The dawn of Data Science has made chatbots truly ubiquitous. Able to do tonnes of routine, and some not-so-routine tasks, they are being leveraged by big names in the industry including Spotify, Sephora, Mastercard, and more. In fact, there are nearly 3,00,000 active bots on Messenger making rounds today!

The craze for chatbots is growing at an unprecedented pace. More and more businesses are joining the chatbot bandwagon to streamline their customer interaction and enhance their customer service. According to an Oracle survey, by 2020, nearly 80% of businesses will be both demanding and using chatbots.

Information Source: businessinsider.com

While the chatbots that we interact with today are highly advanced and are programmed to respond by learning from experience, it wasn’t always so. The inception of the earliest chatbot dates way back to 1966. It was developed by Joseph Weizenbaum and was called ELIZA. After ELIZA came PERRY, and as the years progressed, we’ve had many such early forms of chatbots such as Jabberwacky,  A.L.I.C.E, and SmarterChild. Since the 2000s, we’ve seen some real progress in chatbots and now we have some of the most sophisticated chatbots humankind has ever seen – IBM Watson, Siri, Google Now, Alexa, Cortana, and much more!

How does a chatbot function?

To put it in simple terms, a chatbot is a program designed to mimic the natural human language and interact with humans. They are powered by AI algorithms combined with NLP (natural language processing) which allows them to understand and simulate natural human languages.

Chatbots are primarily of two types – scripted chatbots and intelligent AI-powered chatbots.

Scripted chatbots, as the name suggests, can interact and engage with humans only in a pre-defined conversational flow. That is, if you ask a question to such as bot, it can respond to you from a predefined set of answers fed in its library. These chatbots are mostly used in tasks that require automation, for instance, logging feedback or tracking leads.

Contrary to scripted chatbots, AI-powered bots harness the power of NLP to interact with humans. They understand what humans speak/type and they provide the most befitting answer to whatever query you may have. These bots learn from every human interaction they encounter and hence, with time, they only get smarter. Siri, Alexa, Cortana are all intelligent chatbots.

The chatbot benefit

The reasons for adopting a chatbot are many. One of the most striking features of a chatbot is that businesses can always stay connected to their customers, almost in real-time. And if done correctly, chatbots can help take businesses to new heights in no time.

Let’s talk about the three key benefits that chatbots offer. First, they are available 24×7. So, no matter when a customer wants to connect with a particular brand, the chatbot will be at his/her service. Second, chatbots aren’t designed to make mistakes. While it is possible for human customer support personnel to make minor errors (it is only human to make mistakes!) when handling customer requests/queries, chatbots are programmed to always provide the most accurate answers. Third, chatbots can help save both time and money. Since they have prompt and speedy delivery, customers never have to wait for their queries/requests to be addressed. Also, companies get the opportunity to cut back on the manpower otherwise required to handle customer support. Thus, they help trim down business costs and save a ton of money!  

Why take the chatbot route?

With an array of benefits that chatbots have to offer, businesses should no longer stick to the traditional methods of conducting customer surveys.

When it comes to understanding customers (both existing and potential), there can be nothing better than chatbots – mainly because chatbots believe in a pre-emptive approach.

One of the best features of chatbots has to be their ability to take pre-emptive actions. By doing so, they transform the entire customer service game. Customers usually hover cluelessly around websites with no one to guide them around.

This is where chatbots come in. They can make customers feel welcome by greeting them with warm welcome messages/audio and quickly engaging them in a conversation. Through a series of basic questions, chatbots can gather the required information about an individual customer and understand the persona they are dealing with and thereby, guide them accordingly. With this proactive approach, customers never feel neglected and left out.

Chatbots help minimize bounce rates

Nobody likes filling out lengthy forms, be it online or on paper. Most people quit filling out forms by the time they reach the second page, mainly because they find it boring and time-consuming. But how about a conversation that can help businesses score all the points (valuable customer data) they need?

With their excellent conversational power, chatbots can keep customers engaged in meaningful and natural conversation for a long time. Since chatbots simulate natural human language and interact with humans just as another human would do, customers find themselves at ease and continue the conversation. As a result, it is easier for chatbots to harness the information business want from their customers. Also, they can extend the conversation to obtain more information. Overall, this helps minimize and mitigate bounce rates significantly.

Chatbots provide something that web forms/paper forms do not offer – answer buttons

Chatbots do not work like traditional survey forms, i.e., they don’t require your customers to go through the tedious process of filling the various fields of a form. Instead, these bots provide multiple, predefined and alternate suggestions/options in the form of answer buttons. To proceed through the process, one is only required to click the buttons. It is that simple. No lengthy sentences or descriptions needed. In this manner, chatbots obtain all kinds of relevant information about a customer without letting him/her feel exhausted in the process.

Chatbots come with cross-channel power

Usually, in the traditional approach, survey forms are situated in a particular page of a website. So, if a business would want customers to fill out the survey forms, it would have to redirect them to that location. In the process, it is quite natural to lose customers as they tend to lose interest.  

With a chatbot, this can be avoided. Chatbots are flexible, as in, they allow businesses to dive in wherever potential customers are (thanks to multi-channel capability). Chatbots can be integrated with messenger apps, mobile messages, emails, social networking sites, and not to forget, the company website. This reduces the chances of businesses losing potential customers.

Chatbots get ‘feedback.’

Customer feedback is immensely important for businesses, especially with so many able competitors around. Chatbots help you get it. While feedback forms can get monotonous and hefty, chatbots help obtain customer feedback by engaging in conversation with customers, asking responsive questions, and offering positive persuasion to customers to provide their valuable feedback.

These points clearly bring to light the advantages that chatbots have over traditional surveying methods. Ever since their inception, chatbots have displayed immense capability to interact and converse with humans and are continuing to do so. In the future, too, chatbots will keep providing undivided attention and support to customers, and it’ll only get better with time.

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