When does “will soon” become “now”? If you’re still thinking of Chatbots as a future technology, you may be falling behind. Chatbot development is impacting marketing and sales today. And preparing for the future requires understanding and implementing strategies and techniques today to incorporate this technology.
Chatbots of the past used canned responses and could handle basic interaction. But chatbots moving into the near future will interact with customers in very dynamic and meaningful ways, changing forever how we sell and market. In this article, I’ll explore how chatbot development is transforming the industry as you evaluate if you’re ready for chatbot’s impending invasion.
What Are Chatbots?
Chatbots are an AI (artificial intelligence) technology that allows companies to carry on conversations with customers and leads. This AI software has been developed to mimic human communication and make decisions regarding the interaction with a customer based on a machine-learning algorithm. This technology can utilize various data sets to interact with the customer in a real and meaningful way.
These would include customer data like:
- Purchase history
- Buy triggers
In addition, they incorporate company data like:
- Company goals
- Up-to-date sales & marketing trends
- Available tools
- Company solutions to customer problems
They also have access to:
- Emotional data & triggers to guide interactions
- Applicable data-driven sales & marketing strategies
At their very basic level, they manage entry-level functions like walking a customer through the ordering process. The customer does something, and the chatbot does something to respond. But at a more advanced level, they can guide customers through the entire buying journey — answering any questions and providing data-driven solutions at just the right time.
The ultimate goal of chatbots is that they interact with humans in such a way that people don’t suspect that they’re talking with a bot. We’re not quite there. But we’ve seen significant advancements that demonstrate that we’re moving in that direction.
How Chatbots Are Evolving
Chatbots continue to learn and develop in order to expand their abilities throughout organizations, furthering their impact on everything we do. And thanks to machine learning they’re mostly self-taught. The more that Chatbots interact with people, the smarter they become. Like humans, they learn from their mistakes, figure out what works and apply their new learning to more effectively interact with people. In light of this, the organizations using them today aren’t only improving processes now. They’re training their chatbots in the real world for improved understanding, function, and interaction in the future.
Why Organizations Are Investing in Chatbots
Forrester Research expects a 300% increase in investment in AI technologies like Chatbots. By 2020, they anticipate that organizations who have invested in AI, including chatbot development, will “steal” a $1.2 trillion market share from their less attuned competitors. They foresee a complete transformation in the way we turn data analytics into real world action.
As organizations spend billions on acquiring and better-analyzing data, Chatbots become “human face” — the user interface — with which customers interact with this data. But why Chatbots? Why now? There are four fundamental reasons that chatbot development is disrupting the industry and influencing the future of sales and marketing.
01) You Only Get 7 Seconds to Get Attention
A new study from Microsoft Corp. shows that you have only about 7-8 seconds to get the attention of a customer. Any delay means you’ve likely lost 50% or more of your potential clients. Chatbots can get attention fast and continue to engage the customer to close the deal.
02) Customers Expect Real Time Interaction
Beside that, as a brand, you must gain attention and keep attention. If the customer wants to connect you have to be on the spot. Waiting in a phone queue or for a representative to respond to a chat request is just too long.
As businesses, most of us are not doing so well. In 2017, the Drift marketing team conducted a survey that involved reaching out to more than 430 B2B companies to measure their response times. The results were astonishing: Only 7% of companies responded to queries within 5 minutes. And 55% of companies take up to 5 days. Chatbots can respond instantly closing the gap between ability and expectation. Erik Devaney, Brand Marketer at Drift, says:
“Following up with someone hours after they come to your website is like ignoring a person that came into your store — and then mailing them a postcard hoping that’ll they come back.”
Here is some insight from my SDR team at Coresystems: The chances of connecting with a lead calling within 5 minutes are 100 times higher versus one called in 30 minutes. The odds of qualifying the lead if called within 5 minutes are 20 times higher versus 30 minutes. I agree, the SDR data had to do with phone contact, but it illustrates just how important fast follow-up is.
03) Customers Expect a Flawless Customer Experience
Research shows that customers today expect a flawless experience. Any hiccup can derail a sale. Regardless of how we feel about this “demand for perfection”, it’s quickly becoming the standard. Chatbots — when properly trained (configured) — can help your organization meet this demand.
04) Better Leads Increased Sales
The above three are a bit abstract. To make the case, we have to talk about what really matters in sales and marketing — sales conversion.
Companies using chatbots today — even in their rudimentary form — are seeing a 10% improvement in quality of leads and 40% improvement in sales productivity. With these preliminary results, we can only wonder what chatbot development of the future will hold.
