By John Rampton
Chatbots are becoming mainstream as both consumers and businesses become more accustomed to the idea of interacting with a machine. With growing acceptance and the focus on automation, customer experience, and enhanced communication, this may be the right time to consider incorporating a chatbot into both your business and marketing. Before jumping in and investing in this technology for your marketing strategy, it is important to understand both the pros and cons of chatbots.
Pros of chatbots
Let’s start with what makes chatbots so attractive and beneficial. As humans, we are good at improving when focused on a goal. We can become smarter, more productive, and increasingly efficient. To a certain point, we can also multitask.
The problem is that we eventually hit a limit. A chatbot doesn’t. They can simultaneously handle every inquiry without hesitation–they are incredibly productive. So, the first advantage is helping a company handle a growing scale of customers and prospects without needing to add more staff. Doing so provides a consistent service experience that customers can rely on to be there when needed.
As chatbots have evolved so have the number of ways they can be used. Historically, chatbots were primarily used for website chat windows and social messaging to:
Offer round-the-clock answers
Resolve issues and complaints
Provide instructions as part of simple tech support
Now, chatbots have expanded into processing bills, making reservations and scheduling appointments, handling purchases, and delivering additional consumer information.
Tied to this benefit is the reduction in labor costs. A company cannot realistically hire human staff members to work on a 24/7 basis let alone handle the costs of such a schedule. However, a chatbot can work at any time, providing answers for customers and prospects in every time zone, at all times. No one is left unattended or waiting for service.
With so much interaction, chatbots have the opportunity to put their machine learning core to work to learn and improve. Think of it as continual training that a human being cannot do because of other responsibilities and tasks. This ongoing learning process delivers new insights into your data and a deeper understanding of your audience, customers, competition, industry, and more.
Overall, this means you will can reach out and interact with customers in new, streamlined ways. In return, the chatbots prove that they gain value to your business over time.
Cons of chatbots
Although there are many positives about using chatbots, cons do exist and must be considered before adopting this technology for your company.
Despite the advancement in chatbot learning and technology capability, these tools are still considered complex and difficult to use. Their responses can still frustrate customers. In trying to improve the user experience, some chatbots have done the opposite, creating issues for companies that must scramble to win back those customers.
Chatbots do learn and eventually improve the customer interaction experience. However, installing chatbots can still be a significant investment. This includes the costs associated with updating the technology or programming the chatbot for another application.
Much of the work may need to be done in a controlled environment so that the chatbot does not inadvertently frustrate customers. Once the chatbot has learned and proven effective, it can be allowed to interact with the company’s real audience. However, this may take considerable time.
Although chatbots are learning, they haven’t yet captured what it means to be human and interact like one. Customers can still sense when they are talking to a chatbot, which can still lead to some frustration. The technology lacks the rapport and emotions that go into human conversations that in this day and age, we all value from time to time.
A way forward with chatbots
To assess these pros and cons in the context of implementing chatbots in your own marketing efforts for the customer journey, the best place to start is testing the technology in a controlled environment. There are many lower-cost user interfaces and tools to customize a chatbot that works for your company and addresses the cons listed above. While chatbots are not yet perfect, their potential and benefits are rapidly growing in terms of applications and return on investment.
Find out more about emerging technologies with “Emerging MarTech: Marketing Wins and Woes.”