While you can keep some aspects of Chatbot management in-house, using external experts with experience of creating integrated chatbot/IVR/AI systems will give you better results, a more user-friendly system, and greater overall savings. So how can a specialist help you overcome your chatbot challenges? Here’s a quick breakdown.
Cost is going to be your #1 challenge, especially if you’re trying to sell the idea of a chatbot to the Board of Directors. Regardless of the business benefits of integrating a chatbot into your current business model, there is still the matter of who pays for it.
You may be considering building a chatbot yourself using free software. Not only will this result in an inferior product, the hidden costs will soon pile up, too. If you’re looking for more info as to why a free chatbot really isn’t free at all, you can check out our piece on why free chatbots will cost you more than you bargained for.
Fortunately, professionally built chatbots aren’t as expensive as you may think. Particularly when you start crunching the numbers and do a cost-savings analysis. At Inform, bespoke Chatbot builds begin at around £10,000, including usage.
When you consider the fact that Self-Serve solutions can save hundreds of thousands annually (see our Edinburgh Council Case Study), that initial investment looks like a bit of a bargain.
So, in most cases, the problem is not that Chatbots are unaffordable, but that you have to sell the business case for the technology to your superiors. To help you out, we’ve compiled a bundle of key stats and figures that will help you make the case for investment in a Chatbot.
A chatbot needs to have robust security from day one. Users have come to expect certain security protocols such as HTTPS and HTTP metadata (Transport Level Authentication) attached to any internet channel that makes use of their personal data. Anything less than a secure site and users will flat-out refuse to use your chatbot.
- Ensure that security measures are in place, such as End-to-End Encryption, Two Factor Authentication, Biometric Authentication, and Authentication Timeouts.
- Conduct thorough testing of your Chatbot by running Penetration Tests and API Security Tests.
- Keep up to date with the latest developments in chatbot cybersecurity.
While the above measures are all relatively simple and can be conducted by anyone with a small amount of cybersecurity knowledge. The two most effective means of securing your technology require a considerable amount of chatbot-specific experience and expertise.
- A well-designed Chatbot that offers an excellent User Experience (UX). While there are many security-specific technologies you can adopt to protect your chatbot, it’s first and best line of defence is good design. An experienced chatbot designer will know what questions it should ask and how and be able to securely transmit and store data.
- Advanced AI – AI and behavioural analytics are playing an increasingly important role in cybersecurity applications. However, this type of defence requires specialist expertise.
You need a chatbot that moves past the ‘gimmick’ tag many tech devices suffer from and actually offers your users something they’ll want to interact with – be it voice-activated or text-based. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘almost human’ – users would rather interact with a chatbot that delivers high-quality, relevant responses than one that’s overly friendly.
There are five key elements to getting people to use a bot:
- It needs to be useful
- It needs to be relatable
- It needs to be accurate
- It needs to be trustworthy
- It needs to be likeable
We’ve taken an in-depth look at these factors here.
The fact that you can choose between two different types of chatbots gives you a bargaining chip when you’re trying to convince other parties within your organisation that a chatbot is a smart, workable channel through which you can connect with your customers. While they may not be ready to take the leap and develop a VA chatbot just yet, reluctant parties may be more inclined to entertain the idea of a text-based chatbot instead, especially if you already have a strong digital footprint.
- Are more suitable for static use – if your user base needs a ‘go-to’ point or wants to integrate other IoT (Internet of Things) technology such as a home hub
- Have a greater ‘personality’ quota and are cross-generational in their appeal
- Are more expensive to develop and maintain
- Are ideal for mobile devices and information-specific responses such as online banking or financial information
- Utilise devices that your users are already familiar with (smartphones and tablets)
- Are cheaper to develop and maintain
There’s no point delivering an engaging, technologically advanced chatbot – if it doesn’t actually do anything! Your chatbot needs to have a USP to make it attractive to users, and top of the list is a chatbot that makes their lives easier in some way. That could be supplying them with instant access to personal data, giving them useful information that enriches their experience (or even makes their day better) or helping them in their work.
