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Start-Ups

Beginners Guide to Chatbots

By Jake Nordquist   |    January 10, 2018   |    9:23 AM

Using Chatbots For Small Business

More and more businesses are turning to chatbots to give their customers a better experience online. But what are chatbots, exactly, and why do some businesses see so much benefit from using them?

What is a chatbot?

When we use the word “chatbot,” we’re talking about a piece of software that allows a user to interact with a bot via a chat interface. The software uses defined rules, and sometimes artificial intelligence, to provide a conversation that mimics natural language.

In short, chatbots are computer programs that can interact with real people.

What can chatbots do?

Chatbots are particularly interesting for businesses because they have a variety of useful applications. When a customer visits your website you could use a chatbot to:

  • Answer questions about your business

  • Offer product suggestions

  • Provide the news or weather report

  • Troubleshoot common customer problems

  • Order food or other products

Why are chatbots so popular all of the sudden?

According to Matthew Hartman, head of seed investment at Betaworks (the startup entity that's behind giphy and bit.ly), "[People are] thinking, I don't want to download yet another app, especially if it doesn't need to be an app … On the other hand, people have moved into messenger apps — they're living in chat. So you could have an app... or you could have a service that lives inside an app they already have."

Chatbots are also surprisingly easy to make. In fact, you could create your own chatbot through Facebook Messenger in less than 15 minutes. There are also several services that can help you create a bot (no coding required.) Chatobook and Chatfuel are two good choices.

Does my small business need a chatbot?

Need might be an exaggeration, but there’s a chance your small business could benefit from giving chatbots a try. According to FitSmallBusiness.com, chatbots are best for businesses that:

  • Receive many similar requests. Because you can program your own chatbot, it’s the perfect tool for businesses that get the same questions repeatedly. For example, Ecommerce stores like chatbots because they can provide details on return policies, warranty information, and other frequently asked questions.

  • Sells products that are “low involvement.” Groceries, cosmetics, common household items… if your business sells something that consumers don’t have to think too much about before buying, chatbots can offer them helpful suggestions on what to purchase.

  • Are in competitive niches. Some customers will buy from whichever business makes the process easiest, especially when they have options. When they can get answers to their questions 24/7 they’re more likely to buy from you.

Chatbots provide an alternative to searching a website or calling customer service, and they can save time while moving customers further down your sales funnel.

Chatbots and customer service

The biggest benefit of chatbots is how effectively they can enhance customer service. Every business should aim to give their customers a better experience, and bots are becoming one of the easiest and most effective ways to do just that.