Top-10 Critical Chatbot Functions

By Tom Cross @techtionary


The presence of chatbots as a critical new tool to websites is increasing popular to improve customer engagement, sales and business operations for internal, partner and external facing communication.   Here are the Top-10 feature and functions of chatbots though nearly every day we see new applications and uses:


1 – 7×24 access – yes, the entire website is available 7×24, yet company staff is generally not available.  The chatbot can be there when you are and when you are not.  Not replacing one with the other but when staff is available chatbots can provide sales assistance when live staff is overloaded or when you hope your special offer goes viral and even tens or hundreds of extra staff would not be enough.


2 – Viewer engagement – like welcoming a customer to your store, the chatbot can be first to welcome the viewer to the website and provides a “welcome mat” message.  Viewers may have found your website via search but when they get there they are likely looking for something specific to their needs.


3 – Needs assessment – the chatbot becomes the first means to assess what the viewer is really looking for.  Often simple questions and answers can quickly assess that the viewer needs something specific about delivery, pricing, technical “can it work at 200F”, installation and more. Details that are generally not found on the website but critical to decision-making.


4 – Website navigation – websites are generally not friendly.  They are structured in trees and branches around website tabs that generally are not designed for viewer engagement.  They are like books in the library with often massive amounts of information but not structured around viewer needs.  Website content is often designed to overwhelm the viewer with massive technical information without regard to how or why the viewer/customer would use the information in their own business. Often the information can be found if the view reads through complex white papers, technical documentation, sales literature designed to sell but not relevant for buying and more.  Chatbots let the viewer ask the questions and the chatbot can try to help the viewer from viewer perspective help them along to decipher what they need.


5 – Personalization – as the conversation with the chatbot continues, the level of personalization can increase.  The chatbot can have many levels of customer engagement while allowing for “talk live” options at any time along the way.  The design of the chatbot can “guide” the viewer along pathways that work for both parties.  Viewers are increasingly aware of how traditional “IVR trees” press 1, then press 5, then press 6 and then end up lost.  They are willing to engage if they feel and know they are being treated well.


6 – Special Offers – this is a tricky one as the chatbot can provide special CTA-calls to action that are “only available” from the chatbot.  However, while it is obvious that automating the sales process via the chatbot can be desirable it is not always recommended.  The interesting part is balancing chatbot offers v. live or other offers the company has underway.


7 – Escalation-Crisis Communication– allowing the viewer to “escape out” of the chatbot is always good design but where do they go when you do escape is equally important.  If they are sent back to the IVR-pit, you have only made the viewer mad and you know what that means – they tell their friends.  Crisis like the recent Facebook scandal do not occur when you are expecting them.  Just look at Target, Chipotle, Equifax, Facebook and others the crisis occurred suddenly and quickly escalated out of control. Nothing travels faster than good gossip as we have seen as bad news goes viral ten times faster than good news.   As we have found in decades of research, each organization has its own “organizational velocity” (OV) which sets the pace and ways communications flows in, out and through the organization.  Chatbots improve and facilitate OV in ways that improve not just the quantity but the quality of communication.  Lastly, you cannot put your head in the sand anymore as social media will push your crisis faster than you can ever imagine.


8 – Testing – the role of the chatbot initially can be seen as the “junior sales person” to help them through basic FAQ-frequently asked questions and dig deeper as the view and the chatbot design increases.  However, like in training knowing what you want the student or chatbot to know comes only from testing and more testing.  Every use of the chatbot just like every time a sales or support person has a customer encounter or communication is a chance for learning about what they know and what they need to know.  Then as the chatbot gains knowledge and experience its role can evolve though while some would like completely automated sales, a chatbot even with AI techniques can never understand the nuances of human communication.   Artificial intelligence (AI) is often touted in many chatbots, however, AI is not a replacement for “common sense” in human interaction, no matter what the vendor says.


9 – FAQs – frequently asked questions are generally the first place to start with chatbots.  Some would argue that FAQ is really a feature not a function, however, features will be presented in another article.  Meanwhile, taking FAQs from sales, support, operations, billing and others is a great place to gather content for the chatbot as this info is generally not found on the website but often critical to any viewer purchase.  The chatbot designer can then organize all this info into the chatbot and each department can test their own content but also test others.  Then the chatbot can be released internally first for a thorough “test drive” and when everyone approves can be moved to partners and public website areas.


10 – Future – chatbots are “must-have” functions for every website for all the reasons mentioned above and others to simplify internal, partner and external operations and communications.  Along with reducing the sales cycle, reducing customer support calls, improving company image and customer engagement and more, chatbots make common sense as filling the gap in static websites and aging content.  Chatbots can also be the future-force is leading company communications by being the first place to test product/service ideas like “hey would you like to be the first one to see our new….”  Chatbots can also survey customers about what they are thinking or wanting as well.


Bottom-line – Chatbots are critical tools for all websites including B2B-business-to-business, B2C-business-to-consumer for internal, partner, and external communications.  As websites must be mobile-ready, they will also have a chatbot featureset.  We envision that chatbots could replace many websites and they evolve. And, if we may be allowed, chatbots show you are cool too.