- Think carefully about who will be using your chatbot, and what they want
- Does it have a USP?
- How is it better than other chatbots?
- Decide if you need a chatbot with specific features tailor-made to your target audience.
The technical challenges of developing a chatbot can be easily overcome by experienced designers, but you still need to ensure that your chatbot has someone to talk to once it’s out there. To do this, you have to understand your audience.
- Get in contact with a Chatbot specialist and request information as to how Chatbots are deployed in your particular industry.
- Talk to Chatbot developers about whether they have any case studies that would provide insight into how your particular customer-base has reacted to Chatbot deployment in the past.
- Carry out some demographic analytics of your current audience (especially if they are using other digital channels to interact with your business or organisation) through a quick questionnaire, online survey, or email marketing campaign.
The technical aspects of building a chatbot will depend on what type of chatbot you want to develop. A purely text-based bot will be much easier to develop than a voice-activated version.
For any platform, there has to be a set process that the chatbot goes through, so it’s important to develop an ‘intelligent’ platform that:
- Finds out the goal of the user by asking a series of questions and responding to the answers in a coherent manner
- Collects relevant user information
- Processes the data and uses its analysis to respond to the user’s goal
- Stores the information in a database so that if the same query arises again, it can use the information to form a more accurate response (known as machine learning).
Building chatbots that integrate within a digital system (especially if it’s an integrated system that uses both online portals and IVR telephony) is a task that requires a considerable amount of expertise.
By far the best option is to work with a specialist to create a bespoke system specially adapted to your business. While there are platforms that allow you to build generic bots, they lack the nuance of tailored designs, are unlikely to provide your customers with a satisfactory experience and will be difficult to integrate into your wider channel shift strategy.
Integrating chatbots into your existing digital channels should be fairly straightforward, especially if both you and your customers are already familiar with instant messaging protocol.
Networking a chatbot to other parts of your set-up is a matter of embedding links to online content, ensuring there are no protocol conflicts between channels, and that there’s a clear route map to take users to the chatbot and back again.
To fully reap the benefits of your Chatbot, it helps to integrate it into an omnichannel system that makes full use of IVR, email, mobile sites, and SMS integration. This requires a comprehensive channel switch strategy that experienced customer service technology providers will help you implement.
- Get users to sign up for the chatbot service by signposting them to the service via other channels
- Get your developer to bug-check thoroughly before releasing the chatbot so that there are no coding or protocol conflicts.
- Channel shift users towards the chatbot by using incentives such as priority responses, access to special codes that unlock exclusive deals, etc.
A long-term brand identity is your biggest marketing tool. Whether you’re a business or a public-sector organisation, it’s how people recognise you. Your chatbot needs to complement your brand.
Consequently, you should look for a chatbot specialist that is willing to work closely with you to develop a chatbot that truly represents and respects your unique identity. Whether it’s adapting scripts to meet your specific needs and demands or providing solutions to customer inquiries that are unique to your line of work, your chatbot partners will want to work side-by-side with your team to ensure the chatbot reflects your brand.
- If your brand identity is fun and light-hearted, your chatbot should match that by being friendly, chatty, and personalised
- For a more business-orientated chatbot, refined, professional language is essential (with a complete absence of emojis!)
- VA chatbots – the voice you choose should be a representation of your business, which may determine whether you choose a male or female voice.
While Chatbots are sometimes portrayed as largely self-supporting, there needs to be some tweaking now and again to ensure satisfactory performance.
For many of those who go down the route of building a free chatbot themselves, this is where costs begin to add up.
As we all know, poor service drives potential customers away and ensures that they’re unlikely to ever return. This is a significant danger with poorly designed, free chatbots. To prevent Chatbots damaging their reputations, organisations are forced to expand an employee’s responsibilities to include Chatbot analytics, maintenance, and improvements. This requires either an increase in their salary or for them to step away from their previous role. Both options are expensive.
