What is a Chatbot and how to use them
Chatbots are computer programs that replicate and analyze human dialogue (spoken or written), enabling humans to communicate with electronic devices as if they were conversing with a live agent. These bots range from simple programs responding to single instances to advanced virtual assistants capable of learning and improving as they gather and process data, providing higher levels of customization.
Chatbots are seamlessly integrated into various daily workflows. For example, while shopping on an e-commerce platform, a chat window might pop up on your computer screen asking if you need assistance. Alternatively, a person might use voice input to order a drink at a nearby retail store and receive an alert about when their order will be ready and its cost. These are just a few customer experience scenarios where one might encounter a chatbot.
¿How to use chatbots in marketing?
To design a chatbot for your business, it’s important to understand the ways this powerful tool, now more active than ever in digital marketing strategies, can be utilized.
Businesses can benefit from chatbots as they boost performance and save costs while enhancing customer convenience and offering additional services to internal staff, clients, and partners. Chatbots enable businesses to respond quickly to various issues among stakeholders while reducing the need for human involvement.
Businesses can scale up, personalize experiences, and be proactively available using a chatbot, a key differentiator in the digital age. When a company relies solely on human effort, for instance, it can only cater to a certain number of people at a time, limiting its capacity and growth potential. Companies with labor-intensive processes must rely on highly rigid models to be profitable, limiting their prospects for proactive and personalized outreach.
In contrast, chatbots allow businesses to interact with virtually an infinite number of customers in a personalized way, scalable up or down based on current requirements. They can provide nearly ‘human-like’ service tailored to each individual, even when deployed to millions of customers simultaneously.
Chatbots for marketing campaigns and lead nurturing
There are multiple marketing strategies you can implement through chatbots, making them a valuable addition to your lead nurturing tactics to foster relationships with potential customers.
Once a person sends an initial message, perhaps out of curiosity about a specific brand or product, the bot can send additional messages providing engaging and interactive information. This invites them to learn more about what you offer. You might even create a lead magnet for data registration or encourage them to visit your website.
1. Customer Service Chatbot
For handling a significant volume of technical support requests or general inquiries about a product or service, this chatbot can streamline the process by filtering queries before connecting customers to a real person.
2. Sales Chatbot
This type of bot is programmed to guide users through the sales process, provide more information about products, request email data for email marketing, schedule appointments, and more.
3. FAQ Chatbot
Programming a bot with frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers is an excellent way to provide information to your audience in a more interactive environment. For this, consider insights from your sales team or community manager, as they have first-hand information on what people frequently ask when contacting you to resolve doubts or seek specific information about your brand or product.
4. Shopping Chatbot
Platforms like Facebook Messenger allow the programming of interactive bots to guide leads towards making a purchase. They offer options to customize the product portfolio and converse with customers, even facilitating immediate purchases. Additionally, they can implement other marketing strategies like upselling and cross-selling.
Types of Chatbots
Hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide are developing various forms of chatbots with the aim of improving customer service. This section explains the different types of chatbots, their uses, and which chatbot software might be most beneficial for your company.
1. Voice Bots
A voice bot is a voice-to-text and text-to-voice communication channel powered by AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). AI technology helps identify key speech signals and determine the optimal conversational response. The Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine then completes the interaction by converting the message into audio or voice.
These bots are programmed to complete the entire speech understanding and response process in a human-like manner. Voice assistants or voice chatbots provide a sophisticated communication model that can be quickly implemented in various customer service tools, including Interactive Voice Response (IVR), self-service, and online knowledge bases.
2. Hybrid Chatbots
Hybrid chatbots are a harmonious blend of chatbot and live chat, combining the best of both worlds. A customer service representative is available in live chat to answer any client questions that might be too complex or nuanced for automation alone.An AI component in a chatbot replicates conversations based on its programming and the needs of the conversation. In contrast, a hybrid chatbot initiates an automated chat conversation and tries to resolve the user’s query in the quickest and simplest way possible. If this does not work as expected, a customer service representative can intervene at any time or in the area where the chatbot cannot complete the task.
3. Messaging Chatbots
Social messaging chatbots enable organizations to deploy an artificial intelligence algorithm across all messaging platforms preferred by their customers. This includes Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, and messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. This allows for a more pleasant online experience for customers and greater engagement for the business, all without adding work to a contact center.
4. Menu-Based Chatbots
The most rudimentary type of chatbot in use is one based on menu-driven navigation. Most often, these chatbots follow a fixed decision tree presented to the consumer in the form of clickable buttons. These chatbots (like the automated dialing menus on phones we regularly use) prompt the user to make various choices and click on appropriate options to reach the final solution.
