ANALYSTS SAY THIS IS THE YEAR CHATBOT TECHNOLOGY
TURNS ACCESSIBLE TO E-COMMERCE STORES BIG AND SMALL.BUT HOW TO MAKE IT GENERATE LEADS AND SALES?!?
Chatbots’ availability could not come at a better time for e-commerce. As Astute Solution mentioned in its consumer-demand trends last year (1), “Concept of ‘normal business hours’ is no longer recognized by customers. Your website is live 24/7, so your customers expect 24/7 service. The customer’s perspective is, ‘If you can take my money 24 hours a day, you should be available to answer my questions, too.”
The technology has gone through a great deal of transformation since scientist Michael “Fuzzy” Mauldin coined the expression “chatterbot” in 1994, long after scientist Joseph Weizenbaum had developed the first one he had named Eliza in the mid-1960s. Today, this variation on artificial intelligence is a familiar feature, its capabilities ranging from basic to the most sophisticated.
While customers may be willing to wait if they make special requests or ask for custom products at an e-commerce store, they want to get answers NOW to basic questions such as product availability or delivery time.
To respond while one’s office is closed, an e-commerce may set up a chatbot with answers based on customers’ most frequent inquiries.
If a customer’s question cannot be answered, the chatbot can invite him/her to leave contact information — generating a lead in the process — so that customer service can follow up during working hours. And an e-commerce may opt for live chat overseen by its customer service people during working hours.
But whether an e-commerce uses either or both versions of this voice and messaging application, the way that the interactions with customers are handled will become a reflection of that e-commerce store for people visiting the site. Which is why a great deal of attention should be given to the style and wording in which the answers are provided.
As mentioned in a Telus International chat analysis (2), people using chats “are looking for a few key things — namely, make it easy and make it quick…Ensuring customers obtain the information they need without exerting a lot of effort, especially to make a purchase decision, should be a top priority for the chat channel.”
The information must be worded clearly and in an appropriate written language. During a live chat, the Telus analysis stresses, “[t]he agent should use concrete, precise everyday terms and avoid adding unnecessary information. The agent should write using active voice.” The text must be written with proper grammar and spelling to assure clarity and credibility of the information, keeping the use of emoticons and acronyms to a minimum, the report states. “Not all customers understand the meaning of emoticons or acronyms, even the most common ones.”
This said, “FUN IS STILL IMPORTANT,” points out the report on a chatbot survey commissioned by Ubisend last year (2). “Before creating a chatbot, brands need to think about the vocabulary, linguistic personality and persona to make sure it’s right for their audience. Getting this correct may lead to whole new business opportunities across sectors. “Chatbot technology is a great way to delight users while providing a fun tool for answering questions quickly, efficiently and correctly,” the report notes.
Today, using chatbot at e-commerce sites is fast turning into a necessity. In a world in which internet shoppers are into fast browsing and instant decisions, with many of them doing so on their phones while waiting for a bus or taking a short coffee break, an e-commerce immediately responding to their inquiries may make the difference between acquiring a customer or losing one who will leave with a negative impression of “that” site.
“By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse,” wrote Heather Pemberton Levy of Gartner Inc. as she described her research company’s predictions for the future (3). “With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and conversational user interfaces, we are increasingly likely to interact with a bot (and not know it) than ever before. The digital experience has become addictive by entering our lives through smartphones, tablets, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) or the entertainment systems in our homes and cars.”
As Ian Jacobs of Forrester Research, Inc. wrote in his report “Plan Now for Customer Service in 2021” (4), “Customers Already Live in the Future… But many companies are unprepared for a future where customers control the conversation.” Shoppers can access e-commerce sites round-the-clock. So e-commerce people must make sure they take full advantage of their browsing to turn it into leads if not sales.