Chatbots: The What, Why and How to Build Your Own for FREE without Coding

What is a Chatbot?

According to Wikipedia, “A chatbot is a computer system that conducts conversation via auditory or textual methods.”  Chatbots are also known as talkbot, chatterbot, bot, IM bot, interactive agent or artificial conversational entity.

Google, Facebook and Microsoft bet big on chatbots in 2016, giving us the indication that tech giants believe in chatbots and this typically means that when they agree, it’s here for all of us to learn.  In fact, a previous blog, Social Media 101 also recommends the use of bots.

While chatbots are intriguing, they must be functional to impact your company in a positive way.  There is nothing worse than a company setting out to improve customer engagement, customer conversion, ease of information flow to find you have devastated customer service or alienated prospects.  Because of this, chatbots have been held to the Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, which tests a machines ability to communicate with humans and sound natural or un-noticeable to humans. Turing’s test only satisfies text communication and not auditory, so the machine only needs to have proper language that its’ human judges think can be human communication; something to think about when building or considering buying chatbot software.

Chatbots bots are very versatile services, and when setup the right way, they can help customers answer questions and fulfill a variety of tasks. Technology can be intimidating, but don’t worry, we will take the pain out of this and make it simple enough for a DIY marketer to learn from your home office.

How they affect your company

Messaging application usage has surpassed that of social media, so chatbots offer a more practical way to reach your audience. They were created to provide a smooth experience, letting customers get answers through the applications they already use the most. Chatbots can be used for many different business objectives.  In addition to the above, chatbots will help you:

  • Lead generation:  Most Chatbots require an email and name to start communicating.  The Chatbot addresses the customer by their name to increase the perceived human behavior.  You now have an opportunity to add this email directly into your CRM where the prospect or customer is annotated for the next communication.
  • Increase conversion rates with aided shopping:  This has been happening with live chat for years, now you can control the messaging with the specific information and branding you want the customer to get based on their inquiry.
  • Increase average order value:  Remind the customer that this product requires batteries and increase satisfaction as well.
  • Reduce returns by ensuring the customer has all the answers they want prior to submitting the order.
  • Increase customer satisfaction through exceptional customer experience:  No waiting on hold, let the customer interact with your brand how they want.  Let fast, simple and easy communication be just that.  Provide documents, product information, phone numbers and tech support right here.
  • Distribute your short-form targeted content with your Chatbot:  Automated messaging can also be unsolicited and a great way to get content that is relevant into your customer and prospects hands.

The above are a few of many reasons companies are using Chatbots today.  They help build an emotional bond with your customer, and because they’re still new, building a chatbot now means a strategic advantage over the competition and who doesn’t want that.

Not only do these human-less bots build an emotional bond, sometimes you are able to control messaging well enough that you keep all interactive communication on-brand and remove human error in transfer of training and execution.

How they work

There are 2 types of chatbots available:

  1. Those that function based on rules.
  2. Those that use artificial intelligence (A.I.).

Chatbots that function based on rules are far more limited than those that work with A.I. because they only respond to specific commands. That’s why they require a good amount of programming in order to be an effective tool. Chatbot tools that are powered by artificial intelligence (A.I.) are more dynamic because they respond to language, and don’t require specific commands. They continue to learn from the conversations they have with people and help fulfill an array of tasks without a large amount of programming.

The challenges of A.I.

Artificial Intelligence gets more and more popular by the day, but it still poses a challenge for marketers. Even though you don’t need to be an expert programmer to build a bot with A.I., you have to make sure it offers working features (including the Turing test) and remains professional at all times.  Also, the more experience with programing AI, the more likely you will be able to integrate rules with AI to get the best of both worlds by incorporating phrases and words into your AI Chatbot thereby branding all interactions with tone and branding opportunities.

Getting ready to build your chatbot

As with any new technology use or software development project, you will want to select your objective and build towards that with specific goals you want to attain. Rather than a kitchen sink bot, you will want to perfect one small task to improve that tactic in your overall marketing and customer service strategy.

A couple measurement goals and options can be found here:

Goal:  Increase customer satisfaction by 10%.  Measurement:  Take baseline customer service satisfaction survey prior to implementation, via email, facebook, website and phone as well as any other method you will be utilizing the chatbot for.  Continue to offer the same survey after interactions and continue to use feedback to improve bot.

Goal:  Increase conversion rate by 15%.  Measurement:  Conversion rate today and continue to measure each week and optimize with detailed analysis of interaction with bot and website click stream data.

Use an example above or referencing the benefits of chatbots above, you may want to start there with selecting one simple objective.  Start there to test and optimize the bot based on your own interactions.

How to build your chatbot

There are many base platforms out there that make it simple enough for DIY marketers and non-technical ninjas to manipulate, test and optimize.  The below chatbot platforms are good places to start:

DEXTER:  If you can write, you can make a bot, according to Dexter.  And it’s absolutely FREE to create and play. Fees only apply once your user base grows.  Once you have 1,000 users, it is $20/month.  Check out Dexter now>

Hubspot:  Hubspot recently purchase Motion.AI and will be integrating the chatbot solution into the 2018 CRM offerings.  Sign up for FREE and you will have access to create your own bot.  Fees apply once you hit a certain audience threshold.   Check out Hubspot’s news now>

Chatfuel:  This is a very popular bot by large brands like British Airways, MTV, Adidas and Volkswagen.  But don’t let that intimidate you as this is a very simple interface that is made for point-and-click ease of use.  This is also FREE until you hit 100,000 communications in a month and then you must inquire on pricing.  Check out Chatfuel now>

SMOOCH:  This application works as an API between your different chat locations, such as Facebook, website, Instagram, Zoho, chat support, etc. and feeds them all into one interface.  Look into Smooch now>

Flow XO:  This chatbot is entirely FREE to start as well.  This chatbot also is point-and-click ease of use for the digital marketer’s ease of development.  Pricing is $19/month once you reach 15,000 comunications.  See what Flow XO can do now>

Developing your first chatbot in this early stage of adoption sets your brand apart as a digital leader and gives you time to perfect the chatbot prior to mainstream adoption.  Remember to keep it simple and build on clean, well thought out objectives and the goals you will measure your bot on.

Let us know which platform you used to build your chatbot, what your goal was and how it worked.  We would love to check it out!

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