As a small business owner, you likely get asked the same questions day in and day out. “What time do you open?” “Where’s my order?” “Do you ship outside the U.S.?”
As innocuous as these questions sound, constantly answering them eats a huge chunk out of your day — but hiring someone else to do it would eat an equally huge chunk out of your bottom line. What’s a stressed-out business owner to do?
Adopt a bot! A chatbot, that is. These clever creatures live in your computer and take over many of those repetitive customer service tasks for you on your website and social media apps like Facebook Messenger — and you don’t even have to feed them.
But where do you get chatbots, what can they do and why should you use them? We’ve got the scoop.
Creating Your Chatbot
Unlike Pokémon, chatbots don’t live in the wild. In fact, they don’t live anywhere until you “build” them — which can be slightly problematic for people without a working knowledge of coding.
Fortunately, you don’t need coding knowledge to build your own little helper. There are plenty of platforms that can help walk you through the process, the best of which are detailed in this guide. Some are free; others cap the amount of interactions you can have per month and charge for anything above and beyond. Still others want the cash in hand before your bot ever goes live on your site.
Not a fan of the DIY approach? A quick Google search will give you plenty of companies who will build your bot for you — for a fee, of course!
Once your chatbot is up and running, there are a lot of things you can do with him or her. (Yes, you should definitely give your bot a gender, among other things — more on that later!)
- Respond to FAQs: Your chatbot can supply basic details about locations, hours, return policies, etc. Some can even be “taught” to give tracking information for packages and other arduous tasks.
- Bookings: If you’re a hotel, hair salon or giant conglomerate airline owner, your bot can accept bookings straight from Facebook Messenger.
- Feedback from customers: Interested in what a new customer thought of their experience with your product or service? Your bot can ask them.
- Website display: Your chatbot can direct your customer to your website with just a click, or even pull products from your website to show them in the Messenger app based on what they’re shopping for.
These are only a few examples of the benefits of having a chatbot. One thing that stands above all, however, is the ability to give a lightning-quick response no matter when the customer contacts you. Instant gratification sells!
Tips on Chatbots
Want to make sure your chatbot is the most popular in town? Follow these tips.
- Give your bot some personality. We said above that chatbots should have a gender, but it should have plenty of other things, too — a name, a story and a likeable personality. This makes it more personal, fun and intimate for your customers.
- Stick to your brand. If you’re laid-back witty, and often sarcastic in your content, website, and social media posts, it won’t do to have a stuck-up, stodgy chatbot. If your style is generally more professional, you probably should shy away from having your bot greet people with “What’s up, dude?” Your chatbot is an extension of your brand, so don’t confuse people by suddenly going off-script.
- Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your chatbot shouldn’t be, either. In the beginning, concentrate on one or two functions you want your bot to perform, and make sure he or she can perform them well before you roll out any previously undiscovered botting abilities.
- Give people options. For every person who loves interacting with chatbots, there’s another who wants to talk to a real, live person. Once your bot introduces itself, give people the option to deal with you or a member of your staff directly if they prefer.
Chatbots are the future of small business marketing. They provide instant gratification, reduce overhead costs by allowing you to keep a smaller staff, and they’re only going to get bigger, better and smarter as time goes on. This is a marketing initiative you need to capitalize on right away!
Mischa Communications is always on the cutting edge of small business marketing. If you’d like to come along for the ride, call or email us today, and let us keep you in the know!