Bizrate Insights· Author
Someone needs to be minding the store
Do you know that feeling you get when you walk into a store and there’s no one behind the counter? What is your usual reaction to this? For me, it makes it more likely I’ll just walk right out. And if I do stick around, I’ll look at some items, look around, and then walk out – leaving no trace of my visit.
Many stores lose customers this way.
And it’s important to note they don’t lose a one-time purchase, they lose a potential relationship with a customer and their family, with a lifetime value much greater than an individual transaction. Along with the ambassador value of that customer – which could lead to more sales.
Someone needs to be minding the store. In the brick-and-mortar world, this probably means hiring a teenager to stand behind the counter. In the ecommerce world, this is best done with a chat widget.
A chat widget typically sits at the bottom right corner of the screen, and expands when the user engages with it. At its most basic level, it connects the customer with a service representative who can answer questions – be it pre-sale, post-sale support, or technical support concerns.
Depending on the volume and audience of the store, the business can have a part-time person, a full-time employee who monitors chat along with their other tasks, or even two or three shifts of customer service reps dedicated to monitoring chat.
These chat representatives can be armed with scripts, with the potential customer question and the recommended response at the ready, so they can swiftly ramp up and competently handle most frequent scenarios. A secondary person can be assigned to handle the most unique scenarios – the ones that have no matching script.
Scaling the conversation
While the approach described above can be extremely effective at capturing leads and moving them down the sales funnel, it has one weakness: it’s hard to scale. As website traffic grows, the chat can easily bottleneck. A user will wait 3 to 5 minutes before disengaging from a chat window. And that user leaves with a negative experience.
The solution is to automate.
Chatbots: What are they, how can you benefit from them?
Many chat widgets that facilitate live conversations driven by a customer service representative also offer automated chat through scripts. These are called ‘chatbots.’ By pre-screening and addressing frequent scenarios, they can significantly free up resources and scale up your funnels – both at pre-sale and for customer service & technical support.
Users frequently have immediate questions, and they’d much rather ask a direct question than scour your website page-by-page, paragraph after paragraph for the specific information they need.
A chatbot can be passive, awaiting user-driven interaction, or can be set up to chime in, inviting the user to engage. Either way, they allow users to get quick answers to questions, learn about your services, and be routed to the correct specific article, link or resource.
Transitioning to Live Chat
Should the bot not be able to address a user’s question, the process would emulate that of the first-tier, script-driven service reps escalating to a more advanced level of support, where a live employee can answer nuanced and/or unique questions.
- Be transparent about a chatbot’s nature
Users appreciate honesty. Any perceived deception can be a huge misstep, and may fracture the tenuous relationship between the prospective customer and your offerings. Let them know this is a chatbot. Call it an automated assistant, or any other friendly term.
- Make the “talk to a live agent” feature sticky and prominent
Some users will flat-out refuse to engage with a bot. Some others will engage, but may get frustrated if their specific question is not met with a quick, specific answer. By making the transition to a live agent easily available, you’ll make friends and gather more leads.
- Load as many scripts as you can think of
A chatbot conversation emulates a real-life interaction, but it’s driven by pre-programmed responses. The more scenarios you can anticipate, the more nuanced and rich content you can pre-program into your chat scripts, the better and richer the user experience.
- Consult your customer service teams
Your marketing and sales teams have a wealth of knowledge as to the presale scenarios that can come up, their frequency, nuance and complexity. Survey these teams to gather all this information and create your chatbot scripts. Do the same with your tech support team. Catalog the use-cases by frequency and urgency. Depending on the chatbot’s features, you can even use this process to grade the lead or tech support request with degrees of lead-warmth or issue urgency.
How to choose a chatbot
There are dozens of viable providers of chatbots, offering different features, specializations and pricing tiers. Look for a chatbot that meets your needs based on the channels you use most, the maturity of your ecommerce store, your traffic volume, sales volume and available resources. If you’re a Shopify store, integration with Shopify will be a vital feature. If you have very active social channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. social integration will be key.
You might choose to wade into the chatbot pool carefully by installing a bot with no long term commitment and a low price point, evaluating the results after one or two quarters, then upgrading as you see fit.
Below you’ll find some chatbot providers, as well as our rating of their various features based on our best knowledge of these. Reach out to these companies and ascertain which one is right for you.