Chatbots are one of the fastest-growing technologies for both business and consumers. Seemingly every website goes “bing” with an offer to chat in the bottom corner. Most brands on Facebook offer the chance to interact via a bot, while the airline and banking industries already save a fortune on call centre costs by transferring much of the simple work to chatbots. In short, bots are spreading fast, they will be everywhere very soon, and everyone needs to be prepared to use and benefit from them. 

What Is A Chatbot?

The modern chatbot is an effort to automate many existing lines of business or brand communication. They are the first line of response for a growing number of businesses, handling the most basic interactions, along with an increasingly sophisticated range of enquiries, sales and other transactions. Chatbots can also be used by political campaigns, charities and governments, giving them a massive scope to interact with the public.

But what is on the other side of the on-screen cursor? Regardless if you see one on a website, Skype, Facebook Messenger, in a mobile app or other screen, the chatbot is really just a program, likely running on a cloud server. It is designed to understand what people are talking about and make sensible, useful responses. Bots can run plain scripts with limited responses, but more modern versions use natural language processing to better understand the user’s English (or other language).

For a doctor’s surgery, that could mean making or updating appointments or for an airport helping people navigate the terminals and find facilities, for a store it could help check the right size of an item is in stock. Brands can use it to chat about products or issues of interest, and have fun with customers. All of these interactions are based on the bot asking questions, understanding the users response and providing the right information. This can be done by the user choosing from a set of options, or typing in responses.

Key Takeaway: Chatbots are functional, but can also provide a fun way for customers to engage with a business. Just because a chatbot is robotic, it does not mean it can’t have a personality.

How Popular Are Chatbots?

A chatbot using Facebook Messenger has a potential audience of over 1.3 billion people. The social media company’s latest information sees 2 billion messages every month pass between people and businesses or brands. Over 50% of people prefer using chat to calling customer services, and are more likely to buy if they can chat about a product first.

Chatbots automate the Facebook Messenger process, making it a 24/7 contact point. Other popular services that can embed a chatbot are Skype with 75 million users, while Twitter recently enabled chatbots and they can also feature on apps and the front of your website. Wherever a chatbot appears, people will expect it to fulfil one of several main use cases. That can include finding information quickly, making or changing a booking, sorting out a problem or finding the right person who can help with an issue.

Key Takeaway: All businesses of any type and size can benefit from a chatbot, and they are easy to create and manage? SnatchBot is one of the best services, providing non-programming creation tools, analytics, natural language processing features (more on them shortly and can help boost your digital presence.

How Chatbots Add Value To Your Business

The chatbot revolution is already a good few years down the line, but as companies look to become more efficient, they are now a mainstream feature. Having a chatbot live on your front page creates an automated customer service agent that can link to back-end services, managing easily repeatable tasks like booking appointments, taking food orders and more.

Around the world, businesses with high numbers of customers find that chatbots are more popular than automated phone services. They save money by reducing staffing times and costs, and as chatbots add features, become a valuable part of the business, linking customers to the right feature, product or person faster.  Beauty brand Sephora saw an 11% higher booking rate and reduced the process by five steps with its Facebook chatbot.

For marketing-focused companies, engagement is the key and bots can handle infinite numbers of chats. Welcoming visitors, creating a personalized conversation, highlighting the latest products or deals help any brand present itself as modern and welcoming. And providing valuable data for the brand to work off.

Your company can also collect plenty of data through the chatbot that other third-party services might otherwise keep for themselves. Marketing analysts can use chatbot data to analyse conversation journey routes, message effectiveness, and as AI becomes prevalent, help the bot to focus on.

Key Takeaway: Having a chatbot makes your business look modern and approachable, companies starting out are in for an exciting time, but those ignoring the trend will start to look increasingly out of place and touch in the market.

Establish What You Want It To Do

Before you rush to the cloud or an app developer, consider exactly how the chatbot can benefit your business and your customers. While it is fine to look at others for inspiration, focus on the positive impact it can have on your business. As discussed, it can save time, save money, open up new avenues of business and make your company more approachable. All of these benefits can be measured and that is an important part of the process.

Having established those, define what you want the bot to do. Find what current business processes it can match, these will help save time. Set out its goals as a sales tool, if applicable, to see how it can generate revenue. From there build the type of conversation you expect it to have in a draft form, based on how current interactions work. These can come from customer support scripts, how your receptionists talk and other sources. Don’t be afraid to borrow from best-in-class examples from other bots.

Key Takeaway: The benefits of chatbots is that you can start small and build up its capabilities quickly, so don’t expect to achieve everything all at once.

Pick The Platforms You Want To Use

Many companies have their website and perhaps a Twitter account or Facebook page. Larger businesses have a presence on most social media, with a range of apps and accounts. Each location may have a different set of demographics, and regular visitors to your site are likely to have a greater knowledge of your products than visitors on social media.

Do some analysis of available data to find out which platform will be more valuable, and consider how rivals are faring in similar markets, and study their decisions. Pick the platform that have the greatest number of interactions, and don’t spread the coverage too thinly.

Key Takeaway: Bot providers like SnatchBot can publish to multiple destinations, like Facebook Messenger, mobile apps and VoIP networks. Go for the most efficient operation that will benefit your business.

Top, Tail & Test Your Chatbot

Having established the platforms, and the main content for your bot, it is time to consider the artistic element of any chatbot. The welcome line and opening part of your script is the first thing that any customer will see, so make it fit for purpose. It needs to be friendly in tone, explain what the bot does for people who have never used one before, and compelling to get them chatting.

Once the welcome is out of the way, you also need to make sure all the exits are covered. A chatbot is supposed to be fast and useful, so customers will expect to achieve their goal in a few steps only. They will also want a satisfactory conclusion, and a way out to human help if the bot gets stuck.

Ensure each route through the bot is succinct, and produces the best responses. Remembering the personality aspect, feel free to use emojis, pictures or video to help jolly users along or celebrate when they have achieved their goal. This helps leave a lasting impression and makes people more likely to reuse the bot.

Key Takeaway: “Check and test, check and test” is a military maxim, and essential for any project that will meet the general public. However much testing you plan, double it!

While the script might look good on paper, or in the engine. Having a wide variety of users try it out is essential to find flaws or holes that users might fall down. Use a mix of non-technical, expert and unlikely users to give the bot a thorough workout. Understand the feedback both from the technical and personal aspects, take on board how people feel when talking to the bot and ensure their concerns are addressed.

Going Live & Monitoring Analytics

Finally, you can run your chatbot live and see the early analytics come in. SnatchBot uses Chatbase to provide guides to problems, to help analyse and optimise bots. A chatbot isn’t something your company can just launch and leave, it will require attention to ensure it meets customer needs, and that it hits the company’s own goals. Fortunately, chatbots are quick and easy to improve, and once a team learns the magic ingredients to making a successful bot, they can expand it to perform other tasks.






Chris Knight

Chris writes about augmented and virtual reality, chatbots, business, games and anywhere the miracle of technology will take us next.