Pros and Cons of Using Chatbots for Your Business

Chatbots are not exactly a new business tool, but in recent years, they have gained immense momentum. Internet users are growing accustomed to these digital helpers that seem to be all the rage across industry sectors. But, you don’t want to merely fall for hype and waste resources on something that fails to deliver tangible results, do you?

From a business perspective, chatbots are only as good as the value they add to your organization. So, we are going to focus on the facts rather than buzz. And we can already tell you that chatbots are much more than the latest buzzword. They have huge potential to make your life easier and operations simpler.

But, let us not get ahead of ourselves. Potential and reality can sometimes be worlds apart.

On one hand, there is a prospect of getting on top of a vast matrix of consumer interactions and improving business results. On the other hand, we face the unpleasant upfront investment, whole maze of decision making, and a series of tedious technicalities. To avoid getting hopelessly stuck in the middle, we need to look at both sides carefully. We will start with the advantages of employing chatbots.

Pros of Using Chatbots

Pros and Cons of Using Chatbots

1. Boosting efficiency and saving resources

Chatbots are on the rise and they spearhead the prominent trend of business automation. Both startups and established corporations recognize them for what they are: valuable tools for streamlining communication and automating sales processes. Both of these outcomes are linked to incredible benefits. First off, you have an opportunity to reach customers in new ways and improve the efficiency of handling requests at the same time.

This benefit is particularly important because the number of people using chatbot-ready communication channels is constantly growing.

Secondly, chatbots allow business to conserve resources (by trimming labor costs) and allocate them to where they matter the most. This is due to the fact that apart from upfront investment and costs of IT maintenance (which is lower when compared to apps), they do not face you with steep overheads. Thus, you are able to gain an edge in a competitive business arena and maintain a healthy profit stream.

2. Faster and consistent customer service

Chatbots are well fit to perform the heavy lifting for you and tackle a variety of repetitive and time-consuming tasks. And no, we are not witnessing some dystopian robot takeover. These algorithms are designed to assist human and empower support teams, not make them obsolete. They hold the potential to offer something previously deemed unattainable. We are talking about an impeccable, lightning-fast, around-the-clock customer service.

After all, unlike human representatives, they need to rest and sleep. They do not ask managers for sick leave and are always ready to engage with upcoming messages and inbound queries. Their unmatched speed, precision, and availability allow brands to always be there for customers. As for the breathing team members, they are finally in a position to ward off work fatigue and burnout. It is a clear win-win, especially for businesses that predominantly provide services instead of products.

3. Their value grows over time

Furthermore, machine learning and AI technologies enable chatbots to adapt and improve based on past interactions. In a way, they learn more about us with each passing day, or to be more precise, with each new conversation. They pull a huge volume of consumer information from instant messaging and other channels. This pool of data is fed back to deep and machine learning algorithms, paving the way for chatbots to become more intelligent.

So, over time, they can understand humans better, maintain the context of the conversation successfully, and provide more natural answers. And that is not all because chatbots are capable of uncovering industry trends, patterns in online behavior, and key metrics. So, from a business standpoint, one has to look beyond the face value of chatbots. In the long-term, business owners and managers eventually find out that they add more value than initially anticipated.

4. A wide range of applications

In this day and age, chatbots can be used for various purposes, popping up in different sections of the screen. They are mostly present in website chat windows and social messaging services. There, they provide quick answers in emergency situations, resolve complaints, and offer detailed instructions. This kind of application tends to improve response rates and along with it, consumer experience and satisfaction.

Many businesses also employ this groundbreaking tech to process bills, reservations, purchases, and consumer information. But, the main advantage remains instant response. After all, most consumers expect brands to respond within 4 hours, while in reality, the bulk of brands take around 10 hours to respond. This is also to say that you can outrun your competition and significantly improve your penetration by embracing chatbots.

5. They collect valuable consumer data

In the business world of today, consumer data is the mainstay of making educated decisions. Well, chatbots are one of the streams that can supply you with loads of it. For example, you can observe how many people click on links that bots offer or what percentage of site visitors accepts chatbot conversation in the first place. The repository of data gets huge as well, considering that a single bot can perform thousands and thousands of conversations every month.

