A chatbot is a piece of computer software developed for the purpose of conducting a conversation in a natural language with human users. Chatbots vary in complexity from simple programs that work like “choose your own adventure” books, to sophisticated systems driven by AI under the hood.
There are two basic approaches to creating a chatbot. One of them is to program them from scratch in a language such as Python, possibly in conjunction with a bot development framework such as the Microsoft Bot Framework. The other is to use one of the many available bot creation platforms, such as Botpress or Botsify, which will put limitations on what you can accomplish in exchange for greater development speed and convenience.
Chatbots are commonly hosted on websites or served through an instant messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger. Chatbots are frequently used for providing customer service, and they are getting better at it with each successive year. With that being said, not every business benefits equally from having a chatbot on their website or messaging channel. To find out more about what are some of the pros and cons to setting up a chatbot for your site, check out our guide in the rest of this post.
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Where Chatbots Excel
They Can Offer Large-Scale Customer Service
The primary advantage customer service chatbots have over their human counterparts is scalability. This is due to the fact that a single chatbot can be instantiated as many times as necessary as it takes to serve an arbitrarily large number of customers at the same time, provided you have enough server space and power. And once you are done with the initial setup, a chatbot can continue to run indefinitely with proper maintenance, allowing your company to provide 24-hour on-site support. Furthermore, your chatbots can serve customers from across the globe at the same time, which reduces the need for having separate customer service teams for different regions and time-zones. For businesses targeting a global market, chatbots are the perfect solution.
They Incur Low Operating Costs
Training a human service rep can cost your company time and resources better spent elsewhere. Moreover, each new service rep you hire will have to undergo the same process, squeezing your budget further. By contrast, setting up a basic customer service chatbot can cost you practically nothing, especially if you have developers with experience in chatbot tech on your team. Overhead expenses for keeping a chatbot operational are also substantially lower than the equivalent of what you would need to pay a human sales rep. All of the above makes chatbots attractive for small businesses that don’t have a lot of resources to invest in their websites, and related services.
They Can Provide Advanced Personalization
The success of your website hinges on the kind of user experience it provides. And a chatbot can go a long way towards improving your website UX by providing a personalized conversation experience. With customer data, you can set up your chatbot in such a way that it knows the customer better than human sales rep. For instance, a chatbot that has access to a customer’s location data, previous purchases, email replies, and similar kinds of information, would be able to offer exactly the kind of service the customer is looking for as soon as the conversation starts. Even better, a chatbot can do this for every customer in your database, allowing you to provide a personalized experience on a massive scale.
Where Chatbots Falter
They Lack Emotional Intelligence
Chatbots have a lot going for them, but they are far from being the marketing panacea some are proclaiming them to be. One of their major weaknesses is the fact that they are remarkably poor at simulating emotional intelligence. Holding a conversation with a customer means more than just exchanging information — it also involves gauging and providing emotional responses. And it is impossible for a chatbot to distinguish between a customer that is angry, frustrated, or distressed. This severely limits their ability to provide a satisfactory user experience. Even worse, chatbots can often inadvertently annoy customers even further, causing further damage to your company’s reputation.
They Are Unable to Adapt
The second glaring flaw that chatbots have is their inability to improvise. Chatbots are completely limited in their behavior by their programming, and they will find any situation that strays from the norm difficult, if not impossible to handle. This problem is particularly pronounced in lower-grade chatbots, which can often be confused by trivial things such as typos, uncommon vocabulary, or unconventional sentence structures. Where a human service rep could adapt to the situation, a chatbot has little choice but to keep repeating the same questions over and over again. This makes chatbots unreliable for more dynamic online environments.
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They Are Constrained By a Predefined Logic
Another problem that chatbots have arises because chatbots are computer programs, which means that they have to solve problems by going through a number of predefined steps. So for example, in order to determine the nature of a given customer’s query, a chatbot has to go through a number of predefined steps in order to determine what is being asked of it. In contrast, human service reps can use their intuition and experience to immediately figure out what needs to be done, without jumping through unnecessary hoops. In other words, chatbots can be a hassle to use for site visitors that know exactly what they are looking for, and expect a solution to be provided on short notice.
Chatbots have a lot to offer to website owners, but this doesn’t mean they don’t come with their share of drawbacks. Before you consider adding a chatbot to your website, be sure to weigh their pros and cons beforehand, so you can determine with certainty whether they would be a worthwhile investment.
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