable action.


Generate Phone Calls

If your business depends on the calls rolling in, you may want to focus your ChatBot’s efforts on driving phone calls from your website visitors.


Collect Contact Information and Drive Leads

One of the most valuable features of a chatbot is its ability to collect your website visitor’s contact information. That information, such as their name, phone number, email, or other contact details, are requested throughout the course of the chat and passed on to you or your marketing team for prompt follow up. 

Chatbots are lead-generation machines – literally.


Answer Frequently Asked Questions

With the proper scripting and programming, chatbots can save your customer service team tons of time by answering your web visitor’s most common questions at any time of the day or night.

Some chatbots are also able to facilitate transactions such as driving purchases or allowing visitors to make a reservation at your restaurant or hotel. This technology is evolving rapidly, so the possibilities are truly endless. 


Chatbots might be your new favorite employee

Small businesses are known for their stellar in-person customer service, but returning phone calls and responding to emails can take up more time than there is in the day. Chatbots can help lift some of the communication burden by making sure your customers and prospects feel heard and get their questions answered, even in the middle of the night. 

While you wouldn’t want to entrust your entire customer service strategy to a bot, they can certainly help take some of the weight off of the shoulders of your already busy team. 

For Chatbots, The Future is Now

Chatbots might seem futuristic, but with 2020 upon us, it’s clear the future is now. Chatbots have evolved significantly in recent years, become more accessible than ever, and will undoubtedly become the standard for small business web communication. 

Is your company taking advantage of AI, machine learning, and chatbots? How are you using it to drive more leads and sales? Tell us in the comments!