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Chatbots Invasive or Imperative

Becky Gillard, 27/09/17

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, one of the most exciting developments for ecommerce businesses has been the growth of chatbots in the online world. If you’re familiar with the online world, then the chances are that you have come into contact with a chatbot. The perfect and most simple example of a chatbot can be found in your smartphone and goes by the name of Siri.

A chatbot is a computer program which mimics a conversation by using artificial intelligence. For ecommerce businesses, this presents the exciting opportunity to add another dimension of customer service to your website, engaging with customers through a chat format. For example, Uber have partnered with Facebook to offer a chatbot service, meaning you can message Uber on facebook and ask for a taxi. There are obviously a range of benefits for utilising chatbot technology. However, are chatbots invasive or imperative in the online world?

The initial argument for chatbots is that they can help you to offer an element of exquisite customer service, allowing your customers to chat with a ‘bot’ at any time, answering FAQs and providing the appearance of an exquisite level of customer service, without a business having to actually supply the manpower to be ever present in response to queries.

Chatbots also provide an exceptional means of gathering information about your customer. By asking important questions at the beginning of the chat, the chatbot can then automatically personalise its service, offering a high-quality and impressive level of customer satisfaction.

By utilising a chatbot, you can gain invaluable insights about your customers, understanding their frustrations, any common questions or areas of confusion expressed by your visitors or indeed any positive elements which are highlighted to the chatbot. You can develop your website and online strategy to reflect and complement these insights, consequently improving your website performance.

Chatbots can also help you to build a quality database of leads if you use them to collect email addresses for your customers. This can act as a useful tool for building a subscriber base for email marketing campaigns or promotional purposes and lead generation.

However, chatbots can appear invasive to some. Particularly after gaining personal insights from customers and highlighting just how much information has been collected about them, which of course could be off-putting.

Not only this, but of course a chatbot is a substitute for a human response, meaning there are naturally roadblocks in customer service. Whilst you might programme a chatbot with sufficient information to answer queries, something as simple as complex phrasing could jeopardise the service provided.

Chatbots are relatively new to the digital landscape, and as such, there is a lot of scape for things to go wrong. The technology isn’t quite fully autonomous, which presents the opportunity for error, and consequently a bad customer service experience – exactly the opposite reason for employing them in the first place.

In summary, as the development of the technology behind chatbots and automated customer service tools grows, so does their potential for ecommerce businesses. Utilising them could help you to cater for your customers seamlessly, however, it is important to clearly state when a chatbot is in use, offering transparency and honesty so as not to alienate and frustrate your customers.