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Conversational agents- What Are They and How To Use Them?

A guest post by David Law

Conversational agents – sometimes called chatbots – are becoming more and more common these days but do you know what they are and what they do? This post will explain what a chatbot is and how businesses can utilize them. They may seem like live chat tools but they are actually quite different. Utilized correctly they can really boost your business so they are worth considering.

What are Chatbots?

Looking at an example chatbot provider like Chatfuel you can see what a chatbot is. Chatbots are a piece of artificial intelligence software that simulates how an agent would speak but are completely automated. A whole range of areas use them and they work independently from the agent. In the Cognility example, you can upload a user guide and convert it into a chatbot that can help your customers with their product related questions.

Companies like Disney, Marvel, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook amongst others are utilizing chatbots for a whole host of reasons to engage with their customers. Plenty of other companies of differing sizes are coming round to the idea of them as well.

Chatbots vs Traditional Live Chat Tools

Another common question is how chatbots differ from live chat tools. Traditional live chat tools are completely agent led. If you have no agents online then your live chats will go unanswered. Customer replies are put together either by using shortcuts (see my blog on Live Chat Hints and Tips for more info) or by agents manually typing replies as if they are sending emails. When a new chat comes in its completely dependent on an available agent being able to pick it up. If all agents are at capacity the customer has to wait or send a message instead.

Automation and availability are the biggest differentials between the two. A chatbot can be online 24/7 and doesn’t have a capacity limit. It can take hundreds or thousands of chats at any one time. Whereas with live chat even though you can load up shortcuts, it’s up to your agents to actually use them. If you have a maverick agent who never uses shortcuts and writes everything from scratch it will dilute your messaging. With a chatbot, you load up the responses to the questions and you know one hundred percent that the replies are going out as you want.

How Can They Be Utilised by Your Business

Now that you know what a chatbot is and how it differs from traditional live chat tools the next question is how can they be utilized by your business. Depending on what services you provide and the sorts of contact volumes you deal with chatbots can make sense in reducing the workload of your agents.

One of the best examples of a chatbot is when a business used them to load up case studies from customers who left a competitor company. The chatbot would ask the customer if he used the service in the first question and then ask what provider he uses (assuming that he did use someone else) and then would show the customer the specific case study of a customer who left the same service provider for them. This was all done without agent involvement. Fantastic use of this technology.

In Cognility, for example, they enable customers to upload user guides and then create a chatbot to answer questions based on them. Just imagine the time savings and reduced workloads by using this.

Another more general way this can be used is to direct customers to the right agents. If you have two or three standard questions that you ask at the beginning of a chat you can automate it. If you ask what department, what product, what query a chatbot can easily handle this. This will save time and mean that when customers speak to an agent they have all the information that they need to deal with the inquiry.

Do you currently use chatbots in your business? What is your opinion on them? Add a comment, share and join the conversation.

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