The hype over chat bots is definitely over. The sudden rush of sudden experts in chatbot marketing has slowed to a trickle. And all because the promise of chatbots simply didn’t deliver the better customer service, better lead generation and better sales figures we were promised.

So many of us threw it all out and just went back to manually handling all our social media enquiries and website messages. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater isn’t wise when there are actually some great uses of automated messaging that can still make a real difference to your workflow.

A more sensible approach than stopping all chatbot activity would be to:

  1. Use automated responses and chatbots for the simple stuff
  2. Always give the customer a way to skip the chat and go to a real person
  3. Move to more of a hybrid approach that uses the best of both worlds

Let’s dig a bit deeper into all that.

Chatbots are great for the simple stuff

Chatbots are great for the simple stuff

Rather than throwing out all your automations like a Luddite smashing a loom in a factory, use chatbots and automated responses for what they’re really good at.

So what are their strengths?

Automated responses in platforms like Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messages & on website chat support plugins are ideal at:

  1. Welcoming and Reassuring – seeing a chat plugin on a website can really reassure a customer that they’ll be able to get answers to their questions, should something come up. That quick welcome message might get shut down more than 80% of the time when someone lands at the home page, but the psychological effect of it is remarkable. I know when I am shopping, knowing that I can chat to someone or something about my enquiry reduces any anxiety I might have about needing to call someone to get something resolved. Facebook, in a recent study, found that over 64% of us prefer to message for help than call for help. And that number waws across all age groups, not just the famously socially anxious Generation Z.
  2. FAQ – opening hours, pricing, location and all those most frequently asked questions are ideal for chatbots and automated responders in social platforms and websites. That’s because the answers don’t often change, and the questions often represent 80% of the things that people are asking.  This also lends itself to bookings that can be done online. Recently I installed a series of basic autoresponders on a Facebook page for a bar that wanted to take online bookings so that they wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the phone, Messenger of Email to take bookings. They started using a table booking system and then let Facebook Messenger lead people to it. In its first week of operation, it reduced the time spent on taking bookings manually by 90%.
Give your customer a chance to talk to a real person

Give the customer a choice to get to a real person

This is customer service 101 stuff. You might hate talking to customers. You might not want to spend time answering their questions. Then get out of business, because it’s always going to be about people – or at least outsource the customer service to another real person.

The vast majority of your customers will be ok with getting the most common things answered via a chatbot. In fact, they’ll love it. But there is always a small number of people who either don’t cope with chatbots or won’t interact with them under any circumstances.

To be across both types of customers you need to offer the option to chat with someone real if your customer wants it. But be clear, that if they must ask a question of someone real, that they also then must also do so in the times when you offer live chat support. If that’s in 12 hours, then so be it. You may want to consider giving live chat support to someone else to handle for you though, as today’s shopping is done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Consider a hybrid chatbot approach

The best of of both worlds

The reality for small business is that there is no black and white answer to whether or not to use chatbots. The easiest way forward will be a hybrid approach that takes the best of what chatbots do well and the best of what people do well.

Perhaps offering chatbots to handle the frequently asked and simple questions that have very defined and consistent answers could be your first move forward into a more balanced way of using chatbots. The simple tools in your Facebook page inbox are a good start. The external tools like ManyChat, ActiveChat, etc are a bit more advanced and may not be necessary at all.

Try to provide enough to make the easy answers able to be delivered without you, and then supplement the bots with real human answers when the questions get a little stickier. The you’re using the best of both worlds.

Using people alone is too slow and expensive. Using chatbots alone is complicated to setup and will annoy a big enough percentage of your customers that the complaints will be rolling in before too long.

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Dante St James is the founder of  Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Treeti Business Consulting, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.