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Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Chatbots Are Here.

Lost in Space (a television show from an earlier time) gave us a vision of what the future was going to look like. For them, that future was 1997.  They may have been off on our technological advancements but they gave us one of the most memorable robots in cinematic history, and his name was "Robot". Surprisingly enough, Robot mimicked human behavior pretty accurately. He laughed, experienced sadness, made jokes and even found true friendship in Will Robinson. In today's world, the core purpose of a chatbot is to interact with 

humans by acting like they are one. Who knows? Maybe Robot was the inspiration for the chatbots of today.

Many of today's real robots still have a similar feel to the automation in the show, but in the digital world, the bots you can't see are the ones that have the most significant impact on your life and will transform the way we do business.

What exactly is a chatbot?

In its infancy, it was merely a program that automated various tasks. The history of chatbots dates back to the 1960's, but the future of chatbots is what we are concerned with; moreover, what they are doing today and how that can help you.

Modern chatbots are widely primitive but largely represent a friendly, albeit quirky digital human. However, these A.I.s (artificial intelligence) will continue to learn at exponential rates until they are probably smarter than us! Can anyone say Skynet?

The Future Of Chatbots

If you want more history on chatbots, read this Wikipedia article. Here are some other examples of bots you already familiar with, but who would have thought Barbie made this list?

 Chatroom Simulated People (a malicious type)
 Hello Barbie
 Alexa & Siri
 Facebook Messenger Marketing Apps
 Used Internally: Requesting Sick Leave

You can see how chatbots are already part of our everyday lives, but what about business applications for your organization?

Chatbots will change the future of business, and the future is now.

This isn't the dot-com boom, or when everyone started building one-solution apps; chatbots are intuitive, human-like programs that will make business more accessible and create a better experience for your customers. If you can provide a helpful, memorable experience for your customers, they appreciate that you are making their lives easier, which ultimately encourages them to do business with you.

Useful note: without getting too heady, chatbots could entirely kill the app market (but that's just speculation at this point). Some current thinking believes messenger and bots will completely eradicate email (this won't happen). However, the more this tech evolves, the less we will need to search for solutions to help us; like apps. The solutions will be provided for us automatically. Side note: if you are thinking about investing in an app, you may want to hold off for a bit and see how this plays out.

 

Starting w/ the stats.

80% of businesses, when surveyed, said they want to have an active chatbot by 2020*. In 2016, we saw about 5% of companies using some version of a chatbot. 2017 is on pace for about 35%. In less than four years almost every business will be using some version of a bot. Think about it this way; it took social media about eleven years to completely infiltrate our lives. Now, in two-thirds less time, the majority of businesses are expected to employ this human-like program as part of their everyday business routine.

Is this speculation or a fad for the next greatest thing? That's yet to be determined; however, there is a considerable percentage of the population who prefer to communicate online. Most of us almost always choose email or text over a phone call. Plus, the rise of messaging popularity is skyrocketing both in marketing and everyday use. How long will it be before the majority of people prefer to get their questions answered by a robot over a human? Ask millennials what they prefer? Generation Z will likely prefer even more tech, and they represent a bigger population than millennials or baby boomers.

How do they work? How could they help? Why do you need them?

Let's begin with how they can help. Let me ask you- what's the one challenge for all business owners? Not enough time! Chatbots will save you time, increase your sales, create a better customer experience and amplify your marketing.

How do they work? A big thanks to Octane AI for this simple explainer video.

If the video doesn't clear things, up here's a 101 of how chatbots work behind the scenes.

    1. A user contacts your business via an interface, i.e., website, messenger...
    2.  
    3. Your chatbot receives the inquiry, analyzes and generates the best response 
      • Teach your AI/chatbot what and how it should be responding to the inquiry. You can build a digital Rolodex of canned responses.
        • If "x" happens then "y" is delivered.
        • It ascertains what your user wants through predicted inquiries. What is the user's intent?
    4. The user interacts, and the processrepeats until an answer is found or a salesperson is notified,

You begin by teaching your bot what to expect; efficient bots will start to learn and act intuitively. This learned intuition makes all the difference. The bot can provide valuable data that will help you construct better ways to help. 

