How Chatbots can Revitalize Customer Engagement for SME's

When i recently came across the term “Artificial Intelligence Chatbots”, my mind conjured up scenes from the movie Terminator. I imagined a wondrous giant cyborg fighting valiantly to save humanity, just like in the movies. Upon further study, my delusions were dispelled as i tried to comprehend what the future of marketing might look like a few years from now.

So imagine a digital personal assistant connected to the internet with a wide range of applications that has the ability to converse with you in real-time. That, is a chatbot.

Powered by NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology, chatbots are built to mimic human interaction making them seem like an actual individual existing digitally. Such a thing can have numerous business applications, and we are not the only ones who share the same view.
A chatbot can essentially have 2 broad applications:

  • For Enterprise – Internal tasks pertaining to business
  • For Consumers – To interact & assist customers

See the brands in the pic above you? They are all leveraging Facebook bots through the Messenger platform to connect with their customers. Why? The messenger app recently hit 1 billion active users. That is a sizable number of customers the chatbots can service, and the big brands all want a piece of it.
Studies have shown that most people are shifting from social media platforms to messaging apps. More and more time is being spent on chat apps, and this is an obvious cue for marketers to exploit. Chatbots are the perfect tool to reach out to potential customers without disrupting the experience with any over-the-top external inputs.

Chatbots might just be exploited as a major medium of advertising soon, as they allow the opportunity to directly engage a consumer over dialogue as compared to conventional means of communication like print and media.

How can a chatbot help a Small/Medium business?

Bots are a glimpse into the future of business, and they have powerful implications on the business ecosystem. Although chatbots in their current form might not seem very accomplished, they are still very powerful tools that have massive potential. They have several advantages:

  1. 24×7 availability – A bot exists digitally unlike a human being, and can thus be pressed into service continuously without any interference.
  2. Highly Customizable – Bots are capable of carrying out a wide array of tasks because of their inherent flexibility.
  3. Affordable and Powerful – In the current scenario, chatbots can be developed for a small amount. Many options already exist, with the most popular being Facebook’s Messenger bot.
  4. Saves Resources – Employing a chatbot to handle basic customer interactions can free up valuable human resources without a decline in productivity.

A futuristic solution

Customer service has always been a polarizing aspect of business. People always have a myriad perception when it comes to describing a brand’s customer service. Owing to a high degree of human interaction, the experience is difficult to standardize across the board. This is one area where chatbots can reign supreme.

Unlike humans, chatbots can be programmed to behave in a certain manner, and can employ machine learning to quickly understand the finer nuances of steering a conversation to its preferred destination.

Product bots

Bots can assist customers with finding the right product that they are looking for, based on minimal inputs.

They can be programmed to capture data which can be analysed and processed to deliver the desired results and minimize the task for the visitors. Cosmetic giant Sephora’s bot on messaging platform Kik allows a user to find the particular product they are looking for from their massive portfolio. Lenskart is also known for using bots for assisted product discovery on their platform. Similarly, bots can be used on your online store to help understand a customer’s requirements and pitch them the right products in record time.

Service bots

A few messenger apps offer services like booking a cab, booking flight tickets, ordering pizza based on past search data of users. Bots like DoNotPay Housing offer services to the destitute for booking legal services. HP’s bot lets users print, scan and copy documents and images on connected HP printers.

Online retail players can use bots on their platform to pitch a wide range of complimentary services like couriers and shipping, added discounts and offers to sweeten the deal.

Customer Intelligence

Being highly programmable, chatbots can record purchasing patterns and track user data as valuable feedback for companies.

This data can be interpreted to better understand customer experience, satisfaction levels with product and service and overall buyer behaviour. This, is perhaps the most critical aspect of a chatbot’s business potential.

Offer a unique experience 

Right now, chatbots are a bit of a novelty. Before they become run of the mill, you can use Chatbot’s to enhance the customer experience by offering users a chance to engage with a highly intelligent computer program that can solve problems.

Quick Response time

Compared to a human being, a smart computer program will answer queries much quicker. This, coupled with an AI chatbot’s machine learning and multi-tasking abilities make it a highly efficient virtual assistant that can revolutionise customer interaction metrics.

Improved Conversions

Chatbots can study past search data and offer more personalised shopping options via retargeting. The AI is constantly learning, and it can pull up multiple options that will be more appealing to the user based on their search history and captured data points. This can lead to increased conversions for you in the long term.
We have also employed the services of a Chatbot that goes by the name of TARS. Try it out once, it’s quite the conversationalist.

Hello Tars is an interactive Chatbot on Zepo’s mobile site.

Indian Startups using Bots

  • Online test prep startup Prepathon uses bots to converse with users as a coach/teacher and assist with test preparations. Responses are automated, and mostly include inspirational messages, guidance and tutorials and general conversation with the user. Bots at Prepathon answer over 10,000 questions a day.
  • News app Newsbytes run a chatbot on Slack. It has been handling 2,000 questions a day, with a total of 8000 bot users.
  • Purplle, an Online Marketplace for beauty products has a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. It handles 2,000 questions a day, coming from over 25,000 users.   
  • Online doctor consultation startup iCLINIQ uses chatbots in the Telegram messaging app to reach out to customers with reasonable success. With over 18,000 bot users, the bots handle 10% of the questions received in a day from visitors.
  • Lawrato, an online lawyer search and legal advice platform run Lawbot, a chatbot that runs on Facebook Messenger. It is capable of inspecting legal contracts and offer legal advice.

How to get a chatbot for your business?

  • Facebook Messenger – Quite possibly the simplest method that has a potential to reach over a billion Messenger users. With Facebook’s Send & Receive API, you can have a simple chatbot, or you can use their bot engine to create more advanced bots.
  • NIKIAI chatbot Niki has an Android app as well as the Nikibot on Facebook Messenger. It allows users to make payment for multiple services from within the chat itself via Paytm. With 40,000 users, the chatbot is handling upto 25,000 questions every day. They have popular tie-ups with big brands such as Ola, Burger King, Mobikwik, Paytm etc.
  • JOE HUKUMBot building startup Joe Hukum will let you design and create custom bots for your website, app or your preferred messaging platforms to interact with your customers. All you need to do is send them a typical conversation flow, and they will convert that into an AI chatbot.  
  • GUPSHUPIt is a platform for developers to build, deploy and manage bots. They have bots for almost every need that one can think of, and they plan to diversify into a bot marketplace in the near future.

A recent report claimed an investment of $85 million in US based chatbot companies in 2016 alone. The interest is certainly there, but widespread acceptance will depend on the number of users that find it useful. With advancements in NLP and AI, chatbots are only going to become smarter. Some say that they may even replace the functionality of mobile apps. While that day may be far, it is certainly going to be gainful to keep an eye on the development of chatbots in the future for business.

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