In this article we take a brief look at chatbots.
With a view to establishing what they actually are, how they work, what they are used for and the pros and cons involved in their use.
What is a chatbot: It is essentially a piece of code placed on a webpage.
Which opens up a dialogue with visitors to that page. This dialogue normally takes the form of a chat window which opens up either when the page opens, or after a certain amount of time.
The contents of these chat boxes can vary.
The most we’ve seen is a prompt asking if the visitor needs any help.
They are designed to create an interaction with the visitor.
The depth of any interaction will depend on what the bot has been
programmed to deal with.
There are basically two types of chatbots, each of which have differing levels on complexity in what they are able to do.
The simplest one is called a Fixed Chatbot: These are programs which
are designed to deal with specific enquiires.
They are programmed to offer a limited service based on a
series of fixed information parameters. Primarily used for Customer Service applications, or to provide answers to frequently asked questions.
They are cheap to operate and fairly simple to set up and monitor.
However, due to the restricted nature of their programming base.
They can fail to deliver answers.
Which can lead to the loss of clients.
At the other end of the scale are the bots based on Artificial Intelligence (AI)
These bots learn dynamically, and are constantly being updated through interactions with customers. This helps them hold conversations in a better manner. They are intelligent, with an advanced design and offer a very positive user experience.
With a greater ability to learn from that experience.
These bots have become the preferred option of the two.
They are extremely complex to both set up and to operate. If not set up properly they can also fail to deliver answers.
These bots can only be programmed with a limited amount of information. This drawback is the main reason why it becomes very easy for them get confused while interacting with customers. The moment the customer requests information on something it is not programmed with. it fails.
However newer bots are being developed which use NLP or
Natural Language Patterns in a bid to improve their efficiency.
Customer service benefits
One advantage of using bots is that they can provide customer service on your website 24 hours a day. When online customers have questions,
all they have to do is ask the bot on your website.
With a quick accurate response to enquiries. This can lead to
increased customer satisfaction. When they get satisfactory answers and a quick service. Customers tend to return and buy again.
They are an ideal way to reduce costs, which obviously
translates in to greater profits.
Chatbots can manage multiple queries simultaneously. This is one of the main advantages of using them. The theory is that no customer is left unattended and you are solving different problems at the same time. They can process customer queries very quickly, are very precise in providing the clients with the information that they need. Which makes the communication process faster, leading to an increase in sales.
They can also reduce long term costs, however the cost of implementation can be very high in the initialisation stages, further criticisms include the limited response to queries due to programming and data restrictions. Which can lead to customer dissatisfaction.
As previously stated the set up costs can be high, however the costs required to maintain them can be higher still. AI bots require extensive hours of work and testing to ensure they run correctly. The costings involved in this process may nullify the cost benefits of installing a bot in the first place. Due to the complex nature of operation. Some businesses may find them to be totally impractical.
We have tested bots on some of our product pages. We also used cloned versions of those same product pages without the bots installed.
The bots used were simple and programmed to answer two basic questions.
They were left in situ for a month. All pages were linked up within our site model to receive roughly similar amounts of traffic.
The results we got were as follows, the pages without the bots received
a greater follow through. We tested the bots and found less than
satisfying results. There were also issues of performance,
which could have been down to our installation.
To conclude, they didn’t not work for our business model,
what worked better for us?
The simple expedient of an FAQ page on each of our websites.
Hope this article proves to be helpful.
All the best