For example, if someone is asking for a specific answer and you predicted their preferred response was "y" but the bot learned it was actually "z" it could automatically anticipate what your customer wants through their behavioral responses.

This can get much more complicated, but this is an accurate 101 explanation for our current purposes. If you want to learn more about the "how" feel free to email me anytime.

Why do you need them?

If you want to grow your business, better serve your customers and be seen as an industry leader then chatbots can help. 

The technology and benefits of chatbots are already proven and will be a crucial component of the future of business. It would behoove any business leader to at least explore whether they will provide value for their industry or not.

So, are chatbots worth the time and investment? Will chatbots help the bottom line? One word- absolutely! 

Chatbots will increase sales!

We have all heard the adage, which if you respond to your customers within 5 minutes, your chance of earning their business goes up dramatically (21x faster than a 30-minute reply actually*). 55% of companies surveyed didn't respond in over 5 days. Talk about a no-brainer fix, chatbots or not.

But how many businesses or salespeople can realistically get to every inquiry that comes in within 5 minutes? Chatbots are your answer. At very least they can answer simple questions, or send the inquiry to the appropriate person in your organization. Newsflash, your teams are likely responding to a great deal of these same questions each day, when you build those questions into the chatbot you provide everyone with a great solution. 

Your chatbots also collect valuable lead data during their conversations. With the right parameters built in, they can simultaneously notify your sales team with an exceptionally qualified lead while continuing the conversation with the lead. 

Chatbots will supercharge your marketing department.

With the right chatbots, marketers, for example, can learn invaluable information in seconds with processes that typically could take people hours. Ever wonder what your competitors were spending on PPC (pay-per-click)? Ask the right chatbot and you can have an answer almost immediately. Traditionally you would have to look through several different third-party websites and begin to document data. Not all third parties are equal though. Marketers will have to still have verify their sources.

When chatbots interact with your visitors, they can be programmed to help qualify prospects, gain detailed information and even expedite the sale through the questions they ask. Check out this example from Airbnb. 

AirBnB Chatbots

 

Chatbots could have likely made this sale for Airbnb! 

Build the right chatbot.

There are many examples of how amazing chatbots are in this article, but if there's one takeaway it's this- build a chatbot that provides the most benefit to your customers and your business. By continuing to ask how the chatbot can help will help you determine which one to build. Some of the most chatbots answer these types of questions.

I want to...

 book a room
 check my balance
 reserve a table
 find a gift
 find an answer to "x"

For now, keep it simple. Building a chatbot that serves multiple complex processes can get expensive and cumbersome. The AI in chatbots isn't advanced enough yet where there's a one solution fits all or if it is available it's significantly expensive. Whether you own a big or small business, you can start with simple applications that provide simple solutions that will show you a return on your investment. Plus, as chatbots evolve you will grow with them and better implement them for your business. 

How do I build a chatbot?

Step one is to determine what is the purpose of your chatbot. Once you know you will be able to narrow down your options. Some of the chatbot leading builders are IBM Watson, Microsoft Bot Framework, Api.ai, Chatfuel, Pandorabots and Motion AI. Since we are huge fans of HubSpot, it's important to note HubSpot just acquired Motion AI. The simple fact that Motion AI will be incorporated into HubSpot's suite of sales and marketing tools provides immense value.

Now that you know a few options take some time to explore the different options. There is an investment to these tools but it is nominal for most startups to small to medium businesses. IBM Watson which is used by 61% of companies currently charges $.0025 to $.0089 per API query (as of Oct. 2016). The amount of time you will save alone should balance out this investment and well beyond.

Finally, building a chatbot can be complicated. Some options are easier than others. It might make sense to reach out to a company who works with chatbots regularly. If you need assistance on a few validated sources. Please send me an email and I can give you some options. 

*Business statistic of chatbots. Business Insider.   *Inc. Sujan Patel referencing Erik Devaney, as reported to Chatbots Magazine.

  

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