The Top 5 Tips for Improving Customer Engagement Through Chatbots (Good Ones)
In 2021, few things are more important in business than customer engagement.
Put simply, customer engagement is the emotional connection between a brand and a customer. Highly engaged customers promote your company (and defend you against detractors), spend more on purchases, demonstrate more loyalty, and keep returning.
One of the most effective ways to both increase and maintain customer engagement is through advanced AI chatbots. The chatbots of today are flipping the script on what it means to converse with AI. While chatbots were clunky, awkward, and a little stupid in the past, today's chatbots are essentially indistinguishable from humans.
With this in mind, let's look at five tips for increasing customer engagement through chatbots.
1. Reducing Friction by Providing Immediate Answers to Customer Queries
Have you ever heard of the 15-second rule? No, not the one where you can eat food after you've dropped it on the floor, provided it's only been down there for less than 15 seconds. (And if you're still living by this rule, please stop!). Instead, the 15-second rule is the theory that you only have 15 seconds to grab a user's attention before you lose them. So if someone clicks onto your website, maybe because they saw an ad or wanted to read an article, you have 15 seconds to convince them to stay.
This rule also applies to visitors who are looking for an answer to a query. For example, suppose a user has just finished reading your blog. The goal of any content on your website should be to add value to your readers. Sometimes value means they learned something new or you deepened their knowledge. Other times it can mean you made them think about a topic differently. And while we're here, here's some free marketing advice - "new information" doesn't always cut it. Your grandma might have piles of diaries full to the brim of information the world has never seen but is it information the world needs to see? Does it add value?
Let's say your content was valuable enough to the reader that they want to find out more about your product. At this point, their brain is starting to compile a list of questions. Can this product solve my needs or the needs of my company? Does it do that thing I need it to do? How expensive is it? Will it still work for me in a year? Next, they start looking around your website for answers.
In 2021, consumers have so many more options than ever before, and competition is fierce.
So, here's the brutal truth: adding value with your content might capture their attention, but it won't keep them around if you can't immediately answer their questions. If you frustrate visitors, they will leave.
Chatbots are uniquely effective in this area, more so than any other tool in your arsenal. A chatbot prevents the user from ever having to leave the page to search for an answer. Instead, it's right on hand to ask the right questions and lead the visitor to the information as quickly as possible. Remember, we live in a world where 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.
Beyond answering general queries about your company and product, chatbots also provide urgent resolutions to pressing issues. For example, suppose a customer only has 5 minutes to get to the bottom of why your software product isn't working as intended. With an advanced chatbot, the customer can ask a question and receive an immediate and detailed answer within a few seconds. And they can do this 24/7.
Advanced chatbots powered by AI and machine learning technology also become more accurate at answering questions over time. For customers, this means reliable and precise answers to any questions, sometimes even complex questions. For businesses, this means they can let the chatbot run with minimal interference.
Chatbots powered by AI, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) reduce friction by:
- Jumping in at the right time, improving your website's usability (and sales).
- Becoming more intelligent and effective over time by fine-tuning through exposure to your customers and business data.
- Answering urgent or critical questions that impact the customer journey.
“When I think back on the pace of scientific advances in 2020, I am stunned. Humans have never made more progress on any disease in a year than the world did on COVID-19 this year.” Bill Gates
2. Streamlining the Customer Journey
Sometimes a visitor to your website is sure, or almost sure, that they want to move to the next stage in the sales journey. Of course, customers don't think of themselves as entities moving through a sales funnel, but nevertheless, they do want to take action to move the process along.
Chatbots are excellent for streamlining the customer journey for one simple reason - the customer experience gap.
In 2021, being customer-centric is paramount. However, while most forward-thinking companies understand the importance of offering personalized experiences and offering exceptional customer experiences, fewer companies are clear on exactly how to do it.
The customer experience gap describes the gap between what customers want and what businesses actually deliver. In other words, sometimes organizations fail to meet customer expectations.
Overcoming this problem is challenging because even with lots of research and customer feedback, human beings are still fallible. That is to say, what seems intuitive to you might not be intuitive to your customers. Business leaders, marketers, and developers are often too close to a project to see it from the outside.
Additionally, when designing a website, you can't adequately account for the preferences of every customer moving through the sales funnel. For example, some customers might only need to read a few pieces of content before they're ready to buy. Others might need to spend months researching your company and absorbing the content on your website. But when you're choosing a CTA, you don't know which customer you're talking to. "Find out more" with a link to FAQs might be ideal for 10% of your potential customer base but annoying for the 20% who've already made a decision and don't want to waste time clicking through multiple pages. By contrast, a CTA telling the customer to "Buy Now" might seem overly direct and pushy to customers that need more time. There are ways to craft your website to make it effective for most customers, but it's almost impossible to create an ideal, personalized experience for every customer.
