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Chatbots - useful or useless?

With unlimited mobile internet access becoming standard in many parts of the world, customers browse goods and services on websites around the clock. If they run into any problems, for most brands, the customer service agents are only available at specific time slots. Increasingly, companies are trying to solve this with the help of chatbots. These virtual assistants enable website visitors to ask questions and receive immediate answers from a robot. Recently, this technology also lets brands collect leads, showcase their product catalog and even collect payments without the customer ever leaving the chat.

Still, many internet users express their lack of enthusiasm to converse with a robot - chatbots are being perceived as too limited in their functionality and unable to solve any but the very basic problems. Today we will look at the state of chatbot technology in 2021 and identify its main advantages and disadvantages for business purposes.

Main chatbot advantages

Available 24/7, works for free

A virtual assistant is always available to serve your customers. It can converse with ten or even 100 conversations at once without breaking a sweat. In a world used to getting everything immediately, this might be the difference between converting a website visitor to a customer and losing it to your competition. While you will have to invest in a high-quality chatbot, these expenses pale compared to the cost of a large customer support team on payroll.

Identifies important issues

By collecting stats about chatbot interactions with your customers, it is possible to quickly identify the main challenges they face and what you should change on your website. For example, if there are many questions about delivery cost, it is clear that this information is too hard to find and should feature in a more prominent spot on your site.

Increasingly human-like

While it is not hard to find memes with chatbots struggling to answer particularly tricky questions, the technology is taking huge strides forward and with the release of a new GPT-3 language prediction model developed by Open AI. This model uses neural networks to process information and generate very human-like text. It is already implemented by hundreds of apps, including multiple chatbot platforms. Clumsy “Could you please rephrase that?” might be on its way out from the virtual assistant vocabulary.

Can help sell

While initially chatbots served as an interactive FAQ, recently, their capabilities have significantly expanded. Virtual assistants focused on sales support can, for example, take an order for a plumbing service. The robot will start by asking questions about the scope of work. Then it will offer available time slots for the customer to choose, collect the contact details and proceed to forward the order to another system or even directly to the contractor. Option to integrate with the payment gateways and collect payments directly from the chat window is there too. Our experience also shows that Facebook ad conversion rate can be greatly improved by initiating a chat session with a virtual assistant instead of leading users to a form on a website.

Main chatbot disadvantages

It is not human

We already mentioned the increasing capabilities of virtual assistants finding the correct answers or sounding just like uncle Tom. Yet every business has situations that require human intervention. That is why we strongly recommend integrating an option for a customer service representative to take over the conversation if and when necessary. This way your chatbot can take the load off your team by fielding the bulk of the questions while keeping customer satisfaction high when dealing with the more complicated issues.

Needs to be taught

As long as true AI remains a science-fiction concept, your virtual assistant will only be able to share information that it has been taught. Creating a chatbot that can provide real value to both your company and your customers will require significant effort in understanding your customers' needs. The knowledge base will also need to be periodically updated. While self-service chatbot functionality is available from many platforms, for anything but the very basic features, you will likely need to involve professionals which comes with a certain cost.

Smaller languages lag behind

If your primary market does not speak English or other major languages, the latest chatbot technology will have to wait. Natural language processing is very hard, and most of the work done in his field focuses on languages with hundreds of millions of speakers. You can still get a lot out of a virtual assistant even in very obscure language, just do not expect your bot to seamlessly understand irony, reply to jokes or even compose a little poem.

Do we recommend chatbots for every business? Not yet. However, many companies could greatly increase the availability of customer service, identify issues their website visitors struggle with, and even improve the conversion rates of digital ads. Sounds good? Let us know if you would like to find out more about how virtual assistants can help your business!

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