There are a great number of statistics to support the growth and importance of chatbots in business. The fact that chatbot ecommerce transactions are projected to reach in the region of 140 billion dollars by 2024 and that there are over 300,000 active chatbots on Facebook Messenger, should be reasons enough to consider their adoption.
But with so much choice, how do you go about deciding on the Best Chatbot Software for you and your business?
This article attempts to answer that question. But before we can begin in earnest, we need to attend to a few chatbot basics first.
We are reviewing our pick of Best Chatbot Software, but if you just want the list, here it is:
- Mobile Monkey
- Flow Xo
What are Chatbots?
Chatbots are computer programs that are capable of simulating conversations with humans. These conversations or “chats” can be conducted in either writing or speech and over a number of different “channels”, ranging from messaging applications to social media.
Chatbots are fully automated programs, designed to work independently of humans.
How do Chatbots Work?
Chatbots can provide either scripted “rule-based” responses or something more contextually sophisticated involving AI.
Rule-based chatbots or “decision-tree” bots, as they are sometimes known, use a series of predefined rules. These rules can be simple or more complicated and in essence define the chatbot’s ability to provide solutions in any given scenario.
Chatbots of this variety map out conversations, anticipating what might be asked and calculating responses. However they do not learn from these interactions and would struggle outside of a predefined context.
On the other hand, AI Chatbots use a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and Machine Learning (ML) technologies and processes.
AI bots are capable of analyzing and processing large amounts of data relating to the
“natural” language spoken by humans and providing appropriate answers based on this data.
AI bots can be seen as intelligent machines that are capable of learning through experience.
What are the Benefits of Using a Chatbot?
Let’s look at some of the key areas that chatbots can streamline, accelerate, and
improve business processes.
Chatbots can play a significant role in customer services. For example, customer service bots can be programmed to answer customer queries or provide automated online ordering and booking assistance.
Chatbots deliver 24/7 real-time assistance and have the facility to handle multiple inquiries simultaneously. These “skills” liberate human agents from having to perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
Thanks to automation, Chatbots facilitate the faster pre-qualification of sales. This means leads can be processed and passed on to CRM, or sales representatives, in a much more timely fashion.
Chatbots are also adept at “segmentation”. This means businesses can quickly
establish a target “audience” for specific products or services.
Chatbots can learn from user interactions and share relevant information regarding
brands, products, and services. This makes them a very effective marketing tool.
Marketing chatbots can recommend products, provide personal notifications, and initiate message conversations. All of which provides a significant boost to customer engagement.
Automation & Easing Internal Workloads
Social media and instant messaging chatbots provide automation for customer
service, marketing, and digital sales strategies. Call-to-action buttons (CTAs) and Bulk Actions, offer dynamic alternatives to traditional methods of user participation.
Automated Chatbots can also bring benefits to internal processes in HR and IT. This can be demonstrated in the automated “onboarding” of new employees, as well as password changes and system notifications.
Data Harvesting and Analytics
As well as improving user experience, Chatbots also have the ability to analyze user behavior. By doing so they enable your sales and marketing teams to act on these data-driven “insights”. Most chatbot platforms provide analytics along with the option to collect useful user data.
This is invaluable when it comes to formulating the very best in business service, sales and marketing strategies.
Some Chatbots can also be connected to your CRM to enable you to understand the buying journey more easily. Again something you can act upon.
Types of Chatbot
Now that we’ve looked at some of the key benefits to business, let’s turn our attention to the types of bots out there.
Chatbots can be broken down into three types—the rule-based, the independent, and the artificially intelligent.
Rule-based chatbots are computer programs designed for a specific purpose or context and primarily focus on one kind of function or task.
Rule-based chatbots generate automated, scripted responses to specific user inquiries. This very structured approach means rule-based chatbots are particularly suited to support and service roles, such as standard customer questions and conducting fairly basic transactions.
Rule based chatbots do not understand concepts such as context and intent.
This simple but effective approach to automation means that rule-based chatbots are the most common kind of chatbots. The chances are that all of us have interacted with this kind of chatbot at one time or another, whether through Live Chat, social media, or e-commerce.
Intellectually Independent Chatbots
Intellectually independent chatbots utilize Machine Learning (ML) in a way that the ruled-based varieties do not.
ML defines the computer program’s ability to learn from data, recognize patterns, and make decisions independently.
Intellectually independent chatbots have the capacity to pick out specific keywords and phrases in order to provide relevant responses. The more they interact in this way the more proficient they become in the art of conversation.
AI chatbots incorporate a combination of NLP, NLU and ML technologies to offer a more predictive and “intelligent” approach than other varieties of chatbot.
This greater ability to learn significantly increases the scope of applications that an AI bot can be assigned to. These applications can range from customer recommendations to even anticipating users’ needs.
AI chatbots cleverly combine contextual awareness characteristics with data analytics. By studying user profiles and behavior, AI chatbots are capable of initiating conversations.
A Few Last Things to Consider
We have thus far outlined the overall benefits of chatbots. Here are a few specific points with regard to their selection, worthy of consideration.
- No code—Unless you are a programmer then look for no-code, drag and drop functionality. Code free tools are essential in the successful building of a bot for the programming layman.
- Channels—Consider the “channels” you wish to reach. Look for a chatbot that provides optimum support for these channels—whether they be websites, social media, or mobile apps?
- Analytics—The capacity to study the data is an essential tool in sales, marketing and customer service strategies. A great many bot builders incorporate “insights” and reporting into their programming—to a greater or lesser degree. Select your bot accordingly.
- Integration—Integration should be another key consideration. Or put differently, will your newly built chatbot talk to your existing software? Multichannel unified inboxes are a feature of some chatbots. Again something to bear in mind.
Human-in-the-Loop—Customer service chatbots should be able to “handoff” to a live agent. Factor this feature into your final decision.