So you thought Siri was cool and revolutionary? Well, get a load of the next gen of artificial intelligence — chatbots. Maybe you’ve heard of chatbots — and maybe you haven’t. But you’ll soon be hearing alot more. Chatbots are primed for the center stage as Facebook and now Google are getting into the game.
These interactive apps, which respond to texts and questions like a human being, are being used more and more by businesses to serve customers. From handling basic food orders to answering detailed service requests, businesses are finding that chatbots offer benefits to customers and the bottom line alike.
Chatbots can provide 24/7 customer service, save money by allocating staff to address more in-depth customer needs, and allow consumers to engage with brands because they want to and not just because the company is pursuing them. If you’re considering adding chatbots to serve your customers — whether in stores, online or in call centers — here’s what you need to know about these tools, how they work, and how consumers feel about them.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence tools used by online retailers, social media sites and other businesses to converse with customers — just like a flesh and blood representative. Through a text-based interface, chatbots respond to questions, make suggestions and address problems — some of them even have personalities and make jokes. Just ask Siri what 0 divided 0…
Chatbots work by recognizing phrases in customer inquiries, then matching them against a library of logical responses — responding just as a human would. For instance, a customer says, “I’d like to order beef tacos.” The chatbot says, “Would you like guacamole with your beef tacos?”
For consumers, this artificial intelligence might be unnerving, but for businesses, it’s opening up a whole new way of interacting with customers. From taking orders to answering customer questions to making recommendations for future purchases, chatbots are quickly being infused into the mainstream. As these programs become more sophisticated, they will likely take on even more tasks now handled by live representatives, saving companies money and streamlining online service.
Getting Comfortable with Chatbots
Sounds great, right? But not everyone is happy about the explosion of chatbots. A recent survey from ORC International’s CARAVAN® found that about 78 percent of people who have an opinion about chatbot technology say they feel less favorable about brands that use these tools. That’s likely because chatbots are so new that people haven’t had a chance to get used to them, and partly because early versions didn’t work as well as the newer ones do.
However, there are some demographic groups warming up to chatbots. Millennials are more comfortable with chatbots than any other generation, with 27 percent feeling good about using them. Men like chatbots more than women, and Hispanics and African Americans view them more positively than Whites.
Not surprisingly, people are more comfortable using chatbots for some tasks than others. Nearly two-thirds (61%) wouldn’t mind using a chatbot at a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru, but less than a quarter want to rely on them for insurance (23%), banking (21%) or medical (19%) services. Comfort levels rise dramatically, though, as people get more familiar with chatbots.
The Chatbot Advantage
And why not? Anyone who’s ever spent hours navigating an automated telephone system or trying to get a live customer service representative on the line can recognize the advantage of chatbots. They’re available all the time and can handle routine inquiries without delay. And for businesses, they can save money by replacing live operators with technology.
If your customers don’t recognize the benefits of chatbots yet, it’s likely they will as they become more used to them. Our survey showed that a quarter of respondents felt they would get better customer service from a chatbot than a human; of the people who knew what a chatbot was, that number rose to nearly half (47%).
Over a third (35%) were confident they would get at least the same level of accuracy from a chatbot as they would a human being; over half (55%) of respondents who were most familiar with chatbots agreed.
The bottom line: If you haven’t started thinking about chatbots for your business yet, it may be time to start.
Want to learn more how to strategically maneuver disruptive technologies and innovations like chatbots? Download our whitepaper: Strategic Innovation: Riding the Wave of Disruption.