It can often seem as though the number one priority in business is to keep the customer happy; because after all, what is a business without customers? But in the digital era, customers are more demanding than ever before, and no matter how big or small your company is, having a constantly available channel of communication is not a nice-to-have; it’s an expectation. Chatbot communication helps businesses in this regard.
Large corporations can often afford the luxury of running 24-hour customer hotlines, designating responsibility for customer welfare to a sizeable team who can respond to email requests in a heartbeat. But for thousands of small businesses, this is simply not an option.
When your company only employs a handful of people, every single person’s time and efforts are precious, and availability and ability to field customer requests can often be put aside for other business-critical tasks.
So what is the solution to this gulf between customer expectation and logistical reality?
Is chatbot communication the answer?
Conversational agents (commonly known as “chatbots”), therefore chatbot communication are one of the hottest topics of the digital world. These artificially intelligent systems can understand human conversation and respond to people with useful information, presented in a natural way. It is possible to carry chatbot communication and interact with such systems via text message, websites, and most commonly though social networks. Using chatbot communication enables you to not only have a presence on social platforms, but a vital channel of communication. With Facebook’s reach fast approaching 2 billion monthly active users, businesses have rushed to conquer this social landscape.
Over 100,000 chatbots have been pushed live to Messenger since the platform was opened to developers last year, and this flood of creation is thanks to the many tools that have been released, allowing anyone to create their own chatbot communication agent quickly, cheaply and with minimal technical skill. Wit.ai and API.AI are examples of such tools that allow you to create the flow and logic for any type of conversation. Pre-built functionality is supplied for areas such as FAQ, food delivery, restaurant bookings and more. For the ultimate speedy setup, Microsoft’s QnA Maker simply takes a Word Document, Spreadsheet, or page URL containing a series of question and answer pairs, and in a matter of minutes creates a fully functioning FAQ bot.
API.AI offers its services totally free, and the price per call to some of IBM’s natural language processing services has decreased by 60-80% from 2015 to 2016 alone.
Are small businesses ready for chatbot communication?
But realistically, are small businesses ready and able to start using this technology?
Well, when 59% of small businesses globally don’t even have a website, you might presume that there is a fundamental lack of interest in communicating with customers through online channels, including chatbot communication. But this is simply not the case. Reasons for the lack of a website include the classic logistical setbacks such as a lack of time, money or technical expertise.
However, the bigger picture is that over one third of small businesses believe that a website is just overkill for their small organisation, and many admit that merely their presence on social media has already met their requirements. It’s clear to see that social media is fast becoming king of digital presence for these small companies, with over 60% agreeing that it is one of their most helpful tools, website or no website.
This goes to show that these businesses are not anti-digital; they are simply craving a minimalist, elegant solution, using the best technology.
Chatbot communication, hence conversational agents not only bypass many of the logistical problems with creating an online presence, but also suit a business market that is already comfortable with using social media as a key point of contact with existing and potential consumers.