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Would a Chatbot Be Right for Your Small Business?

If you are a small business owner, then you are probably strapped for time. You want to respond to every customer's question and need, but you just don't have time – especially for those frequently asked questions! Because of this, some business owners and professionals are turning to chatbots.

A live chat screen on a smartphone, with a message asking how can I help.

What Is a Chatbot, and How Does It Work?

A chatbot is not AI – it is a programmed response system. When you set up a chatbot, you enter the questions you expect to get with spelling and grammar variations. Then, you create a script that the bot uses to get to the desired outcome.

With conversational marketing techniques, you are more likely to get the outcome you want. There are several reasons a chatbot might be employed:

  • Keeping visitors informed and engaged as quickly as possible–a visitor won't have to search for an answer to a commonly asked question.
  • Increasing bookings or consultations–the chatbot may have a goal of getting a client or customer scheduled to talk with a live agent or company rep.
  • Connecting visitors with relevant resources–if you have a robust blog, the chatbot could answer questions while pointing to more in-depth articles to support the visitor.
  • Encouraging sales or purchases–the script may gently start building trust and connection, leading toward a soft sales push when the bot has gathered certain information.
  • Expanding contact lists–asking for basic information can help build up a company lead database that includes plenty of information to effectively segment lists and target customers.

The Benefits of Chatbots

You may benefit from a chatbot if many of your visitors reach out and ask repetitive or basic questions. You can't stay by your computer 24-7, but today's customer demands a quick response.

A chatbot may help you meet customer expectations. One recent study found that more than half of all companies (62%) were not responding to customer emails. Chatbots are always on and always ready to answer in a moment's notice.

When set up correctly, a chatbot can be a great marketing tool to help the customer navigate the site and save time. And, if you keep the chatbot logs, you may be able to learn some really insightful things about your target audience and visitors.

Chatbot pros and cons go hand in hand. While a chatbot will help you respond faster, it may be very limited in what it can really answer. While it can be a great time-saver, it does take quite a bit of time and insight to get it set up.

The Risks of Chatbots

Some chatbots are obnoxious. If you've ever visited a site only to have a chatbot pop up and ding every time you change the page, then you already know how annoying it can be. Chatbots might also try to force you to perform an action, like provide contact information just to ask your question. When it's not done correctly, the chatbot can be awkward and unhelpful.

If your visitors mistake your chatbot for a live chat agent, they may get frustrated at the seemingly canned responses. It can really help to be upfront and introduce the bot as a helpful tool so they don't have expectations of live customer service.

Know Your Audience

It's important to understand your audience if you are considering a chatbot. You have to know what terms they will be using and how they will feel about a bot.

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