You don’t need to run a Fortune 500 company to take advantage of artificially intelligent chatbots. Small business owners can now easily access the power of artificial intelligence and the responsiveness of instant messaging to grow their business and improve operations.
This article outlines the six key ways that small business owners are using chatbots today:
1. Sales and marketing: capturing and qualifying sales leads
When a visitor lands on your website, it’s like they are walking into your store, except there may not always be an employee around to answer inquiries. For a business with an online presence, engagement and immediate feedback are essential to a successful sales and marketing strategy.
Since your website is running 24/7, you need to be able to accept inquiries from web visitors 24/7. The solution most businesses resort to is a Contact Us form. Unfortunately, Marketo found that these forms exhibit far lower conversion rates than chat, and too often they send the inquiry details to the wrong person, at the wrong time.
Chatbots not only give your web visitors the satisfaction of an immediate response, but they can also hand off the lead to the right member of your team, instantaneously.
Craig Cares utilizes a chatbot on their website to capture and qualify leads, even after business hours:
The chatbot interacts with web visitors using custom responses, then intuitively escalates conversations, collecting information from visitors, and qualifying leads.
2. Customer support: answering standard FAQs
Answering a question or two is easy the first time, but when the same question keeps coming up again and again, it can get tedious fast.
Customer support can easily become a rabbit hole, so don’t get caught up spending time, again and again, to answer frequently asked questions. The more time you spend answering questions, the less time you spend following up on new leads.
Instead, a chatbot can be programmed to answer frequently asked questions and save you time. Because it’s on your website, it also saves visitors’ time—they no longer need to contact you to get their questions answered. The result is a win-win: more satisfied web visitors with less time spent.
3. Payments: accepting payments in a conversation format
Like a retail associate asking you to sign the payment box or slide your credit card, a chatbot can act as a customer service agent and guide a prospect through the purchasing process. With more and more users and business interacting online, social media networks have developed direct instant messaging payment methods, instead of sending customers to a third party external page to process payments.
Facebook Messenger’s over 30,000 business-partnered chatbots accept payments in conversation format, asking what type of payment method a visitor would like to choose and even confirming the billing address.
The customizable nature of chatbots has allowed companies to creatively optimize payment features. For example, PayPal ingeniously teamed up with Slack, a business instant messaging app, to create a chatbot that accepts peer-to-peer payments:
4. Appointment booking: accepting appointment bookings via conversation
Let’s be real, nobody likes to waste time, and nothing wastes time like having to fill out a web form to request an appointment booking, waiting for a response, and then to book an appointment.
So many hoops to jump through. Why not get straight to the point?
At Sephora (yes, they’re not exactly a small business), customers don’t even have to pick up the phone to book makeup consultations. They can schedule one at their local store through Sephora’s Facebook messenger chatbot:
The real-time nature of chatbots empowers visitors to book an appointment right away instead of waiting around for a response or shopping around for a faster alternative.
Chatbots can use your team’s availability schedule and book appointments in real-time at prospects’ convenience.
5. Customer feedback: getting feedback from customers
Customer feedback is important for any business looking for insight on how to improve their tactics. Yet, face-to-face conversations can be difficult for a lot of people when it comes to giving (and receiving) feedback.
Chatbots give customers a channel for constructive criticism, or compliments, without having to directly face a person.
This is less intimidating for customers and gives you the opportunity to view your business from their perspective.
6. Hiring: engaging candidates and asking prescreening questions
While prospective clients may be the majority of your web visitors, prospective employees shouldn’t be ignored.
As a growing business, you might be the owner and the HR manager, and you might be stretching yourself thin between prospective clients and prospective employees.
Let your chatbot be your HR manager. You can create a custom script that asks candidates questions, collects their information, and screens them for you. The convenience of receiving a list of pre-screened candidates is unparalleled as a busy small business owner.
We’re still in the early innings of the AI chatbot wave, but it’s already changing the way consumers interact with small businesses.
While web visitors are tired of seeing another web form and groan at the prospect of having to fill another one out, chatbots offer an engaging alternative. Chatbots are conversationalists and are much more convincing. They eliminate nearly all barriers to contact form submission, respond immediately and are customizable for a more personalized customer journey.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, consider implementing a chatbot soon.
Jeff Cole is the co-founder of ChatPath, a smart messaging platform that combines artificial and human intelligence to help businesses generate more qualified leads and accelerate sales.