Although these chatbots are suitable for addressing frequently asked questions, which represent the majority of support requests, they can fall short in more complex scenarios. If there are too many elements or too much expertise at play, the menu-based chatbot may not be able to assist users in reaching the correct answer. It’s also important to note that menu-based chatbots are the slowest in providing real value to the consumer, but they are simple and economical to start with.
5. Skill Chatbots
A skill chatbot is another type of bot that can perform a specific set of tasks once its capabilities have been expanded using predefined skill software. For example, the chatbot can provide weather information, turn off the lights in your room when connected to a smart home appliance, order food online, etc. With access to the skill source code, developers can build their own skill chatbots and integrate them with other platforms.
6. Keyword-Based Chatbots
Keyword-based chatbots can listen to what visitors type and respond appropriately, unlike menu-based chatbots. These chatbots use customizable keywords and NLP to detect action triggers in the conversation and understand how to respond appropriately to the consumer. However, when faced with many similar queries, these chatbots can fall short. The chatbots might start to fail if there are repetitions of keywords in numerous associated queries.
That’s why chatbots combining keyword identification and menu or button-based navigation are becoming increasingly popular. If the keyword detection functionality fails or the user needs additional help finding an answer, such chatbots give users the option to enter commands directly through clickable navigation buttons. This is effective work when the bot cannot detect keywords in the written input.
7. Rule-Based Chatbots
A rule-based chatbot is ideal for businesses that already know the types of questions their customers will ask. Chat flows are created using if/then logic, and the language requirements of the chatbot must first be established. Conditions for evaluating words, word structure, synonyms, and more are fundamental to their operation. Customers will receive quick assistance if an incoming query falls within these parameters.
It’s crucial for developers to cover every possible permutation and combination of a query as much as possible; otherwise, the chatbot will not be able to understand or respond to the consumer.
8. AI-Driven Contextual Chatbots
Contextual chatbots can understand the context of a chat and determine the correct meaning of the user’s query. They also remember previous interactions and use that information to maintain relevance while interacting with returning customers. Contextual bots can ensure that returning users have a consistent experience. Furthermore, they can retain information about user intent collected across numerous platforms and channels, ensuring that the conversation’s context matches the consumer’s needs at every touchpoint.
Contextual chatbots are connected to a site or app’s centralized database, usually a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or a Customer Data Platform (CDP). This allows them to retrieve critical information about the person they’re chatting with, like their name, location, or purchase history.
9. Support Chatbots
Support chatbots are conversational systems designed solely to provide customer support and post-purchase services. Unlike bots on social media or websites, they do not share offers, promotions, or other customer engagement materials. This type of chatbot is typically found in self-service portals and online documentation, where users might go for support and assistance. Support chatbots are widely used for internal purposes, including answering HR inquiries, submitting IT requests, sending employee documents, etc.
10. Transactional Bots
Transactional bots can help organizations strengthen their sales and marketing efforts, whether for scheduling appointments, generating leads, or collecting payments. Users can carry out transactions directly while conversing with the chatbot without human intervention.
Their biggest benefit is the ability to enable transactions and drive business 24/7/365. As a result, a transactional chatbot differs from other types of bots, like informational or support bots. Its focus is to complete a transaction and optimize the user experience by offering a quick and easy channel for a singular purpose. It’s designed to handle a small number of specialized tasks.
11. No-Code or Low-Code Chatbots
Traditionally, chatbots have been designed and developed through coding to create decision trees and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms that power the technology. Each programming language has a web API that can be used to build chatbots. Besides PHP and Node.js, many other libraries are used that enable Python or Java in most typical implementations.
However, recent advancements allow organizations to utilize chatbots that require little to no coding. This enables faster application delivery and quicker value generation as there is a graphical user interface (GUI) available for building and configuring the bot. No-code implementations are suitable for chatbots that collect information and those that encourage human interaction. In contrast, low-code chatbots are ideal for organizations that need to add unique features while reducing development efforts.
There are vast differences between a chatbot programmed merely for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses and one that offers meaningful experiences.
The positive or negative impact you can achieve with a chatbot’s design really depends on the quality you infuse into your business bot.
A well-designed and implemented chatbot enables much faster customer service, even when we’re not present to resolve queries. The chatbot can be used to advance certain steps before transferring the user to a person.
Another benefit is the integration of upselling and cross-selling strategies, where the chatbot can offer complementary or similar products to those already added to a shopping cart.
Thus, the chatbot has become an increasingly utilized and continuously improving element with artificial intelligence. This technology allows for adapting quick questions and responses to guide people towards making a purchase, scheduling personalized technical assistance, and more.
Juan Esteban Yepes