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Chatbots in the digital marketplace are rapidly becoming business as usual. Across the globe and the web, small and large businesses alike are looking to chatbots to interface with an increasingly digital-friendly market, and the technology behind these helpful bots is meeting the demand.

In my previous SAP Community article, I discussed how bots will drive the future of workplace efficiency. Understandably, there were several commenters who asserted that bots can be more of a pain point for a company than a helpful tool, which is certainly true when their execution is subpar.

This is why I decided to write a follow-up post that offers tips on how fellow community members can create bots that don't "suck." In my work as an editor in the AI/ bots space, I've had the opportunity to review the successes and failures of large companies that have integrated chatbot technologies. I'm hoping the following takeaways will help business owners gain a better understanding of how to properly execute chatbot technologies to increase efficiency without irritating customers.

If your company depends on customer service, these tips can help you integrate chatbot technology into your user experience without risking your brand image.

Avoiding a Failed Chatbot

When chatbots fail, they can do so catastrophically. Customers can become frustrated, associating your brand image with cold, robotic indifference. Chatbot technology is invaluable for increasing efficiency in customer service, but the chance of a negative customer experience makes careful implementation essential to chatbot success.

Chatbots utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning can also reduce the chance of a negative experience. An AI-powered chatbot “learns” over time based on previous conversations, continually improving how well it can engage with customer inquiries and making the bot less likely to drive your customers away.

Even now, AI-powered chatbots are quickly transitioning to the small-business market. By 2020, Oracle predicts that 80% of brands will be using chatbots—36% of brands are already. These tips can help you integrate a chatbot into your user experience without damaging your brand’s voice and image.

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is an essential part of integrating a chatbot. Before even considering a chatbot, you need to ask yourself how this mode of engagement suits your brand’s sales strategy.

Start by covering the basics. Knowing who your bot will be interacting with and how that audience might expect to use it can help you narrow in on specific chatbot design choices, such as voice and tone. If you guarantee your brand has a clear voice and tone before building a chatbot, you’ll have less to decide on when creating your bot, speeding up the process.

If your chatbot is likely to encounter sensitive information, also consider what safeguards you’ll need to protect your customers. You can train an employee to handle sensitive information, but you will have to make sure these safeguards are programmed into your chatbot.

Finally, when specifying your audience, determine if a chatbot is the ideal interface for your customers. Chatbots are ideal for several applications, including answering common or repetitive questions, delivering product suggestions, and gathering relevant customer data and information.

Tip #2: Find the Right Chatbot Platform

Numerous platforms and services bring chatbot technology to businesses without the need for an expert web developer. These companies make chatbot technologies user friendly even for small businesses, which helps you build the perfect bot to suit your company’s needs.

AI-friendly chatbots are new to the market, but many companies are already making rule-based chatbots obsolete. Companies like Chatfuel, Flow XO, and Beep Boop are innovating in a new niche called conversational commerce, where customers engage in conversation with an AI or bot to find and purchase products and services.

Determine which platform is best for your business by comparing their available tools and services against your businesses’ needs, your short- and long-term marketing strategies, and your development strategies. Mobile-friendly platforms are essential for chatbots as more and more consumers use smartphones and other mobile devices.

Tip #3: Don’t Disguise Your Chatbot

It might seem tempting to disguise your AI-powered chatbot as a human representative, but this strategy will likely backfire. In a survey conducted by IBM, 75% of respondents indicated that they wanted to know when they’re talking to a robot. Human conversation is riddled with nuance and subtlety; even the best AI’s will likely be identified by customers, and disguised bots can come across as unsettling.

Transparency and clarity are critical to building trust. Let your customers know up front that they’ll be interfacing with a chatbot, and be clear about what the chatbot is useful for. If your bot will handle any personal or sensitive information, be exceptionally clear about how this information will be used or stored.

Tip #4: Keep Communication Lines Open

Nothing will turn potential customers away as quickly as failed communication. This necessity for better communication is a major driver behind the adoption of chatbot technologies; with 24/7 customer service and instant response times, chatbots can help your company connect to customers faster and more consistently.

You can help improve customer satisfaction with a few simple steps:

  • Make sure all your phone numbers, email accounts, and social media accounts are fully functioning, and monitor them regularly.

  • Provide an easy path to human contact for customers who don’t prefer talking with a chatbot.

  • Match your chatbot to your site’s overall user interface and data speed. The average internet speed in the US is about 12 Mbps, which provides a good target for maximizing functionality.

Start Chatting

Automating a large part of your customer service interface can save time, money, and human resources while providing your customers with the convenience of instant contact and assistance at any time. Chatbots require careful, deliberate design and management, but a good chatbot is worth the effort.
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