We built a chatbot last year for one of our clients who was opening a new facility. The primary purpose was to build buzz and Facebook followers before we opened the doors. The idea behind this chatbot was simple – getting people to subscribe in exchange for an opportunity to participate in a drawing for free services.
Image courtesy of: Radio.Guy
It turned out to be very successful for them.
By the time the facility was opened to the public, they had over 400 page followers, and over 100 chatbot subscribers. The clients were so happy with the chatbot that they have since added other functionality like FAQ’s, and they’re now adding a chatbot to their other locations.
What are chatbots?
Since there are now 2 Billion messages shared each month between people and businesses and 100,000 active chatbots, chances are you’ve experienced or at least heard about chatbots. A few of the benefits of building a chatbot:
- Faster, shorter communications and ease of use for subscribers
- Chatbot communications are ideal for mobile devices
- Cheaper Facebook ads
- An alternative to trying to connect with people through overloaded email inboxes
- High open and response rates (better than 80% compared to less than 5% through email)
- A business can automate some of the more routine information and transaction requests
- If built right, a chatbot can be fun and engaging for the end user
- Getting real Facebook data about subscribers.
Setting a chatbot up using some of the available chatbot platforms is not overly complicated, but there is a learning curve. Large companies have invested in building sophisticated custom chatbots, but small and medium-sized businesses can also build chatbots without spending a lot of money through the many free and paid chatbot platforms available, such as ManyChat, Botsify, Chatfuel, and others.
A chatbot is the programming that automates your responses in Facebook Messenger or other messenger platforms. This is an oversimplification. Chatbots are extremely flexible and functional, even allowing for a business to do things like broadcast announcements to targeted audiences, deliver information (like restaurant menus, discount coupons. or special reports) to subscribers, build segmented customer lists, or collect payments right through the chatbot. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a replacement for all human customer service.
Messenger marketing is the strategy of the chatbot is used to develop a relationship with prospects, customers, client, and patients in a way that is useful to them, and simultaneously, helps build your business.
But before creating your own chatbot, consider if it’s right for your business, what you want to accomplish from it, and how it fits into your overall messenger marketing strategy.
While our view is that most businesses with an active Facebook page can benefit from a simple chatbot, here are some thoughts to consider before building a bot – from Entrepreneur magazine:
The ups and downs of chatbots
Chatbots are fast, accurate and increasingly able to anticipate users’ needs. And thanks to machine learning, their messages can become even more personalized over time. At Hatchbuck, we use chatbots on our website and find they’re a quick way to capture more traffic with a lower barrier to entry. Using a chatbot, we’re able to both answer customer questions and capture more of the qualified traffic making it to the site.
Of course, chatbots aren’t useful for every business model. Humans are still necessary for more complicated service-related tasks. Some companies, for example, provide in-depth consultations that just can’t be accomplished with a simple template.
Chatbots can also struggle to hold people’s attention. According to BotAnalytics, approximately 40 percent of users don’t get past the first text, while another quarter usually abandon ship after the second. When they do hold customers’ attention, they sometimes get lost in a conversation due to their inability to understand human nuances, such as sarcasm.
Preparing for launch
For us, deciding to launch a chatbot wasn’t a frivolous decision. It was a process that took several months to execute. Here are the three steps we took to get there:
1. Define a purpose and choose a chatbot.
Chatbots come in two different flavors: rule-based and advanced. The rule-based variety are quicker to develop but also rudimentary in their capabilities because they can only respond to specific commands (think “Alexa, play Taylor Swift”). A pizza place that just needs to know customers’ addresses and toppings choices can easily get away with using a rule-based bot.
Advanced bots, on the other hand, leverage machine learning to understand natural language and participate in more complicated conversations. As they collect more data, they become more sophisticated. EMarketer reports AI can manage about 65 percent of inquiries at first, but after awhile, the robot can manage up to 80 percent.
Regardless of what type of chatbot suits your business model, ensure that it actually serves a purpose. Take KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ chatbot as an example. BlueBot, as it’s called, helps customers book tickets, alerts them to any gate changes and updates them on the status of their flights — it handles more than 16,000 interactions a week.
2. Don’t dupe customers into thinking your chatbot is a person.
As a startup, your chatbot likely won’t be as advanced as Google’s, but it should at least be able to understand the flow of the conversation. Accomplishing this natural language understanding isn’t an easy feat, but it shouldn’t be unleashed on your customers without it.
Furthermore, even if your bot somehow sounds as natural at Google’s, I wouldn’t recommend trying to fool customers into thinking it’s a human. When visitors enter our site, we’re sure to let them know right away that a bot has greeted them. And if the conversation requires it, don’t hesitate to let a human representative take over. In fact, a joint survey by Drift, SurveyMonkey Audience, Salesforce and myclever found 43 percent of people still prefer to communicate with humans over bots. So though a chatbot can be helpful, it should not be treated as a total replacement for human interaction.
3. Give your bot a performance review.
Juniper Research found that chatbots are expected to save businesses $8 billion by 2022. This is because person-to-person interaction costs seven times as much as an automated response, according to a survey by ContactBabel.
To reap these cost-savings benefits, the bot needs to perform in three key areas: It should comprehend what a user is saying and respond without error; it should deliver meaningful, personalized information that keeps users engaged; and it should communicate this information as quickly as possible to facilitate a natural conversation. As you’re evaluating the performance of your bot, make sure to measure it based on these key performance indicators.
Chatbots aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool. They require a deep understanding of how customers are communicating with your brand. But while they take some work and research to implement, using a chatbot has made a profound impact on our business.
Here’s another look at the thinking behind effective messenger marketing from the ManyChat blog:
The secret to using Facebook Messenger Marketing is to focus on why people turn to your business in the first place. The focus should always be on removing obstacles to people’s progress in their lives. It should be about building relationships and trust, not pushing your own agenda.
So, when you’re thinking about Messenger, think about your customers as individual people.
As, BioTrust Nutrition does by reaching out to their audience with a recipe for healthy, protein-packed pancakes in Messenger…
So, ask yourself…
- What’s going on in your audience’s lives?
- What are they trying to do?
- What could you do to give them forward progress?
…and use this as inspiration to craft your messages in Messenger.
Deciding first how a chatbot can help your customers have a better experience with your business is job #1. Small and medium-sized businesses with active Facebook pages can usually benefit from better engagement with their followers, and reduce their transaction costs with simple chatbots.