AI Website Chat Function - Yes or No?
What do fact-finding missions for business services, troubleshooting problems with your washing machine, and booking a holiday have in common? In all three scenarios you're likely to end up interacting with a webchat powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and sometimes by a real human. There are three main types of webchat:
- AI chatbots which can navigate a more naturally conversational style of interaction
- rule-based chatbots which use a flow-chart like system of logic to navigate common enquiries, and
- hybrid chatbots, which combine rule-based systems with human input for those nuanced queries that need human knowledge to solve.
Troubleshooting your washing machine or internet connection is likely to be a job for a rule-based chatbot; there are a number of clearly defined steps that don't change depending on circumstance. It's easy to transpose a workflow of steps to take into a chatbot system and let the machine solve the problem.
An AI chatbot is more likely to be found on a holiday booking site where there are a number of factors that customers will need to cover, such as dates, duration, preferred climate, preferred activities and so on. This is exactly the kind of conversational interaction that AI is perfect for. It's the sort of thing your smart speaker can help you with.
Hybrid chatbots are more likely to apply in a business service fact-finding mission. In the early stages you might just want a PDF of information sent to you, or made available to download from the chat window. There will be times, however, that your enquiry needs to be dealt with by a person, so hybrid chatbots, able to deal with routine enquiries and more bespoke requests, are the answer here.
Chatbots are suitable for pretty much any business. They will be of most benefit to businesses who are spending a lot of time dealing with phone or email requests for information that could easily be automated. You may wonder why you need a chatbot when all the answers can be found on your FAQ pages – people want the convenience of getting the information they need right away without having to use their own time reading a whole page of questions and answers.
AI chatbots can also be useful for building the foundations of a customer-business relationship and for pre-qualifying leads; potential customers may be more willing to hand over their contact details and agree to a sales call when they feel a relationship has already started through the AI chat.
In today's hyper-connected world, chatbots represent another way of customers being able to contact and interact with your business; it's hard to have too many inbound channels because each contact method will appeal to different demographics. Chatbots (and AI generally) are becoming a standard communication channel that actually gives results, where once they were a clunky tool that didn't always answer the question posed. Chatbots (especially the hybrid models) also improve accessibility for people with spoken communication challenges, and allow non-native speakers to use online translation services to interact with your business from anywhere in the world.
Even if you feel your business has no immediate need for a chatbot it is worth being ahead of the curve and considering it as an option for your website. At the most basic level, a chatbot can simply direct visitors to the content they want, to FAQs or as a channel to request a call back from a real human. One day, AI chatbots will replace a good deal of the customer interaction that humans currently carry out and there's no harm in being prepared for that future.
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