This generation is embodied in the technology revolution. This acceleration occurred since the mid-19th century spiraling due to the indisputable laws of mathematics (Sheldarke 2013). Now ever present in an era of change, you properly have heard the notion that Bots or Chatbots are the way to a company’s success. Some business owners or marketing managers may question if Chatbots should be incorporated into the company’s marketing strategy. In answering this we need to consider throughout this article what’s our main aim for choosing this type of strategy, how will it benefit either our current or potential customers, what avenue we believe will help us best in meeting our main goal and aligning it with our current marketing strategy.

What is a Chatbot

Chatbots are a computer-based program that can carry out automated tasks and are powered by artificial intelligence.  Chatbots can help in completing tasks or responding to customers’ requests. The more advanced ones improve over time through machine learning allowing them to personalize responses. Although the majority, however, are pre-programmed for a specific purpose. For example - businesses are currently using them to respond to the most frequent questions asked by either current and prospective questions. This is where a Chatbot can be utilized to answer the common questions or concerns customers have while allowing staff members to continue with the more important or tedious work.

In essence there are two types of Chatbots one based on pre-programmed specific commands and one that is highly based on artificial intelligence. For example - a more advanced function would be when a customer is looking for a specific product and cannot find it. There may be an option on the website where the customer can tell a Bot exactly what they are looking for and in return, the Bot finds the product instantly. Similarly, when we are in our local supermarket if there is a particular product we cannot find all we have to do is ask one of the shop assistants to guide us to the product or help us find an alternative. This superpower technology is allowing companies to replace their customer service representatives. Chatbots are usually integrated on messaging products such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and on companies’ websites.

Why Use Chatbots

Chatbots are becoming more popular because in today’s online world there are now more users on chat apps than on the major social networking apps. Equally, when I was deactivating one of my personal social media sites, I retained the messaging section of the app. According to the State of Chatbots 2018 research, 69% of customers want them. Yet, it is not only the millennials generation who can see the potential with companies offering these additional services but also the baby boomers (percentages - i.e. 66% Millennials vs 58% baby boomers). Also according to Helpshift survey, 49% of customers are using them for customer service.

Chatbots allow us to provide an instant response to customer quires, with the added benefit of providing a 24-hour service. This corresponds to the fundamental shift in how consumers are moving to on-demand or real-time services, for example - Now TV and Netflix. Chatbots allow marketers to provide more attention and interaction with their customers leading to improved brand loyalty. Unlike human customer service agents who may not respond straight away, chatbots normally reply instantaneously. According to research carried out by people who have to wait even just 5 minutes for a reply are likely to go elsewhere. This can lead to a significant decrease in the probabilities that the customer or potential customer will do business with that company. This, of course, is vastly different compared to customers contacting you through email, web form or letter.

The Potential of Chatbots in Marketing

Chatbots have the potential to decrease the time taken to resolve an issue for a customer. For example - imagine that you called a call center to discuss your electricity account and you got through to a newly hired staff member who wasn’t quite sure how to respond to your request. You may be placed on hold for another 10 minutes while the staff member goes off to ask a senior member of staff how to reply or process your request. Likewise, staff members need to remain calm and pleasant for not just one customer but for around 40-80 customers a day. During busy periods the staff members are receiving call after call after call (i.e. if we are waiting for more than 10 minutes on hold before speaking to someone we can only imagine how hard the staff member needs to work) which means they can get extremely stressed out. If staff members are stressed out they may not be able to provide the ideal customer service which can lead to the company losing some of their customers.

Chatbots, on the other hand, have already been pre-programmed to deal with the customer specific request which means they can respond to the customer’s request in the moment without having to ask someone else. Also, it’s not very often you hear of a stressed out chatbot so you can be guaranteed the customer will be provided with the same pleasant experience no matter how busy it gets.

KLM Dutch Airlines, for example, have created their own Bot to help customers book tickets, to help answer their quires and much more. People can access KLM’S BlueBot on Facebook Messenger. There Bot, in particular, was developed due to the high volume of customer requests and to support their own agents. The company has even reported that 1.7 million messages were sent by 500,000 passengers to BlueBot. This just shows how Chatbots are improving not only the customers experience but also how Chatbots can help process volumes of inquiries.

Going Forward

Although chatbots can be significantly cheaper than human representatives, you need to consider where they can add real value to the customer’s experience. According to Skyscanner’s David Low, you should “Try and imagine the impact of the bot – what does it offer the user, how does it improve user experience – is an app or a website still better?”. So, think about what frustrations do the customer has on a daily basis that they need that extra bit of support with, for example - updating reservations details, billing address or shipping information.

Of course, there are lots of different types of Bots that can do many different types of functions, however its best to stick to the one function and do it brilliantly. This means choosing if you want an information or a utility bot. Trying to do too many functions can lead to system overload or there can be a high-cost element involved for example - writing the code, putting the processes in place and what if the Bot gets it wrong.

Overall Chatbots can significantly reduce cost, improve brand loyalty/efficiency when they are developed for a particular purpose and ultimately your customers actually want to use them. They can be a business owners revelation as long as they are used in the correct way and not used as just another communication tool. Don’t manipulate it and merely use chatbots for the sake of it without any clear goal in mind. It can be hard figuring out where to place it within the marketing puzzle. Nevertheless, if we use it the right way through integrating it with our overall marketing strategy it can be the best thing for both customers and the company because “humans will never completely be replaced by bots” (Lee 2016).