Chatbots – What Are They Good for in 2021?

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chatbot uses

I’ve been discussing the pros and cons of chatbots recently in terms of their benefits and how useful they can be to help generate eCommerce sales.

However, the subject does go a lot further than that.

Just how good is Chatbot AI in 2021 and to what degree can you use them to automate your communication with customers?

Is it a cost-effective replacement for humans or are they a poor substitute that should be used for only certain situations?

Can they be used in contexts other than eCommerce?

And what can we expect in the future? Will AI take over the customer service industry in years to come?

All of this, we are going to look into today.

What is a chatbot?

chatbot

First, let’s quickly summarize what a chatbot is.

Essentially, a chatbot is a piece of software that is capable of simulating conversations with human users.

The most basic chatbots are rule-based. They react to common user queries with preprogrammed answers.

More complex chatbots use a degree of AI so that they can use machine learning to build up responses and perform more complex conversations.

Because we have become a society obsessed with chat conducted over messaging services, the chatbot interface works in a very similar way.

What are the Current Best Uses for Chatbots?

chatbot 2

Currently, consumer-based chatbots are best suited to specific customer service requests.

A chatbot can be programmed to take details and help with customer returns for instance or become a conversational version of your FAQ.

In eCommerce, they can be used to help with product recommendations, details on delivery turnaround, and even inventory.

They are affordable enough for both small and large businesses; and work remarkably well due to the high level of availability, reliability, and engagement.

Essentially, they are best suited for routine tasks and commonly asked questions. Recent statistics show that more than 80% of chat sessions can be resolved by chatbots if they adhere to this.

What are Chatbots Not so Good At?

chatbot frustrated

Chatbots are best used in contexts that can deliver direct answers. They are not so good at generalized chatting.

The technology will eventually catch up, however, the AI is not sufficiently competent to understand the nuances of a broad customer conversation.

Chatbots do not easily turn from one topic to another and cannot pick up on conversational subtext, humor, or tone.

For this, human-to-human conversation performs far better.

Specific Roles for Chatbots

chatbot receptionist

Receptionist

Chatbots can make for great receptionists for your website.

To add a level of personalization to your online presence a chatbot can be programmed to welcome new visitors to your site.

A simple hello can be followed by a question on what the visitor might be looking for.

All relevant potential queries are programmed into the AI. The chatbot can then help direct your visitor to the section of the site that they need, quickly and efficiently.

Whatever sector your business is in, this has to be beneficial.

Other queries may require human interaction. Much like a receptionist would normally do, the chatbot can redirect the visitor to a human most suited to take the query.

They could also take the name and details of the visitor and forward them to relevant personnel for a response when possible.

Whatever the outcome, your visitor experiences a superior user experience and general engagement will be increased.

Retail Assistants

chatbot (1)

This use for chatbots is one that I am most interested in (and have talked about before).

In the context of eCommerce, chatbots can really help to alleviate your visitor’s online experience by acting as a retail assistant.

Essentially, the chatbot can be an interactive version of your eCommerce FAQ and answer all the returns and delivery policy questions, product features, and other retail-related queries, all on autopilot.

This instant approach will help turn potential customers into purchasing, repeat customers.

Account Clerks & Administration

chatbot administration

Believe it or not, Chatbots and AI can be used to take care of simple administrative tasks as well as basic accounts.

Let’s say a visitor has queries about a delivery on an item they have ordered, or payment issues, invoicing or billing dates, etc.

A Chatbot can take the user’s details and can automatically look into the database to check their account and assist with all of this.

Password resets, security checks, and contact detail updates can be conducted too.

For administrative tasks such as this, it doesn’t make sense to pay human operators in 2021.

(So much so, it is said that Chatbots could save businesses worldwide over $8 billion per year by 2022.)

Sales Staff

chatbot sales

I would argue that chatbots do not make good sales staff as yet, but their time will come.

The main disadvantage at the moment is what I mentioned before. Chatbots cannot detect the nuances of human interaction in terms of mood and tone.

A good human salesperson does this in order to interact with empathy and generate a positive outcome (in terms of a sale that makes the customer happy).

However, chatbots can work well when giving product recommendations. They can be programmed to start conversations based on what a user is browsing.

The chatbot can then lead the customer to products that are on sale, latest releases, or have the best features in the product category being looked at.

As I have mentioned, they can also be used as an interactive search tool. If the customer has a product in mind, they can type the name into the chatbot message area and the AI will check inventory, see if it’s available and recommend a close match if not.

All of this can be done without your visitor becoming frustrated as they navigate the site in vain.

How to get Started with Chatbots in 2021

chatbot 2021

Before you decide to implement chatbots on your website you should carefully consider in what capacity it could best be used.

How can you use a chatbot to streamline your service? How can it provide a superior user experience?

Speak to your staff to see where a chatbot might assist them in the roles. If you are a solo operator, to what level can the AI help you?

Once you have ascertained this, check out some of the popular chatbot services (LiveChat, Jivechat being two I have tested lately), to see if they provide the features you need at the right price.

There is no getting away with the fact that chatbots are the future of assistance online. Getting ahead of the curve now will only be a benefit to your business.

About V50

The editorial team here at Vault50.com is made up of a number of writers based all over the world. Our interests and experience cover the full range of what we talk about here. Clare Turner is one of our key contributers writing about the home. David Lachance is our resident e-commerce and business guru, if it's anything to do with that, he's your man. Kevin Simpson takes care of the website layout and publishing and also heads up our education section, with in-depth reviews and articles on courses and training. Find out more about all of us here.

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