It feels like certain areas of tech are booming at the moment.
Everyone and their nan seem to be incorporating the blockchain into their startup pitches, voice interface devices are sweeping the globe, and chatbots are popping up left right and center.
It feels like part of the rise of chatbots is predicated on the long term potential behind the idea of a smart assistant who can effectively communicate by chat. But the reality of a proper AI assistant is still some distance away.
Nonetheless, chatbots have real world uses already. For some use cases, chatbots are proving to be an effective and affordable alternative to previous practices.
In this Process Street article, we’ll look at:
- What are chatbots good for?
- How KLM boosted customer interaction 40% with chatbots
- What we do at Process Street with Intercom’s chatbot features
- How to set up a simple chatbot with Chatfuel
- 7 chatbot tools to check out today
What are chatbots good for?
Chatbots could be good for a range of different use cases, some super specific and others more generally useful.
We’re going to focus on the use cases which might be more widely applicable across different industries.
Customer success chatbots can be like an interactive FAQ
Many companies are employing chatbots to help out customers who have an issue while on their site.
In Intercom, for example, you can create your knowledge base with their system and your bot can then incorporate the content of the knowledge base into its responses, recommending articles to customers who are having issues with a specific problem.
This kind of approach makes for a very smooth user flow for the end user.
You don’t have to leave the page you’re on. You can simply click the icon on the screen to open up a chat box and go from there.
For simple issues, the chatbot might be able to provide the user with the answer they need or send the user on to the relevant resource to figure it out for themselves.
When the chatbot is unable to resolve the issue itself it can pass the user onto the customer success team. This naturally plugs customer success into the process to give a tailored human response.
Having the basic functions of a bot set up helps to weed out simple issues from the customer success log. Anyone who has undertaken customer success before will know that simple tickets can form a surprisingly large amount of the responses.
With a bot there to assist, you can reduce the time spent on simple issues and focus instead on the users who really need your customer success team.
Bots can perform lead qualification to boost your sales team
In much the same way as the customer service approach above, bots can help open up conversations with potential new leads.
Perhaps the bot pops up with a message when someone goes onto the pricing page of your website?
At this point the bot can ask questions about the number of users someone might want, what kind of industry their company is in, and other key bits of information which the sales team can use to identify potential opportunities.
At moments where your customers might be about to make a purchasing decision, the ability to insert yourself into the thought process is valuable. It adds a further dimension to your inbound marketing strategies.
If you bot can reach out to people during a potential purchasing decision and qualify them straight away then your salesperson could be alerted to jump in and carry the sale home.
Bots can be used for lead capture to follow up with later
This is a more minor use case admittedly, but it’s still a valid one.
If people interact with your page on Facebook, Twitter, or on your website via a connection with one of these platforms, then using the right bot platform can allow you to retarget these people in future.
Obviously, no one wants to be spammed on Facebook by companies on a regular basis – there’s a different culture about messages and email.
Nonetheless, you have their contact information now and you can leverage this to reach out to them. Some platforms allow you to send a message blast where you contact these people who have interacted all at once, either as an entire group or as segments.
You could utilize this when you have a big moment to promote and push your business – a significant launch for example – or you could segment and carefully attempt high-value lead campaigns, if you’re brave enough.
How KLM boosted customer interaction 40% with chatbots
The Dutch airline KLM is the oldest airline in the world. Yet, the company is taking on more modern approaches to bringing its customers the best experiences it can.
KLM understood that many of its customers were active Facebook users and that this method of reaching them could prove to be effective.
Customers can’t post sensitive travel information onto the company’s Facebook page but the activity present demonstrated that customers did want to reach out.
As reported by Digital Training Academy, KLM added a Send Message button to the page in a prominent position. The airline teamed with Digital Genius to implement an AI powered chatbot which could assist KLM agents in providing the right answers to the questions presented to them. The AI system has answers programed for over 60,000 different questions and it learns in real time what kind of answers should go to what kind of questions.
This means the KLM agents interacting with the customers are able to process enquiries much faster than before and with standardized approaches – reducing error rates.
This is then expanded via the flexibility of Messenger to incorporate media and other files. Customers could then be contacted via Facebook with important information like reminders and boarding passes.
