With much of the business world now pretty much now gone virtual, business across America are trying to find new ways to reach out to both prospects and existing customers. Apart from the usual Email blasts and other forms of digital marketing, the use of virtual assistants is now becoming a popular norm. For the most part, we have all seen this, it is that tiny window that is lurking at the lower right part of the merchant’s website.
With this, you can engage in an instant dialogue with a customer service rep (CSR) on a real-time basis, and get your questions answered, as well as resolve any issues and/or concerns that you might have. But dedicating an entire staff to this is an expense to the bottom line of any business, so thus there is now a movement to use what is known as “chatbots”.
What Is the Difference Between a Chatbot & A Virtual Assistant?
One of the first questions that you may be asking at this point is what is the difference between the two? Well, as just mentioned, normally there is a human being on the other end to respond to your needs.
But with a chatbot, this is more of a server-based technology in which there is really no human involvement; but rather, it makes use of what is known as Artificial Intelligence or AI. With this, the chatbot becomes much more intelligent and is able to answer your queries in a reasonably customizes way, as if you were interacting with an actual person.
How Artificial Intelligence Is Used With a Chatbot
It is important to keep in mind that with a chatbot, you can interact with it one of two ways, and possibly even both:
- Text chats;
- Voice commands.
In order to accommodate both of these scenarios, chatbots make use of the concepts of both Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). The former is actually a subset of AI, and this is what is used to create rather intelligent answers and responses to your queries as you engage in a conversation with it.
One of the key advantages of using Machine Learning in this aspect is that it can literally learn about you as you keep engaging with it over a period of time.
For example, it builds a profile of you and keeps track of all of your conversations so that it can pull it up in a matter of a few seconds for subsequent chat sessions. So later on, down the road, it can even anticipate the questions that you may ask of it so that it can provide the best answer possible to suit your needs.
By doing it this way, you never have to keep typing in the same information over and over again.
NLP is also yet another subbranch of AI, and this is the tool that is primarily used if you engage in an actual, vocal conversation with a chatbot. It can easily replicate various human speech patterns in order to produce a realistic tone of voice when it responds back to you. Whether you are engaging in either or both of these kinds of communication methods, it is important to note that chatbots are getting very sophisticated on an almost daily basis.
The primary reason for this is that it uses a combination of a very sophisticated, statistical-based algorithms; high-level modeling techniques; as well as the concepts of data mining. Because of this, the chatbot can now interact with you on a very proactive basis with you, rather than you having to take the lead in the conversations, thus making it flow almost seamlessly.
As a result of using both AI and NLP, chatbots are now finding their way to be used in a myriad of different types of applications, some of which include the following:
- Merchant websites that make use of an online store;
- Mobile apps that can be used on your Android or iOS device;
- Messaging platforms;
- Market research when it comes to new product and service launches;
- Lead generation;
- Brand awareness;
- Other types of E-Commerce scenarios;
- Customer service (this is probably the biggest use of it yet);
- Healthcare (especially when it comes to booking appointments with your doctor);
- Content delivery.
The Strategic Advantages of Artificial Intelligence In Chatbots
As one can infer, there are a plethora of advantages of using this kind of approach for your business. Some of these include the following:
You have a 24 X 7 X 365 sales rep
As mentioned earlier, there is no need for human involvement if you have an AI-driven chatbot. Therefore, you have an agent that can work at all times of time day and night, that can help sell your products and services on a real-time basis. In other words, it will never get tired and will always be eager to serve!!!
It cuts down on expenses
By using a chatbot, you may not even have to hire a complete, full-time customer service staff. Thus, you will be able to save on your bottom line by not having to pay salaries and benefits. But keep in mind, you should never use a chatbot as a total replacement for your customer service team. At some point in time, you will need some of them around in order to help resolve complex issues or questions if the chatbot cannot do it.
Let us face it, in our society, we want to have everything right now and right here. We have no patience when we have to even wait for a few minutes to talk to a customer support rep on the other line. But by using a chatbot, this wait is cut down to just a matter of a fraction of a second, thus, this results in a much happier customer, resulting in more repeat business.
Better customer retention
When you are able to deliver much-needed answers or solutions to desperate customers and prospects, there is a much higher chance that you will be able to keep them for the long term. This is where the chatbot comes into play. Remember, you may have a strong brand, but that will soon dissipate quickly if you are unable to fill needs in just a matter of minutes.
You can reach international borders
In today’s E-Commerce world, there are no international boundaries. A customer or a prospect is one that can purchase your products and services from any geographic location where they may be at. If you tried to do this with the traditional customer service rep model, not only with this be an expensive proposition, but they have to be trained in other languages as well. Also, the annoyance factor can set in quite rapidly if the customer rep cannot speak the desired language in a consistent tone and format. But the AI-driven chatbot alleviates all of these problems because they come with foreign language processing functionalities already built into them.
It can help triage cases
If your business is large enough where you need to have a dedicated call center to fully support it, the chances are that your customer service reps are being bombarded with phone calls, and having a hard time keeping up with them. If you deploy a chatbot here, you can use that to help resolve many of the simpler to more advanced issues and queries. But if something is much more advanced that a chatbot cannot resolve it, it also has the functionality to route that conversation to the appropriate rep that can handle it. In other words, the chatbot can also triage conversations with customers and prospects if the need ever arises.
The following matrix depicts the advantages of using an AI-driven chatbot versus using the traditional virtual assistant:
AI driven Chatbot
FAQs easily answered
Can understand sophisticated questions
Can create a customized and personable response
It can learn more about you from previous conversations
It can greatly improve future conversations with you