Introduction to Chatbots
27 August 2018
Chatbots are software applications that are built to automatically engage with messages they receive. They are designed to mimic written or spoken human speech for the purposes of simulating a conversation or interaction with a real person. Chatbots can be programmed to respond the same way each time, to respond differently to messages containing certain keywords and even to use machine learning to adapt their responses to fit the situation.
Chatbots can use lots of different mediums to respond to a message – integrating with SMS text messaging, launch a website chat window or use social messaging services across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
There are two primary ways chatbots are offered to visitors: via web-based applications or standalone apps. Today, chatbots are used most commonly in the customer service space, assuming roles traditionally performed by living, breathing human beings such as customer support staff.
Facebook recently released a host of data proving the value of bots for business:
- 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses monthly
- 56% of people would rather message than call customer service
- 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses they can message
Although chat automation isn’t a new idea, the utilisation of chatbots has certainly gained momentum in the last few years. According to data from Google Trends over the last five years, search volume around “chatbots” grew dramatically as individuals and businesses began to realise their value.
Many chatbots rely on machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) in order to simulate how humans communicate. More specifically, intelligent chatbots often rely on machine learning, which is when a computer program can automatically improve with experience, as well as natural language processing (NLP), which is when machine learning is applied to the problem of simulating human-produced text and language.
What do customers want to use a chatbot for?
According to a recent report by Drift: The State of Chatbots it found that people are using online chat to start conversations on business websites for all sorts of different reasons.
And that includes people who work at companies of every size, sector, and nearly every industry, as well as key decision-makers (41% of people starting online chat conversations with businesses are executives).
As you can see form the survey results above individuals are messaging chatbots for many different reasons. However, the key things your customers want from chatbots are:
- To get a quick answer to questions
- To resolve a complaint or problem
- To get a more detailed answer to a query
- Finding a human customer service agent
The data shows that you need to start leveraging chatbots to streamline customer communications, success and sales. However, chatbots aren’t just convenient for your consumers, they’re also great for your park business.
5 Reasons to use Chatbots in your Holiday Park
One way to stay competitive in your park business is to automate some your processes as possible. The value of chatbots come in to their own when you can automate conversations throughout your organization
Here are five key reasons why your park might consider using chatbots.
1. Save Time & Money
By automating conversations that would otherwise require an employee to answer, parks can save time and money that can then be allocated to other efforts.
Instead of having your team spending all of their time answering inbound questions, those individuals can reallocate time to other activities.
2. Generate Booking & Sale Enquiries
Chatbots use direct messages to gather information necessary to provide effective customer support. For example, asking users why they’re visiting your page is one question that is likely asked in every engagement.
Automating this initial interaction allows users to share the information needed for the agent to better serve them without requiring a human to ask for it. For example, this Lodge Sale chatbot qualifies prospects and gathers their email addresses so one of the sales team can follow up.
This chatbot automatically delivers qualified leads to the sales team – meaning they can concentrate on providing a quality follow-up rather than answering the same initial questions over and over again.
3. Guide Users to Better Information
Customers don’t always know where to go to find the information they’re interested in. In fact, your customers may not even know what it is they’re interested in. Maybe they have just heard your park name in passing and decided to explore. By asking a series of qualifying questions, you can route users to the best place for them to find the information they want.
Think through some of the questions to ask that will route your visitor to the best possible solution. These questions vary by business type, but some common questions for your park staff might be:
- Information about a booking
- Details of pricing and availability
- Opening times for the swimming pool, restaurant or other facilities
- How to report a fault or problem
- Details of nearby resources, petrol station, doctors, places to visit
- How to contact an actual member of staff
Here’s an example of an airline flight planner. Imagine booking a plane ticket- all the options, from locations, to travel dates and upgrade options – there are an almost infinite number combinations for purchase.
By personalising the questions the Hipmunk chatbot asks, the chatbot direct customers to the best way to buy and create a better user experience.
This seamless user experience makes the process of planning a trip much easier for both the user and the business.
4. Provide ‘Out of Hours’ Support
As we saw from the Drift data, the most popular use of chatbots is to provide quick answers in an emergency (and at the convenience of the user). If your park doesn’t offer 24-hour support then by using a robust chatbot when your business is closed your park customers can still gain access to the information they need.
This is especially important as consumers expect a quicker response than most brands can guarantee. According to Sprout Social’s Q2 2016 Index, customers communicating with a brand via social expect a response between 0-4 hours. However, brands typically take 10 hours to respond.
Chatbots can help you significantly decrease the average time to respond, bringing you closer to your customers’ expectations.
5. Engage Users in a Unique Way
In most businesses, customer questions are routed via email, telephone, or more recently via social media platforms. These user experiences are fairly standard and non-customised. But chatbots offer a new, fun and interactive way to engage with brands.
Using Chatbots alongside your existing Customer Service Channels
But not all consumers are ready to abandon human-to-human interactions entirely, and some aren’t sure they trust the technology to perform certain tasks without making mistakes. Also, if consumers could only access a chatbot through a specific social network, that could be a deterrent to adoption.
But here’s the thing: As a park business, it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can use chatbots where they make sense (e.g. for providing quick answers to simple questions) and then have your customer service team step in when they’re needed.
What’s more, you don’t have to rely on a specific social network like Facebook in order to provide customers and potential customers with access to a chatbot. These days, you can have chatbots operating directly on your website, and you can make it easy for people to trigger chatbot conversations from any social network.
Online chat is the channel that most consumers expect a real-time response from. However, chatbots came in a close second — higher than face-to-face, telephone, or apps.
And here’s something to consider: As a business, by using online chat in combination with chatbots, you can deliver response times and resolve issues faster than ever before. When your customer service team are online, they can take the lead in responding to incoming chats. But if chat volume gets too high, or if there are no customer service team online at the moment, chatbots can step in to assist so your response times don’t suffer.
These days, consumers expect to be able to find the information they’re looking for online quickly and easily. And when a business can’t provide that type of experience, they become frustrated. Chatbots are poised to ease these frustrations by providing the real-time, on-demand approach that consumers are seeking out.
The top three potential benefits of chatbots that consumers reported in the Drift survey:
- 24-hour service (64%)
- instant responses (55%)
- answers to simple questions (55%)
Like all technologies, chatbots aren’t without their limitations – so here is your opportunity to consider deploying chatbots as a means to supplement your human customer service team (not replace them).
By using chatbots in combination with online chat for instance, your park can deliver a level of real-time service that they’d be unable to achieve using either technology on its own.
And while chatbots can’t replace phone or email when it comes to providing in-depth answers to booking enquiries (some things still require a human touch), they are poised to become an essential part of your customer service offering.
There’s been a lot of hype around chatbots recently, fundamentally chatbots can help bridge the gaps between business communication channels, and help deliver a better, speedier online experience to your park consumers.