Analyzing them deeper, one can figure out how to really speak the user’s language and apply that knowledge to other touch points. In addition, conversations may reveal some frequent issues and pain points that consumers face. This opens up new personalization opportunities and gives context for marketing redirections and pivots. Just note that to reap this benefit, organizations have to invest in proper big data, business intelligence, and analytic tools.

Cons of Using Chatbots

1. Not human enough

The first ugly truth we have to swallow is that chatbots can annoy and put off customers. Not everyone wants to “talk” to a faceless effigy. Telephone and email still remain the most popular channels of communication between brands and customers and for good reasons too. Chatbots are lagging far behind when it comes to approachability and friendliness, two qualities paramount to stellar customer service.

This may change in the future, with many companies going to great lights in an attempt to render bots more “humane”. It should be also noted that although 43% of adult Americans prefer a real assistant, some generations like Millennials are more receptive to the idea of interacting with chatbots. Alas, for the time being, chatbots fail to deliver that warm human touch. That does not mean they cannot be personalized to come closer to that elusive goal.

2. They bring new challenges to the table

Implantation of chatbots is not really frictionless. It requires some forward thinking, cross-department/team coordination, strategic planning, as well as a hefty investment of time and money. Among other things, you have to set tangible goals (lead generation, sales boost, lead generation, etc.), map out conversation journey, and identify use cases and main paint points in interactions.

What is more, it is necessary to pick a suitable platform for chatbot integration— typically it is the one where your conversations take place, be it a website, Facebook Messenger (home to the biggest cluster of chatbots in existence), Twitter Direct Message, or some other social channel. Only after this spadework, you can do some A/B testing and start developing your chatbot’s personality.

It goes without saying that those who lack technical know-how may find some of these tasks difficult to see through.

3. They requite digital makeover

Developing and setting up and chatbot can take countless hours of meticulous work and testing, as well as programming of questions and different branching scenarios. There is a lot of ground to cover because chatbots can be integrated with communication channels, business intelligence systems, and backend platforms. They bring additional value when they are geared toward feeding your database with usage information and paving the way for later optimization.

Fortunately, there is a way to overcome these technical hurdles. You can outsource integration tasks to web design and development agencies. To make it work out, do your research and reach out to seasoned pros that will allow you to gain peace of mind and focus on other business priorities. While at it, you should also bolster your content strategy and complement chatbots with FAQ section and/or forum. It pays off to go that extra mile in this stage.

4. Chatbots are far from perfect

Although AI and machine learning technologies advance by leaps and bounds, they are a far cry from perfectly-tuned systems. Their innate deficiency directly reflects on the performance of chatbots. They basically have a set of limited responses to most common questions, which are again rooted in a limited database. Unpredictable situations remain beyond their capabilities and improvisation is out of the question.

To make it worse, they cannot pick up slang, jargon, sarcasm, and other nuances of human language. The same is true for non-stereotyped queries and comprehensive consultations. This inflexibility can plunge conversation into frustrating loops that lead (customers) nowhere. More sophisticated and smarter chatbots equipped with state-of-the-art AI can alleviate some of these problems. The only thing is that they do cost (sometimes substantially) more: this defeats the part of the chatbot’s purpose related to saving money.

Among other reasons, that is why no business has fully replaced human customer service with chatbots. At least that has not happened yet.

Conclusion

Chatbots are spurting up across the digital universe like mushrooms after the rain. In fact, they are quickly becoming an industry standard, expanding and enriching the realm of consumer interactions. We have shown that they can be a great addition to your arsenal, but also that they are not the be-all and end-all of customer service.

The benefits outweigh the drawbacks (and pay rich dividends in the long run) only provided that you do it right and avoid missteps in execution. Do bear in mind, however, all the limitations. No amount of sophisticated computing is a substitute for our innate desire to communicate with fellow human beings.

So, in order to properly deploy chatbots, you must get ready to cover all the bases ahead of time. Gather as much information as possible about your target audience. Get marketing, sales, and customer service on the same page and working toward the same goals. Always have real-life representatives standing by, ready to jump in and save the day.

Do your best to foster a great, seamless user experience, meeting and exceeding people’s expectations. And make no mistake: this is your chance to augment and fine-tune your 24-hour customer service.

If you really mean business, it is time to take efficiency to the next level and get ahead of the game!

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