Chatbots may seem like the new kid on the block, but they really aren't. The first chatbot was a simulation of natural language conversation created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. Since then, chatbots have come to be used as an assistant or personal user interface with various functions and features. They can provide information, answer questions, and solve problems for customers on the fly. So it's no wonder that chatbots are becoming more and more popular.
There are many great examples of successful chatbot companies like Microsoft and Facebook. They use them to help make their customer service more efficient.
So really, chatbots are a dream come true for any business owner on so many levels. This is exciting! Unfortunately, although the opinion of business owners regarding chatbots counts, what's even more important is the opinion of those that keep businesses running: Customers.
Chatbots are undeniably great, but do they immediately win over customers? In short, NO.
What's The Problem?
When chatbots were first introduced to the world, a lot of people rejected them. As humans, we are all creatures of habit. Although something may obviously be useful, we may decide against using it solely because we're uncomfortable and can make do without it.
The same concept applies regarding the use of chatbots. The warmth of positive human interaction is something we are built to appreciate. Nothing can replace a good conversation with a real person when making a purchase or requesting information. Chatbots are built to reduce human interaction. And let's face it, no one looks forward to talking to what they perceive as an emotionless robot. Yes, you and I know that chatbots are not robots. But that IS how many people perceive them. Does this mean that all is lost, and using chatbots means you have to settle for something that makes customers unhappy? Fortunately, this is not the case.
The Key to Making Chatbots Work
For customers, visiting your website is not only about completing a purchase and moving on with their lives. It's also about the entire experience of being on your website. We all understand that nothing can ever replace human interaction. The key is simply changing how your customers perceive your chatbot from the get-go. Only then will they be able to fully appreciate the speed and efficiency of using chatbots. This can only be achieved by making your chatbots as appealing as possible.
How can you accomplish this?
How to Make your Chatbots More Appealing to Customers
Well, since humans like interacting with humans, make your chatbots humans! That's impossible. But chatbots can be highly appealing to customers if you at least give them a human face. Although this idea may strike you as weird, let's remember that it's how your customers PERCEIVE your chatbots that count. You don't need to please yourself to generate conversions. You need to please your customers. A human face immediately affects perception. Hey, if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck, right? Wrong, but that's how perception works.
Give your Chatbots a Personality
No matter how gorgeous a person is, a dull personality does not make for upbuilding conversation. Although chatbots can do so much more, they are called CHAT-bots for a reason. SO although you want the way your chatbots look to appeal to your prospects from the get-go, what your chatbots say has to be right on the money. And this doesn't just apply to how well-spoken your chatbots are. To appeal to humans, chatbots need an appealing personality. Yes, you must give this computer program character. There's no way around it. The personality of your chatbot is defined by its conversational tone and structure. Chatbots should sound like real people. They should easily connect with users through light humor, sarcasm, etc.
This may already seem like a lot to do with making a computer program human-like. But there's still more.
Another Human Characteristic Chatbots Need to Have
Prospects will not expect your chatbots to actually take their feelings into consideration. They may perceive them as robots anyways. But, hey, we're trying to change that here. So what's the next human characteristic chatbots should have? Empathy. While your chatbot is not an automated therapist, customers need to feel understood and cared for. Your chatbots need to identify with what customers are feeling or what may be bothering them. Chatbots can do that by paying attention to words and phrases customers use frequently. If a customer expresses displeasure, it will be plain as day. Your chatbots should pick up on this and react accordingly. A simple “I'm sorry” or “I will work on this immediately.”Your customers will then have an immediate sense of being understood.
Another way chatbots can show empathy is by asking for feedback. Although a huge benefit here is that you can make adjustments based on what people say to your chatbots, asking for feedback can be perceived as showing personal interest. This is pleasing to everyone. Satisfied prospects can build you up with their feedback. This is awesome. But, more importantly, chatbots “caring” about dissatisfied prospects' opinions can prevent a good thrashing of your reputation. Let's hope your website never frustrates anyone to the point of them throwing a tantrum online about it. However, suppose a customer is genuinely dissatisfied about something. In that case, your chatbots can give them the opportunity to vent without running your reputation through the mud.
How to Make Your Chatbots Interactive
Have you ever felt like you have to squeeze words out of someone, and the conversation is just awkward and uncomfortable? If it's unbearable with a human, it won't be any more bearable with chatbots. Of course, you don't want your chatbots to be overly chatty, either. BUT, your chatbots should stimulate conversations. The point of chatbots is not having casual conversations with users. But to get the ball rolling, you can have your chatbots say something like, “What's for dinner today, take-out or home-cooked?”
Your chatbots can remind users that they are there to help. Depending on how long the average user spends on your website, you can program your bot to say things like:
“If you run into any problems, I'm here to help. Ask away!”
“I've noticed you've bought this product. Did your purchase go smoothly?”
“If navigating our website is a pain, you let me know, and I'll handle it!”
In a Nutshell
Altering perception is no easy feat. It's not impossible, though. You may not be able to please every single person. But if you have studied your audience as you should have a long time ago, you can craft your chatbots to suit their preferences. If you invest time in doing so, your customers may actually view your chatbots as friends. That probably sounds insane. But again, that is how perception works!