Choosing a chatbot platform for your business can be a complicated decision, but it doesn’t have to be.
In our last Insights post, we discussed some of the reasons behind the recent uptick in chatbot adoption and how choosing a chatbot can streamline your business—especially when it comes to customer support. This week, we thought it would be helpful to discuss some of the most important factors to consider when actually choosing a chatbot platform.
While your choice of chatbot ultimately depends on your specific business needs, there are a few crucial factors you should consider while shopping around. Read on to find out how each of these factors can help ensure chatbot success!
Know thyself, know thy chatbot: Understanding your business’ needs
Your business needs will usually determine which chatbot platform you choose.
For example: Suppose that your business has an online storefront where customers can purchase products online. Since the website is (hopefully!) up 24/7, you’d like to offer your customers some sort of support system when you and your employees aren’t working. This kind of situation is ideal for chatbots.
However, which specific platform would be best for this kind of situation? We’ll dive into the details later, but this kind of case would call for a chatbot platform meant specifically for retail applications. Ideally, the chatbot you would choose could answer most basic questions, direct customers to product pages, and perhaps handle more complicated queries.
The chatbot in the previous scenario, however, might not apply so well to other situations. For example, if you’re trying to deploy a chatbot on internal-facing webpages (such as an employee dashboard), they may need to look into more generalized or customizable chatbot platforms.
In any case, your specific business needs will usually determine the type of chatbot you’ll use. In the next section, we’ll explore some of the most common types of chatbots and where they’re most useful.
The 3 main types of chatbots
While chatbots come in a wide and ever-increasing variety, most fall under one of three general categories: keyword-based chatbots, button-based chatbots, and contextual chatbots. Each type is useful for certain applications, and the right type for you might not be the type you expected.
As their name suggests, keyword-based chatbots look for specific keywords entered by the user and respond based on a number of set conditions.
For example, if a user types in “When are you open?”, a keyword-based chatbot might be designed to look for the keyword “open” and then reply with the business’ operating hours. These chatbots are also common in telephone-based chatbots, most of which “listen” for specific words, numbers, or letters.
As you can probably imagine, keyword-based chatbots are fairly basic and limited in their application but are often enough for customers with fairly basic requests. Keyword-based chatbots are also extremely common, so there’s plenty to choose from.
Instead of looking for keywords, button-based chatbots offer users a limited number of “buttons,” where each button is a certain request. Although button-based chatbots are still technically chatbots, they’re really just advanced navigation menus which offer users the “personal” feeling of “chatting.” Unfortunately, they are usually the least effective in navigating a user to their end goal.
Contextual chatbots are the most advanced of the three types. Instead of relying on a pre-defined set of user inputs (such as keywords and buttons), contextual chatbots use machine learning and advanced algorithms to “understand” user requests.
One of the greatest benefits of contextual chatbots is its ability to learn over time. Through increased interaction with your customers, a contextual chatbot will eventually “learn” enough about your average customer to a point where it can accurately anticipate most user needs. As a result, when it comes to augmenting a human support staff, contextual chatbots are the clear winners.
5 crucial features to look for when choosing a chatbot
Admittedly, there are far too many chatbot vendors to list here. While we’re partial to platforms such as Drift, you’ll likely need to dive a little deeper to find exactly what you’re looking for. However, you should look for the following features when choosing a chatbot:
1) Pre-Trained Datasets
Machine learning uses “trained” data to identify insights and patterns—or, in other words, learn. The training process involves assigning certain data with “labels,” which machine learning algorithms and neural networks can use as a baseline for identifying unlabeled data.
Trained data is a valuable commodity, with most algorithms requiring thousands – if not millions – of individually labeled data points to make accurate conclusions. As a result, a good chatbot will already come with a pre-trained dataset allowing it to process most customer requests right out of the box.
2) Autonomous Learning
As an extension of the previous feature, a chatbot should also be capable of learning from future interactions and generating insights “on the fly.” While this is only truly possible with contextual chatbots, it’s still essential for providing your customers with the level of flexibility they require.
For the foreseeable future, machines can’t – and likely won’t – completely replace the human experience. Chatbots are definitely no exception, as there will likely be at least one occasion where they won’t be able to assist the user. In these cases, a good chatbot should always direct the user to an actual human—or, better yet, do so when the user requests it!
A chatbot should be able to do more than just answer basic questions—it should also be able to handle more complicated requests, gather insights on customers, and more without having to rely too heavily on outside support structures. In other words, a chatbot should be able to effectively handle multiple tasks and requests at once.
5) Conversationally Mature
A good chatbot should be able to infer customer moods and needs from more “subtle” sources, such as tone, word and punctuation usage, and sentence structure. Many people who request customer support are already annoyed, and talking to a machine usually doesn’t do much to quell that frustration. As a result, a good chatbot should be able to pick up on (and remedy) these delicate situations and redirect to a human when necessary (see point 3).
With the sheer variety and capability of most modern chatbots, you should have no problem choosing a chatbot platform which fits your needs. In any situation, however, always remember to put yourself in the customer’s shoes; what kind of experience would they want from your chatbot?
Let’s chat about chatbots!
At Innovaite, our goal is to help your company leverage AI to achieve its business goals. If you’d like to chat with us (and not our chatbot!) about choosing a chatbot or how AI can benefit you and your company, please feel free to contact us.