From these changes and additions KLM has seen:
- a 40% increase in customer interactions with Messenger
- that now 15% of all online boarding passes are sent via Messenger
- a 5-point higher average Net Promoter Score (NPS) on Messenger than goal
Karlijn Vogel-Meijer who leads the project as Director of Social is quoted as saying:
“Messenger gives our customers the opportunity to talk to us throughout their entire journey. We believe we can strengthen customer relationships by being where our customers are, which is Facebook and Messenger. Our next initiative is to allow people to book directly on Messenger”
Communicating with its audience via the means of communication the audience uses most, KLM has managed to strengthen its bonds and consolidate customer relationships.
What we do at Process Street with Intercom’s chatbot features
At Process Street, we’ve found that having a customer success driven relationship with our userbase has been hugely beneficial.
Now, loads of companies might talk about having this kind of relationship. We all want to think we value our users and work our hardest for them.
What I mean when I talk about us prioritizing customer success is that we know that users who are well educated on the product get more value from it, spend more money, and spend money for longer. So, instead of us prioritizing sales or branching into new markets we’re putting our efforts into better servicing the users we already have. Reducing churn and expanding the sizes of the teams of our existing users is valuable to us, and the approach results in best outcomes for the users too.
Whenever a new member of staff is hired they’re required to complete one week of level 1 customer support. They need to know what it is like on the ground. Where the action is. On the coalface.
As such, we employ Intercom to be our guide in supporting customers. Like mentioned in the KLM case study above, we have a whole host of preset reply templates in our system which can be used as drafts for support staff to work from to make sure the right advice is given every time.
Users can contact our support team via Facebook, email, or using the little chat plugin at the bottom right of their screen.
The help of this chat feature means that customers can reach out the moment they have a problem and we can fix it as soon as possible.
How Process Street uses chat to reach out to users
As well as allowing users to easily contact us, the chat system we use lets us reach out to them.
Sometimes this is about communicating with existing users.
Whenever you launch a new feature on a SaaS product like ours you’ll probably send out an email to your users detailing it.
But people don’t always open emails.
If we’ve launched a feature like task assignments, stop tasks, or conditional logic, then we can set the in-app Intercom messenger to pop up on a user’s next login and tell them a short snippet about the new feature.
This means that every active user should be aware of new features and new ways we can help meet their needs. This increases the value we offer them, and it comes down to simply making them aware of it.
We also use the bots for a more sales oriented approach. If someone visits a certain page on the website, or a certain blog post, then the conversation bot might pop up and prompt them to interact. These prompts are A/B tested to see which are most effective, and will look to try to turn a visitor into a qualified lead we can reach out to.
The prompts can be configured on the basis of what page someone is visiting, or on a more complex set up of what sequence of pages a person has clicked through – giving further hints to the bot as to whether someone might be interested in purchase or not.
How to set up a simple chatbot with Chatfuel
This is a really simple walk through of how you could set up a chatbot of varying complexities to operate on your Facebook page.
We’ll also add that chatbot as a plugin to the homepage of a website so that visitors could click to chat with the bot and open up live dialogue with you via your website powered by Facebook Messenger.
All of this will be done with Chatfuel. It’s free to play around with and only starts costing money either at volume or if you want to remove any branding of theirs.
I suggest opening up Chatfuel and quickly building a bot once you’ve read through so you can put it all into practice!
Connect with a Facebook page
The page you connect with now doesn’t have to be the page forever. You can change this at any point.
I recommend setting up a new Facebook page for testing purposes. This way, you can set all your systems up and test them live without anyone in the real world stumbling over them.
When you have this connection set up, you’re done and ready to build your chatbot. It’s that easy. Simply login with Facebook and pick the page to connect a bot to.
Very simple onboarding process.
Build some blocks to create a conversation
You can create a range of different blocks in the Automate screen.
For each of these blocks you can add widgets. I’ve mainly used button widgets to give my user the ability to just tap on one of the three buttons to receive the next relevant message for them.
On this screen you can also add a Live Chat widget. This gives the user the ability to pause the bot for 12 hours while they’re connected to a real person. The administrator of the Facebook page (you) will receive a notification saying you have a message to deal with.
This kind of live chat means that only the users who need to speak with you end up speaking with you. The others are helped out via a well designed bot.