Next, let’s look at specific areas where chatbot development in changing sales and marketing — and how they may be influenced in the future.
How Chatbots Affect Content Marketing / Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is about delivering value to customers first through content. By providing value, you draw customers into your website and brand rather than convincing them to check out your products and services.
Content has allowed us to connect with customers in a more meaningful way. It encourages them to get to know us and trust us as people through our technology:
Inbound marketing and inbound sales is about making a connection with the individual before you try to make a sale. How does chatbot development fit into this scenario?
Chatbots will allow us to further customize the customer experience. As customers enter your site, chatbots can engage them immediately to:
- Demonstrate that you are “here”
- Show that you understand the customer’s needs
- Address customer concerns immediately
- Provide insight
- Foster trust
- Provide suggestions
As chatbots continue to learn, their ability to engage on an individual level will increase. Remember that these chatbots have access to a wealth of data. And they are learning how to gain greater meaning out what human’s say to respond appropriately. With this, the AI technology behind chatbots will be able to customize their message to say exactly the right thing at the right time to the right person to meet sales and marketing objectives. And it’s this kind of customer-focused interaction that endears customers to a brand and makes the sale. Chatbots give a very human voice to content that can transcend marketing materials and connect on a meaningful level.
How Chatbot Development Impacts Facebook Lead Generation in B2B
Chatbots and social media are a match made in heaven for all sales and marketing. But this is especially true in B2B, where decision makers are less likely to be convinced solely through emotion. They want to know how your products or services can help their organization. They want to see in real time how you respond to queries and support them as a buyer. They want to know that you understand their unique needs and can address them. There’s no better start to demonstrate this than through chatbot development and implementation.
As fewer consumers open emails, sales and marketing departments turn to chatbots to get attention, starting conversations with potential customers and then engaging those customers in chat to gather information and influence behavior.
By incorporating chatbot development technologies, you can automate the following activities on Facebook:
- Provide 24/7 customer support
- Generate leads
- Qualify leads
- Learn more about your customers
- Perform transaction
- Increase engagement with your brand
- Promote content
You can implement all of this now to engage your customers. But as we look into how chatbot development will influence the near future, we can foresee these bots further honing their skills.
Your roles in sales and marketing may change dramatically — if it hasn’t already. A lot of the more tedious and repetitive tasks will be automated. You’ll work along side this technology to optimize interactions with your customers, keeping customers connected and engaged through the buyer’s journey and the customer lifetime cycle.
Chatbots Get a Voice
It’s not difficult to envision the world in the near future in which chatbots get a voice. We all understand how important the human voice is. Sometimes you just want to speak to a person. But a voice is more than sound waves. It’s inflection, empathy and a demonstration that you understand the person you’re speaking with. It may be a voice of authority or in some cases a voice of fallibility. It may be a voice of perfect timing to make the customer laugh. The best example I came to know so far is this I heard from a talented Swiss coder. She built a voice chatbot that is handling the holiday requests of a company. It works like this:
The employee is calling the holiday request number.
Chatbot: Hi Sebastian, how can I help you? (The bot knows from my direct number who I am.)
Me: Hi, I would like to take holidays the week after Easter.
Chatbot: That’s a great idea! Give me a second to check it for you … (This makes the interaction very human. The bot doesn’t need a moment to look the availability up. It knows right with the end of my sentence if I can go on vacation or not. However, it gives a feeling of respect.)
Chatbot: (after a little pause) Yes that’s possible, no one else from your team is absent that period. Shall I schedule your holiday?
Me: Yes, please.
Chatbot: Done. Shall I block your calendar as well and prepare an out-of-office message for that time?
Me: That would be great.
Chatbot: It’s set up. I wish you a great rest of the week and enjoy your holidays. (No to chatbot ends the call. Its mission is done.)
As chatbots find their voice and further their ability to connect in these ways, they’ll be able to more intimately relate to customers. This voice will become the voice of your brand.
Sales and marketing have always been about human to human connection. As the AI technology behind the chatbot learns to do this, we may eventually find it difficult to distinguish between human and chatbot.
Preparing for the Future
Preparing for the future means taking steps today. Chatbots are here and currently transforming sales and marketing. In the near future and beyond, this artificial intelligence technology will continue to learn and adapt, changing our roles and the roles of our teams. Chatbot development is getting movement now, and the technology is here to stay. As a forward thinking business leader, if you haven’t already, it’s time to evaluate where you can begin implementing the technology within your own company.
There will be a learning curve as with all technologies. But by getting on board early, you can learn and adapt with the industry to maximize your use of this technology. So ask yourself: How do you see chatbot development influencing sales and marketing soon?