Experts predict that 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human agents in 2021, the vast majority of those handled by chatbots and virtual assistants.
Why? The traditional means of servicing customers struggle to provide the type of experience that modern consumers demand. Customers now expect a faster, more engaging, and personalised level of service than ever before.
Chatbots, a subset of Artificial Intelligence, are leading the charge. Adopters are reaping the benefits. They’re engaging more customers, boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty, and increasing sales as a result. Not to mention reducing their cost to serve by as much as 30% by automating repetitive tasks.
Needless to say, you should be getting in on that action too.
Read on to find out 5 reasons why your business needs a chatbot in 2021 and how you can get started today.
1. Chatbots have insanely high open rates
Messaging apps are highly personal and, compared to other platforms, there’s much less noise. The more noise, the more distracted your customers are and the easier it is for them to be swayed away from your offering.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to have email inboxes with thousands of unread emails. And don’t get me started on social media feeds today. A simple scroll past a Facebook post and your message is never to be seen again. There’s simply less space for your message to stand out on traditional platforms
Even email marketing open rates have suffered dramatically. In 1997, email open rates were 90%. Today they’re hovering around 15-25%. Compare that to messaging channels today which deliver a near perfect 98% open rate, and you must be wondering why you haven’t got a chatbot yet.
The inevitable oversaturation of noise in new platforms is why businesses without a chatbot must start now to take advantage of this golden age.
2. Chatbots open up new sales channels
Chatbots make it easy for customers to make purchases.
Their responses are instantaneous and they’re available 24/7. People no longer want to wait on hold for hours on end before they even speak to a sales assistant or a customer service rep.
Email is similar, where some customers won’t receive a response until days after their enquiry was lodged. 33% of younger customers are only willing to wait for 1 to 3 minutes to get a response to queries.
If your customers aren’t getting the answers they need quickly, they’ll go elsewhere - most likely to a competitor. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that’s not the outcome you intend on pursuing.
Tommy Hilfiger is a prime example of a company that uses chatbots to create an entirely new channel to generate sales. Its chatbot helped people buy fashion directly from the runway during Fashion Week in New York City.
But here’s the good part: there was an 87% return rate for people coming back again to use the chatbot experience, and over 60,000 messages were exchanged. This newly created channel generated 3.5 times more in sales per person than any of their other digital channels.
Chatbots give businesses an extra channel to add to their armoury, driving sales that otherwise may not have happened. Can you afford to ignore such a powerful channel?
3. Be where your customers are
Speaking of channels, people don’t spend quite as much time on social media as they used to. As you may have guessed, people now spend more time on messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp than they do on social networking apps.
There’s a reason why Mark Zuckerberg bought WhatsApp for $19 billion: millions of customers are highly engaged with messaging channels everyday.
Like companies that started Facebook pages early, or YouTubers who got in early and won big (mobile apps as well, the list goes on...), companies without a chatbot need to start now, or else they risk being left behind.
Not only does a chatbot automate customer service at scale to help you gain a competitive advantage, but the fast, always-on, and seamless experience they deliver to consumers is only increasing in demand.
The big question is now “Why don’t you have a chatbot?”
4. Data, lots of data
Thanks to AI it’s now easier for businesses to offer more personalised buying experiences that automatically predict what products suit your customers best.
Based on a customer's previous browsing and purchasing habits, smart chatbots can predict what the user may be interested in next. They have the ability to suggest relevant products, tailored to the customers specific interests, and cross-sell or up-sell similar items to increase revenue – a guided selling approach that’s like having your own personal digital sales assistant - and one that doesn’t take any commission!
Over the coming years, AI will know what your customers want before they do. The more data a company has, the stronger it’s artificial intelligence will be, and the more personalised and relevant the customer experience they can offer. Amazon already has a leg up on most retailers, so businesses need to act sooner rather than later.
5. Built for the future
Future demographics are set favourably for chatbots. Each new generation spends more and more time online engaging on messaging apps. In fact, Gartner predicted we would soon be having more conversations with chatbots than with our spouse.
75% of consumers prefer messaging channels over calling if given the choice. Conversational customer service allows businesses to easily reach these customers online without fearing this channel will be displaced anytime soon.
The impact of recent global events also means more people are engaging with businesses online than ever before. While it has become the norm for younger generations to interact online, older generations are pivoting from traditional mediums to digital channels in order to connect with businesses.
Businesses must ensure their customer support processes are able to handle increasing volumes of digital based customer enquiries. To survive, they need a more robust solution than simply adding more customer service reps into contact centres or writing countless articles for their knowledge base or FAQ pages that go unread.
Automated customer service is the solution and chatbots are here to deliver. The time to act is now.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.