Chatbots have become a popular marketing tool, and that popularity is growing as younger consumers use them more and more. It can be an excellent customer service tool and way of automating basic business tasks easily, so you can forge better connections with your target audience in less time.

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are chat robots, similar to the autoresponders used in email marketing. Marketers set up replies to typical customer service questions and upload them to the bot. The bot then responds to texts or digital chat, basically carrying on an automatic conversation with potential customers and customers.

The bots are built around two sophisticated technologies that have been making great advances in the past couple of years, natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). These allow chatbots to have more effective conversational and informational capabilities than ever before.

How Do Chatbots Work?

Chatbots can be programmed in a couple of different ways. The basic way is rules-based, such as you would use in a touch-tone automated customer service phone system. Imagine you are calling up your cable/internet service to get tech support. Common rules would be, “press 1 for TV technical support,” “press 2 for internet,” and so on. Based on these rules, you would be drilling down and down until you were finally matched with the help you require. This is commonly known as a decision tree process.

Hopefully, your problem would be resolved to your satisfaction. You might never even connect with a real human during this process, which can potentially save a lot of workers’ hours, and/or free them up to deal with particularly tricky cases that automation just won’t take care of.

The Language of Intent

Natural language processing is also used in customer service phone services. It can be rather frustrating at times, however, if the system does not understand what you are saying or picks up background noise and does not work efficiently. In this case, keywords such as “TV” or “internet” are programmed to be predictive – that is, tell the system what needs to be fixed.

With chatbots, the system will usually be more efficient because customers are typing in text, not speaking. The only trouble might come with poor spelling, but chatbots can be programmed for common misspellings as well.

The Role of AI

The role of artificial intelligence in a good customer service system is to “learn.” The more interactions it has, the more predictive it can be. In terms of customer service, this can lead to happy customers having their frequently asked questions answered in real time. In terms of marketing, this can help move along the sale of a product for the same reason.

Why Start Using Chatbots?

Many people are pressed for time and don’t want to wait for an email reply. In many cases, they also don’t want to wait for a reply on social media. Younger shoppers in particular want to feel that companies care and that they have a relationship with them. Chatbots are just another channel of communication to help connect with your target audience.

Best of all, however, is that they are automated. They will take time to plan and set up, but the time and cost savings can be well worth it.

Start off simply with a program like Facebook Messenger and see how your audience responds to your new initiative. You should soon have happier customers and more time on your hands.

What on Earth Is a Chatbot?
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