On this same screen you can also add sequences or groups. This allows you to create added complexity in how the user engages with the bot. The sequences can operate like a drip campaign, following up on previous messages.
Add more complex rules to add a human touch
If you click on the Setup AI tab on the left hand side, you’ll see a range of different features.
At the top of the screen are groups. These act as your high level categories for you to build your rules in. You’ll also see a dropdown where you can determine the language to be used inside that block.
In the main part of the screen you can add rules. You can set rules to respond with preset blocks from the previous screen. Or you can set them to reply with text. If you set text, then you can write multiple answers – if you put each answer on a new line within the input box and switch on the random switch above the input box, then it gets cool.
When someone messages something to trigger that answer, Chatfuel picks one of your answers to give to them. This way, a person could message you multiple times and get different answers each time.
Sometimes the little things count a lot.
Test the chatbot when you’re happy and add to your site
You’ll see the Test This Chatbot button in the top right.
Give it a click and start playing around. See what mistakes you can stop and what might be improved.
Once you’re happy, put your bot live on Facebook and start adding it to your website. You may need to change the assigned Facebook page at this point so your users can interact with it.
In order to put the bot into your website, go onto the Grow tab on the left column. This should show you a series of different options. The first being the customer chat plugin. Simply click enable and you’ll be given a short few strings of code which you can insert into your site’s header tags.
Alternatively, you can get a link to your bot as a standalone page. My bot was made with my app Idyoma in mind, so the bot is programed to be a kind of easily navigable FAQ. You can check it here: IdyBot.
7 best chatbot tools to check out today
We have a number of different types of bots, tools, and entire platforms in this little list.
Whether you need a small bot to help you with social media or you need a massive bot to help provide automations in your entire customer support office, you’ll find something which suits you below.
Chatfuel for a Facebook first approach
Chatfuel connects up with Facebook Messenger to provide a simple solution to reaching and interacting with your audience.
The benefits of Chatfuel are its ease of use and its effective natural language processing.
You can embed a chatbot onto your site to engage visitors and catch visitors in key moments.
Setting up a conversation is easy. Premade blocks with buttons can be used to cover basic questions and send users in the direction you want them to go. Much like an email drip campaign but in real time – live. It’s also possible to set up detailed rules to create answers to respond to specific written questions. The complexity of the chatbot depends simply on how much time has been devoted to building out that complexity.
Moreover, users who have interacted with the chatbot in the past become part of your database and you can reach out to them in future at opportune moments.
You can play around and utilize many of the features for free but Chatfuel PRO starts at $15 per month.
Intercom has the whole package
Intercom is one of the big players in this field.
As customer support tools go it’s what you might describe as full stack. There are a range of tools you can employ in the Intercom platform, but their bots are our main focus.
Unlike simpler tools like Chatfuel, Intercom can be deeply embedded into your website for chatbots to give different prompts to users depending on what page they are currently visiting or what sequence of pages they have previously visited.
You can also run A/B tests on different messages to find out what your most effective outreach strategies are.
The in-app messaging system of Intercom has chatbot elements to it and can connect your customers directly with your customer support team.
If you have a dedicated support team then Intercom could be the tool for you.
Pricing depends on the package you’ve chosen. The Messages package which includes the chatbot starts at $53 a month, with all packages combined being offered at $155 per month. Early stage companies should check their eligibility for Intercom’s special $49 per month deal.
Drift is your robot salesperson
While Intercom has focused their chatbot potential partly into sales and partly into support, Drift has targeted specifically the sales side of the coin.
Drift now bills itself as a Conversational Marketing Platform.
If you’re reading this list specifically to qualify leads via chatbots, I recommend you check out what Drift has to offer.
You can integrate calendars with the bot to convert customers and schedule meetings in the process. You can build sequences and program conversations with saved replies. And you can have the deep integration seen in Intercom too, so that different prompts will show in different areas of your site.
Not all of the magical features of the product are available on the basic plans. However, you can set up a very basic chatbot for free and scale to the $50 premium when you’re ready to scale. The freemium element makes Drift a good candidate for someone who’s just starting off with a conversion chatbot but may want to scale.
Clustaar integrates with everything
Clustaar lets you turn a range of messaging systems into sophisticated chatbots.