However, with chatbots, it is possible. A chatbot can nudge the customer onto the next part of the journey in the way that is most helpful to that customer. If the customer wants more information, no problem - the chatbot can do that. It can also use customer behavior data, customer profiling, segment analysis, historical conversation data to decide which information is most critical to share.
Chatbots help streamline the customer journey by:
- Making it more personalized. Customers can move through the sales funnel at their own pace. They can also cut out time-consuming tasks later on (for example, method of purchasing, how they want it shipped) by working through these options with the chatbot. Chatbots can dramatically reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.
- Helping confusing visitors take the next step.
- Answering any concerns customers may have about the buying process. Visitors might have specific questions that are difficult to find answers to on your website. However, they might be reluctant to take the next step without calming those anxieties.
3. Cross-Promotion of Relevant Content and Products
What better way to keep customers engaged than offering more of what they like? In 2021, customers want to feel seen. They don't want to feel like another number in your CRM or a faceless entity with a giant $ sign over their heads.
Unfortunately, so many companies fail at striking a balance between offering customers more and coming across as needlessly salesy. The key is only to provide relevant products or content. For example, suppose the visitor is at the checkout or even reading all the specification details for a product. In this situation, you can use the chatbot to offer a related product, but only if the visitor would benefit from this product.
Determining whether they would benefit from an additional product is tricky, but it can be done through data analysis. The chatbot can use customer CRM data (if it exists), customer behavior data and more to determine whether an additional product would be a good fit. The same is also true for offering an alternative product - the chatbot might decide that one of your other products is a better fit for the customer than the one they're looking at.
Interestingly, a recent survey into the best ways to engage customers found that "surprise offers or gifts for being a customer" ranked number 1. In the number two spot was "more convenient shopping process". And in the third spot, "solving a problem or question".
Using chatbots to offer related content can also be highly effective. Establishing your company as a thought leader in your industry can increase customer loyalty and drive sales, and premium content is one way to do this. You can use a chatbot to direct visitors to more content they might want to read.
4. Moving Beyond the Decision Tree
AI-based chatbots excel where their scripted cousins fail because they move beyond the decision tree. Conversation flowcharts have played an important role in automated customer conversations in the internet age, but it's now time for them to retire. Decision tree-based chatbot scripts are extremely limited and ineffective at engaging with customers.
But why are decision trees so bad? Essentially, they're limited by the capacity of developers to predict what users want and how they behave. For example, it will return results based on keywords without understanding the context of those words. This can be incredibly frustrating for customers, especially if they try to provide additional context. For example, suppose company X sells photo editing software and has a scripted chatbot. A user might type, "I need an app that can remove the background on my photos. I don't care about other features like creating digital paintings". But because the user mentioned digital paintings, the chatbot returns results about how to create digital art.
By contrast, AI chatbots aren't limited by what developers can imagine. Through machine learning and natural language understanding, advanced chatbots can understand context, sentiment, and intent. In other words, they feel natural to talk to and actually deliver what customers want.
5. Maintaining Customer Engagement
Customer engagement isn't a "one and done" type actively. It's intrinsically linked to customer loyalty, and to maintain loyalty at a high level, you need to maintain engagement. In other words, customer engagement is a sustained activity that needs to take place over time and never be shelved.
AI-chatbots thrive in this area because they never stop learning, both about your business and your customers. AI chatbots learn precisely how to engage individual customers based on their history with the company, preferences, and more. As a result, they know what works and what doesn't.
AI Chatbots also don't suffer from the same costly errors that traditional chatbots face. We say costly because these errors can turn away even ardently loyal customers. For example, a conventional chatbot might give the visitor inaccurate or out-of-date information because it hasn't been updated in a while. This erroneous information could lead to real-world problems. For example, suppose a visitor needs a product by Friday because it's a gift for an event they are attending Saturday. The chatbot tells the customer the product will be delivered within three days, in time for Friday. However, the bot hasn't been updated to reflect current delivery times, which are now hitting 5-6 days due to unprecedented demand.
The best AI chatbots don't need to be updated with new information. Instead, they pull data from the company's knowledge bases and apps - everything is seamlessly directed and always up to date.
Customer engagement isn't something you can leave to chance. There's simply too much to gain regarding highly loyal customers, increased sales, and brand reputation to not proceed with a dedicated strategy. In 2021, the best opportunity for increasing customer engagement lies in AI-based chatbots.