Instead, we would recommend partnering with a Chatbot specialist that:
- Is communicative and always available. If there are issues with your Chatbot maintenance or you want to make changes to the script, these need to be carried out as soon as possible.
- Provides year-round maintenance services and guarantees the proper functioning of your bot.
- Offers a reporting service that feeds back useful user data to your management team on a regular basis.
Nothing is ever perfect, but by careful management and thoughtful construction at the front end, you can minimise potential problems later on. However, if things do go wrong, you’ll need a contingency plan. Or, better yet, you need to be able to jump on the phone and get your Chatbot provider working day and night on a fix.
- Ensure your IT team are up to date with the programming language and protocols your chatbot uses, and that your developers are on speed-dial!
- Make sure you have robust security measures in place so that a failure is not the result of a hack or virus.
- Take feedback from your users on board – if your chatbot isn’t measuring up then react sooner rather than later to adapt the programming and make it more user-friendly.
One hurdle to the successful integration of digital technologies like chatbots is the idea that people would always rather talk to a human than a machine.
This is a common misconception. In a recent survey by HubSpot, 55% of consumers said they were interested in using a chatbot to interact with a business. Not convinced? Mindbrowser’s 2017 survey found that 95% of users believe the customer service aspect of business will ultimately be enhanced by chatbots.
However, there are always those cases when a chatbot simply cannot fully resolve a query, so ensure that there is always a human being that can take over if necessary.
- Always make sure there’s an option for your user to switch to a human operator.
- Ask your development team to include a ‘back door’ that users can access if the chatbot interaction isn’t working for them.
- Help users feel valued by providing them with vanity codes that can enable them to bypass automated telephony systems and go straight to a human operator.
Chatbots are popular with consumers, with 48% of users in a HubSpot poll saying they would rather interact with a business through a chatbot than any other means of contact. But are all your users having the same experience?
Analytics will tell you how many interactions your chatbot is handling, the average interaction duration and whether you’re suffering a higher-than-average drop-out rate. Most Chatbot providers provide built-in analytics modules and file regular usage reports for those members of your organisation that need them. But direct customer feedback is also very important, so:
- Poll your users and ask them directly how they’re finding their chatbot experience.
- Take on board comments on how the chatbot could be improved, and, just as importantly, what you’re doing right.
- Compare your chatbot channel to other digital contact points to see if there are other, more effective routes you could integrate into the chatbot protocol.
Technology moves at a frighteningly fast pace, so it’s important to avoid the perils of obsolescence by future-proofing your chatbot.
Though integrated A.I. represents the next generation of communications, it may not be the chatbot that hyper-evolves, but the hardware used by customers. If you’ve incorporated machine learning protocols into your chatbot then it should be able to keep pace with external technology advances.
Your Chatbot specialists will also work to update your tech and keep you abreast of developments. However, you can also make sure:
- You employ the very latest generation of Natural Language Processing software and update it regularly
- Ask your developers to plan ahead for new platforms such as next-gen hardware
- Keep a close watch on chatbot development and if your chatbot is on a supported platform, ensure the provider issues regular updates.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 but has since been completely updated so it stays relevant, accurate and valuable to our readers
As we’ve shown, many of the major obstacles facing those who want to integrate a Chatbot into their customer service platform are easily surmountable. This is particularly true if you opt to partner with a Chatbot specialist that understands your needs and is able to design and build a bespoke bot for your organisation.
This is also far more affordable and capable of generating far greater savings than most people expect. Like any digital integration, Chatbot deployment has to be carefully planned and take into account a number of external factors such as your audience demographic, your expectations, your brand identity, the expectations of your users, and your other digital channels. However, done well, chatbots can become the digital ‘face’ of your organisation, and encourage greater electronic interaction through a cost-effective, efficient, and user-friendly channel.