Impressions matter. It costs a lot of time, money and effort to get someone to visit your site. It’s even harder to get people to engage and a chatbot gives you a way to engage with your potential customers and build a relationship without knowing anything about them. It can become the crucial bridge between awareness, interest, desire and action.
It astounds me the number of companies who create a rudimentary chatbot without ever looking at it again. I recently stumbled upon one chatbot flow that, if you chose answers that weren’t in their sweet spot of customers, cut you off at the knees. See the article How to Insult Your Visitors with Your Chatbot for the gory details. But the problem wasn’t really the chatbot, it was the philosophy around the chatbot’s purpose from the designer. The chatbot in question had 1 goal: qualify a lead and book an appointment with their sales team.
Most people think of chatbots in a few ways:
- Everyone is doing it, why shouldn’t I
- I look smart and high-tech
- I can ping people on Facebook and Twitter to get more eyeballs
- I can use it to answer FAQs and questions that I’m tired of answering
- I can use it to score and qualify leads
My philosophy is different. I think that a chatbot can be the most successful sales person in your organization if it’s treated with the love and respect that it deserves.
What can a chatbot do that a person can’t?
- A chatbot can get intelligence without getting too personal. A person will generally tell your chatbot some basic information relevant for a good experience. With a little bit of scripting, all the anonymous traffic that immediately bounces can become a goldmine of data for marketing without invading someone’s privacy.
- A chatbot works 24×7. This is the employee that you have that never takes a vacation, never needs a break and is always available to answer questions.
- A chatbot gives people freedom. A person can ask a chatbot as many questions as they want without feeling dumb and without feeling like they are bothering someone or wasting someone’s time.
- A chatbot can educate without selling. Ultimately someone wants to learn more about your company and if it’s a fit for their needs. And they want to do that in the shortest time possible. Maybe your marketing copy does it, but ultimately for a customer, if there’s any investment of time or money, it takes some digging to search for solutions and find the best one. A good bot can fast-track the process of answering specific questions for specific needs, something that most marketing copy can’t do.
- A chatbot gives you insights that you could never get otherwise. Because someone is anonymous when they visit your site, those questions become a treasure trove of content opportunities.
- A chatbot can aggregate information and spot trends. Because every conversation is recorded, this information can be aggregated to find either holes in marketing materials or new opportunities that aren’t being served. The ‘can [your product or service] do [needed feature]’ can become the best tool for your product roadmaps.
Here’s how you can make your chatbot an effective member of your salesforce:
First – choose your chatbot solution wisely.
There are a number of dumb chatbot plug-and-play solutions that are readily available and ridiculously easy to set up and ridiculously cheap. Most of these use keyword matching to figure out the answer for the question. If someone types in the word ‘price’ then it provides pricing information. The problem is that language is complex. There are dozens of ways that a question can be phrased and the context of the question changes the answer.
Some questions to evaluate what chatbot to choose:
- How is it trained? (AI-based solutions generally need training, text-parsing solutions just match text and text patterns)
- How easy/hard is it to view chat logs and export these for analysis? You can get insights from hundreds or thousands (or more) customers without having a single conversation.
- What actions can your chatbot do? Many solutions support the basics (send an image, send a video, collect an email), but can it kick off workflows? What if your chatbot collected the lead, then based on the transcript created a personalized email with more information on the topics discussed?
- How easy or hard is it to create and reset dialogue flows? Some solutions have hard-coded flows and some solutions have reusable flows. Someone shouldn’t have to re-launch your website in incognito mode in order to fix a response to a question.
- Does it remember context? Most chatbot solutions don’t (and this is actually a hard problem to solve) but being able to store variables and context along the way can create a richer experience and a richer flow.
Second – treat your chatbot like a salesperson you just hired.
A CHATBOT HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK TO EVERY VISITOR TO YOUR SITE. It needs love. View the transcripts, view the flows, find the problems where people get frustrated. Say sorry when you can’t answer the question and then escalate to a human. It takes time to teach a chatbot to be smarter and it needs the investment.
To maximize the investment in your bot you should be doing the following:
- 4-6 Weeks after Launch: For the first several weeks you should be looking at transcripts every day and filling in answers that weren’t in the training data. You should be identifying dead-end dialogues that create frustrating user experiences and be on the lookout for cursing in your logs which indicates a very frustrating experience.
- Weekly: You should be updating your dialogues with new published content. What better way to recommend articles that might answer questions and build up a rich set of dialogue that can ultimately be tested to see what articles convert. Test and refine calls to action that can take someone from ‘anonymous visitor’ to lead.
- Monthly: Categorize common questions and send to the right teams. Assess if your marketing copy is answering these questions or refine your marketing copy if it’s not. Distribute feature-related questions to teams that define product roadmaps. Work with sales and marketing to create copy that overcomes objections.
- Quarterly: Identify workflows that can be integrated into your sales process to help your chatbot work for you instead of you working for it. Whether it’s kicking off a process that gathers intel on a company or person, or booking an appointment real-time, there are many amazing ways that a chatbot can help you.
- Semi-Annually: Prune conversations and responses that lead to bounces.