The Efficacy of Chat Tech: Are Chatbots the Future, or Are They Overhyped?

Chat Bubbles

“Should I implement a chatbot for my business?”

This question is something that many, many business owners are asking right now, across all different industries. As chatbots continue to grow in popularity and function, questions like this one are only going to become more common. Are chatbots a good idea? Can they deliver the boosts for efficiency, customer service, satisfaction, and conversion that chat tech proponents believe they can? Or are they an overhyped technology—something that lots of businesses are going to invest money on now and ditch within two or three years when the next big technology comes along?

On the one hand, there is statistical data out there to suggest that chatbots aren’t catching on quite as quickly as you might have thought. A 2018 study conducted by Salesforce, Drift, and myclever found that only 15 percent of survey respondents had engaged with a company’s chatbot at any point in the preceding 12 months. Fifteen percent isn’t nothing. However, it still put chatbots behind phone, email, online IM chats with human representatives, company mobile apps, and social media as a means for customers to communicate with brands.

On the other hand, most experts expect chatbots—and automated technologies in general—to multiply in the coming years. Gartner, for instance, predicted in 2011 that a full 85 percent of customer-brand interactions would be managed “without interacting with a human by 2020.” Now that 2020 is only a year away, it’s looking like Gartner’s prediction may have been a tad optimistic. However, Gartner was certainly on the right track: chatbots started taking off big time around 2015 and 2016, and will almost undoubtedly hit a new peak this year. One survey indicated that 95 percent of content managers were planning to adopt chatbots by 2019. Those content management professionals hailed from organizations around the globe, spanning all different industries. To put it simply, Gartner’s prediction could prove to be accurate after all.

There are a lot of reasons that companies are adopting chatbots. Perhaps the most common is the “customer service” chatbot—a bot that exists to answer questions and assist customers with inquiries at all hours of the day. The very best bots, though, have the power to deliver much more substantial benefits than just taking the strain off the shoulders of human customer service representatives.

For instance, some of the best chatbots right now are the ones programmed on the Facebook Messenger platform. Far more than just answering basic questions, these bots can educate prospective customers about a company’s services, collect data about a prospect’s once and needs, qualify prospects as leads, and move those prospects through the conversion funnel.

One example might be a Messenger bot for a law firm. The firm might set up the law firm to educate prospective clients on the services they offer, or to introduce the prospect to the lawyers who would be handling their matter. Bots can highlight specific services, show testimonials, or provide other crucial information that a customer might need to decide whether to hire a law firm. The ultimate goal of the bot would be to convert the prospect into a client. It could perform this function by keeping track of key insights, such as how the person came to the bot in the first place, or what services they researched. This information, along with other factors, can be used by the bot to qualify each lead and work toward getting high-potential prospects to share contact information and schedule appointments. Ultimately, the bot would feed into human interaction with someone from the lawyer’s office. That human representative would already know a lot about the client and the services he or she was looking for, just from intelligence gathered by the bot.

A similar concept could play out in any number of other industries. Auto dealers use Messenger Marketing of this ilk to educate customers about car trade-in opportunities. Coaches or motivational speakers use it to encourage prospects to sign up for webinars or one-on-one coaching. The possibilities for this type of sophisticated chatbot are very nearly endless.

There are still barriers, of course. In the aforementioned Salesforce/Drift/myclever survey, 43 percent of respondents expressed a preference for working with human assistants rather than chatbots. However, there is already evidence to suggest that this kind of viewpoint will shift over time. For one thing, more and more Americans are embracing digital assistant software, from Apple’s Siri to Google Home to Amazon’s Alexa. That market is expected to be worth $12 billion and have some 1.6 billion users by 2020. As more people become comfortable with these technologies, interacting with chatbots will feel more and more natural. For another thing, 67 percent of customers expect to interact with more chatbots in the next two years. The consumer population, it seems, understands that a shift is coming.

Ultimately, the efficacy of chatbots depends on the quality of the bots in question. A basic customer service bot that can only answer a few pre-set questions isn’t going to do much good for consumers or brands. A robust Messenger bot, on the other hand, can streamline early consumer-brand interactions and deliver huge lead generation, qualification, and conversion boosts for companies. Businesses ready to implement chatbots, therefore, should take the time and invest the money to make sure that they are entering the chatbot world with a quality product.

Are you interested in learning more about Messenger Marketing? At On Spot Automations, we have experience in developing this type of chatbot for a range of clients and industries. Hit the “Request Demo” button to see what we can do.