It can be integrated with Messenger, text, Whatsapp, Intercom, Slack, and more to bring intelligent chatbot interactions to your different channels.
It also integrates with a wide range of backend systems too to help you utilize the data you gather and better act on the lead generation.
The real selling point of Clustaar is the drag and drop chatbot builder which has handy widgets and templates for you to play around with. This lets you quickly and intuitively build complex bots.
If you’re already utilizing a range of different channels to communicate with your customers then Clustaar could be a good option for you to use to add chatbot functionalities into your existing approaches.
Clustaar, however, is likely well suited to more mature companies. The free trial pricing stage is limited and the next tier up is €90 (~$105) per month which gives you access to more customers, email, and unlimited messages but not the full suite of functionality.
The Enterprise plan has all the integrations and even hooks up with Google Home and Alexa. Enterprise, though, begins at €1490 a month. Better for non-startups.
Exceed claims machine learning can optimize your bot
Exceed aims to act like a smart assistant. That’s the way it frames itself.
It’s approach is similar to what Drift offer but the functionality is slightly less. Exceed aims for a streamlined service in terms of flashy features while delivering certain core aspects you may really need.
It prides itself on touching, qualifying, and nurturing potential leads. Each feature seems geared towards making that a smooth process. The natural language processing teamed with the way it fits in nicely with a sales cadence are definite positives.
Allegedly, the platform utilizes machine learning so that over a longer period of time the bot will become more efficient and increase its own capabilities of generating, qualifying, and/or nurturing leads.
Without long term experience of the product there’s no way I can verify the effectiveness of that, but it sounds cool.
Contact Exceed for a demo if you want to know more and hear about pricing.
Jacada helps the big enterprises
Jacada presents itself as a full customer experience platform. It provides a large array of tools to deal with customer assistance both interactively and through static means like knowledge bases.
Jacada has its chatbots to deal with customers, and added features to help agents deal with clients when they need to also.
The array of features the company offers includes a shifting effort toward voice technology. This makes sense for Jacada given that many of its clients use the platform for large scale customer service operations in places like call centers.
Unlike many of the other products here, Jacada is on the enterprise level of the scale with all that comes with it. If you want to go for a more agile and trendy looking startup, then this isn’t the option for you. But if you’re looking for an all round customer service platform with powerful chatbot tools that might service clients like Morgan Stanley and UPS, Jacada could be for you.
Contact directly for more information on pricing.
It’s Alive breathes life into your Facebook page
It’s Alive has a good catchy name and offers a simple Facebook bot interaction.
The builder system makes it really easy to put together a chatbot and add complicated extra features like sliding screens within the messenger itself.
It operates with natural language processing and keyword detection to formulate replies, along with the button style response system. You can also program different variables into your chatbot so that it can give personalized responses which it can keep memorized.
Remembering certain information about the person it’s speaking to and adapting its answers on the basis of those has always been a big hold back for anything wanting to appear human. So it’s a good step when technologies incorporate these elements in.
Like Chatfuel, this is a good botbuilder to get started, to play around with, and use for your business for a bit of social media management.
It’s Alive is simple but fun and cheap. Pricing starts at $19.
(Bonus!) Kommunicate- Build AI chatbots without code
Kommunicate is an all in one platform to automate customer support using chatbots and live chat. You can build AI chatbots without code using Kommunicate’s chatbot builder, Kompose. Kompose is built over an NLP engine with built-in intents, fallback to human support, templates, and rich messaging.
Additionally, you can integrate chatbots made from popular chatbot platforms such as Google Dialogflow, AWS Lex, IBM, and Watson. It has a feature-packed dashboard to manage customer conversations from multiple channels, including Facebook and WhatsApp. There are tons of customization options to tune it according to your brand image and use case.
Integrating Kommunicate in your platforms is super easy. Along with the web plugin, it also offers to install in your native and hybrid apps via dedicated mobile development SDKs. The pricing starts from $24/month.
Who have I missed? Let me know your favourite chatbot tools in the comments below!
I manage the content for Process Street and dabble in other projects inc language exchange app Idyoma on the side. Living in Sevilla in the south of Spain, my current hobby is learning Spanish! @adam_h_h on Twitter. Subscribe to my email newsletter here on Substack: Trust The Process. Or come join the conversation on Reddit at r/ProcessManagement.