1. What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that simulates a conversation through text or voice chat on popular messaging services. Chatbots enable customers to engage with businesses one-to-one and can be developed to have abilities such as product discovery, e-commerce and customer service.

2. Where have chatbots come from?

The rise of chatbots originated in Asia where messaging app ecosystems are 18 months ahead of where we are in the west. In China as much as 50% of all online purchases are driven through messaging platforms like WeChat. With over 3 billion people using platforms like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, more European and US based businesses will follow the likes of Dominos and Transferwise into launching chatbots.

3. Why have they suddenly become popular?

Chatbots have become popular because customers like the fact they can interact with brands in the same space that they talk to their friends. Mary Meeker the internet trend guru states that millennials prefer and expect to interact with brands through messaging, as there is no need to create an account and nothing to login to. The big benefit for business is a quicker, more frictionless service combined with easier and more immediate customer data capture.

4. Why do I need a chatbot to talk to customers if I already have an app?

Messaging apps consistently dominate app store downloads and users spend the majority of their time using just a handful of apps. That makes it extremely tough for your own brand app to compete for attention on smartphone homescreens. This coupled with app store fatigue is a growing headache for brand owners who are forced to increase spend to chase an ever diminishing number of new app downloads. Having a chatbot strategy in light of these trends is a prudent move, even if you still believe your app has legs in your customer experience journey today.

5. How does SmartChat work?

SmartChat is different because it has been built specifically with messaging platforms in mind. It can easily plug into your existing data sources to elegantly surface your content for messaging ecosystems, be they a brand asset bank, pricing feed or booking system. The benefit for customers is the brand conversation can then look and feel much more like the ones they are used to having with their friends.

6. Is the idea that chatbots will replace online chat services or even call centres in the long term?

No, SmartChat has been designed to complement online human chat services and acts as a first contact with consumers. That should mean the end of long waiting times as customer queries get dealt with quicker and smarter. Why? Because SmartChat can identify who the customer is and what problem they have faster than a typical human interaction. If SmartChat can’t quickly resolve the query it seamlessly escalates it to human chat. And because the customer care team can review the prior message thread, they save time on things like issue on-boarding and security verification, resulting in a smarter, faster service for the customer and the business.

7. My customer care team are highly trained to be great ambassadors for the brand, won’t a chatbot be poor a relation to this?

The great thing about chatbots is that they can be copywritten to have exactly the right tone of voice for your brand. Once the scripts are imported no further training is necessary, and you don’t need to worry about a lack of consistency between call centre staff. Every customer interaction will be communicated just the way you want it to be. The benefit for customers is that every time they interact with you they will feel a sense of familiarity as the conversation is an extension of your brands existing voice.

8. Can a chatbot save my customer support team time?

Adding SmartChat interface into your customer service journey will make your customer service teams more efficient at dealing with queries. Firstly because fewer calls will get through to humans as they get resolved before they are routed to the team. Secondly because customers won’t experience the frustration of explaining what they have already tried to fix their issue, because the support team can review the interactions the bot has already had with the customer.

9. Does it take a long time to set up a chatbot?

This depends on the level and richness of interaction you want the chatbot to deal with. The more complex the interaction required, the more data fields the chatbot needs to link with to solve the customer problem or up sell other goods and services. But because Smartchat has been built specifically with messaging platforms in mind we can deliver bespoke chatbots within as little of a month from brief.

10. How do my customers discover a chatbot once it is live?

Much like your strategy you use to drive app downloads, you can raise awareness of your chatbot in a similar way. You can promote your chatbot through a digital ad, a link on your website or through the messaging platform itself. And because your chatbot operates on top of a rich communications channel, you can grow user engagement exponentially as customers share their chatbot experience with their messaging contacts.

11. Give me an example of a simple chatbot idea that has real customer benefit attached to it?

Chatbots that are focused on doing one job really well and for a particular requirement will become the first movers. They will deliver great customer experiences with less noise and fewer distractions. Take a flower business on the 13th February. They can advertise their chatbot rather than an app and not only is there is no download required, a customer can buy their Valentine flowers with a few simple taps on a chatbot there and then. This isn’t just a good idea by the way, it's actually happening right now.

12. I have not heard yet of a must have chatbot out there, so why shouldn’t I keep all my budget in programatic and mobile digital advertising?

The current storm around effectiveness of programatic advertising raises two important issues. How many people have really seen your advertising compared with what is claimed, and how many of those who have seen it are really potential customers? The heart of this problem relates to cookies themselves and the limitations of the data you can extract from them to build effective digital strategies. Unlike cookies chatbots communicate with real consumers one-to-one and gather customer data and insight as they go. The more interactions consumers have, the more you learn and the more likely you are to prompt purchase behaviour. Remember cookies can’t have conversations!