The growth of artificial intelligence is not rendering the customer service industry obsolete—not right now anyway—but this modern technology is changing how businesses engage and interact with their customer base. Major corporations like Marriott, Sephora, Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Facebook have launched AI interface platforms to automate their client communication, and now small businesses are recognizing the benefits of this trend as well.
When it comes to an organization’s customer relationship management strategy, the use of AI chatbots has specifically become a game-changer. From answering customer questions and troubleshooting their concerns, to producing new business leads and marketing campaigns, to refining the sales functions on e-commerce websites, these chatbots have made client relations more convenient and accessible to the public. In fact, it’s projected that integrating chatbots in CRM will enhance global business revenue by $1.1 trillion between 2017 and 2021.
But if you’re a small business owner looking to capitalize on the simplicity and profitability of chatbots, you might be wondering how to begin the process and where to find the most useful resources. Below is a comprehensive breakdown of various chatbot platforms, what to know about building a chatbot and successful chatbots with proven ROI track-records. This information can help you understand the benefits of AI for your own customer engagement and business expansion.
What Are the Most Popular Chatbots Platforms and Tools?
Before using chatbot technology, the first step is finding a platform on which to build it. There are numerous options to choose from, but these five are among the most popular and reputable chatbot builders as of 2018.
- ManyChat: This platform is ideal for AI novices because it does not require any coding to develop a messenger chatbot for your website. The process of building the chatbot is similar to automating an email workflow, and this makes it an effective tool for e-marketing campaigns or recruiting subscribers. Another benefit of MoneyChat is you can access it free-of-charge until your website reaches 500 subscribers.
- Microsoft Bot Framework: This platform is more advanced because coding is involved to create the program, but once the initial code is written, this chatbot can be integrated anywhere and is compatible with all website hosting servers. Bot Framework recognizes 30 languages, provides automatic translation, moderates web-based content and makes smart recommendations to users. In addition, it syncs with Cortana, Skype, Messenger, Bing, and Slack.
- Amazon Lex: This platform is used for generating a personal assistant—in fact, it’s the program Amazon designed in order to create Alexa. Featuring tools such as automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding, Lex equips users to build chatbots that perform a variety of functions, respond to voice or text interface, and can be accessed on both desktop and mobile devices. Lex offers a pay-as-you-go format to its users, making it an affordable option too.
- Dialogflow: This platform is operated on the Google Cloud, but it’s accessible through various integrations like Twitter, Facebook, Viber, Twilio, Skype and Telegram, among others. Dialogflow is suited for intent-based conversation which means the chatbot will analyze customer queries and provide contextual feedback obtained from the user’s location, search history, and other relevant data. This information is then modified from encoded text to a voice response.
- IBM Watson Assistant: This platform is arguably the frontrunner in streamlining customer engagement. With a chatbot interface that connects your website visitors to social media networks, search engines, messaging tools and e-commerce pages, Watson optimizes customer service and communication to ultimately drive sales. Because this chatbot can be customized to your specific business niche, it’s also the preferred choice for 61% of organizations.
What Do You Need to Consider when Building a Chatbot?
Once you’ve narrowed down the platform on which to develop your chatbot, these four stipulations are worth taking into account before you start building.
- Determine how the chatbot will function with your existing customer service. If your business has a customer support team already established, it might not be the most practical course of action for a chatbot to take the place of human representatives entirely. Instead, the chatbot can serve as a behind-the-scenes resource for the representative when obtaining answers to queries or finding resolutions for issues. The chatbot can also interact directly with users on a basic level, then escalate more complex matters to the representative.
- Employ metrics in real-time to gauge how beneficial the chatbot is to users. Customer feedback is vital when assessing the efficacy of how a chatbot performs. You can acquire this information from all users who interact with the chatbot by giving them an opportunity to rate their satisfaction with the assistance your chatbot provides. When building the chatbot, you’ll write an algorithm to ensure it understands natural and conversational language so it can respond intelligently, but the most efficient way to measure if the answers are helpful is to offer a customer poll on your website and encourage forthright critiques.
- Make sure the chatbot is able to retrieve and decipher all types of content. The purpose of a chatbot is to facilitate a question-and-answer dialogue for your customers, but that’s only scratching the surface of what this technology can offer. To create an interactive experience for users, the chatbot needs to be equipped to interpret and engage with all forms of content—not just text. Consider how people communicate online, then build a chatbot which can accommodate the semantics of the internet. Make sure it recognizes and knows how to use GIFs, audio, video and other elements that add human personality to the exchange.
- Create a user-friendly chatbot ontology to enrich the customer experience. The term “ontology” refers to a backend knowledge hub where a chatbot can acquire information to enhance the complexity of answers it’s able to provide. Whereas a pattern-based chatbot is only programmed to find data relevant to a specific question, ontology-based chatbots can detect relationships between the original query and multiple intents. For example, if the question is “What’s the best pancake recipe?” a chatbot with access to an ontology can derive compound meanings and offer detailed answers like different pancake flavors, nutrition facts or how to make them, so users can refine the search accordingly.
What Existing Chatbots Have the Most Successful ROIs?
Just in case you are still wondering how advantageous AI technology can be for your small business, here is a snapshot of successful chatbots being used by companies with a substantial and measurable return on investment.
- Amtrak: This railroad corporation uses a chatbot named “Julie” to direct customers through the process of booking a reservation, finding train stations or route details, and joining the rewards program. Since launching this chatbot, Amtrak has achieved a 25% increase in bookings, a 30% increase in revenue per transaction and a 50% increase in annual customer engagement.
- 1-800-Flowers: This floral distribution service uses a chatbot named “GWYN” to curate a personalized shopping experience for customers based on their purchase histories and behaviors. Since launching this chatbot, 1-800-Flowers achieved an increased revenue of 6.3% in the first quarter, resulting in $168.8 million and a 70% growth in new customer sales.
- Nitro Café: This Southern California-based organic coffee roaster uses a chatbot named “HeyMojo” to assist customers in ordering their drinks and making payments straight from a mobile device. HeyMojo also sends its subscribers an alert when the coffee cart will be in their location. Since launching this chatbot, Nitro Café has achieved a 20% increase in overall sales.
- ASOS: This e-commerce fashion retailer uses a chatbot named “Ava” powered by Facebook to assist customers in finding items matched to their unique sizes, color palates, and favorite trends. Launching this chatbot definitely contributed to ASOS achieving a 35% increase in customer reach, a 300% increase in orders placed and a 250% increase in return on advertisement spending.
- Domino’s: This pizza delivery conglomerate uses a chatbot named “Dom” to browse menu options, finalize a mobile transaction and track their order status from any smart platform—even wearables and TVs. Since launching this chatbot, Domino’s achieved an increased revenue of 56.4 million in the third quarter and a 14.5% growth in sales across the entire globe.
When it comes to online business, artificial intelligence is the wave of the future. Not only does this technology tend to generate a higher profit margin for companies, it also improves the CRM for people who engage with those companies. An estimated 80% of surveyed organizations want to utilize chatbots by 2020, and 48% have already begun to make the transition. AI is revolutionizing the landscape of e-commerce, and it’s a tool worth considering for your small business too.