“Can machines think?” This was the question asked by Alan Turing, one of the most renowned computer scientists, in 1950. It is a simple question on the surface, yet it allowed Turing to conceptualize artificial intelligence. From this came the idea of the virtual assistants or chatbots that we know today.
Over the decades, programmers and software engineers have toyed with countless apps and tools capable of answering simple questions in natural language. For a long time, virtual assistants on websites and smartphone apps were nothing more than gimmicks.
But today, virtual assistants are equipped with conversational AI, natural language processors (NLP), and robust data engines. As a result, they have become essential web and app components, helping users perform online and on-site searches, navigate websites, perform various actions, and even make purchases.
The global chatbot market is expected to hit USD 10.5 billion by 2026, registering an impressive 23.5 percent CAGR between 2020 and 2026. Intelligent virtual assistants have many practical applications in e-commerce, which is why more and more companies are deploying them. You probably know a few organizations that use them.
Of course, popularity doesn’t always go hand in hand with efficiency. As a result, we must ask ourselves “are chatbots really helpful”? Let’s look at five main reasons why so many entrepreneurs are keen on using intelligent virtual assistants.
Livens up a website or app
A chatbot popup is usually one of the first things people see and interact with on a webpage. If appropriately designed, the popup doesn’t annoy visitors; instead, it welcomes visitors to the site or app, salutes them, and gives them helpful hints on what to do next.
Of course, first impressions matter! In a world that is becoming increasingly virtual, chabots double as the face of businesses. They make the first impression to every visitor and, in a way, humanize the platform, giving it a personality.
Yes, chatbots can exude a personality. In fact, it is essential to adapt your chatbot to represent your brand’s voice. So, instead of having users look at boring text blocks, a virtual assistant makes for a more intriguing, lively, delightful, and personified experience.
Qualifies and converts leads
Chatbots have become quite popular with digital marketers and entrepreneurs who rely on online leads to sell. Virtual assistants don’t just answer buyers’ questions; they also collect important sales personalization data such as contact information through casual conversations. Such information helps qualify and direct leads for specific services or products. Some of the more sales-oriented chatbots even analyze user behaviour on the fly and randomly recommend resources and commodities.
AI-powered conversational virtual assistants help automate conversion and sale processes and personalize the customer journey for every potential buyer. This saves time and results in more productive buyer engagements.
According to the 2021 State of Conversational Sales report, 53 percent of sellers saw sales improvements after using conversational marketing tools. Chatbots make the job a lot easier for salespeople too. They help sales teams target buyers more accurately by answering customer questions, gathering data, and directing relevant traffic to key destinations and sale funnels.
Frees employee to focus on important matters
Chatbots are available 24/7 and offer immediate responses without delay, unlike traditional customer support personnel. If you want my opinion, these are perhaps the most important features of a chatbot in a world that constantly demands instant gratification. After all, who among us wants to wait around for a customer care agent to come online and answer their questions? Very few people! It should come as no surprise then that some customers actually prefer engaging with a virtual assistant instead of real humans.
Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as a mainstream communications medium. In a Userlike survey, 80 percent of the respondents said they had interacted with a chatbot. In addition, about 40 percent of them preferred receiving immediate help from a virtual assistant. In comparison, 60 percent said they favoured speaking to a human agent but would be open to chatting with a chatbot first. And although chatbots have their issues, overall, most users said they trusted them to handle basic requests and were pleased with the speed and convenience of automated conversations.
Virtual assistants help customer service agents take a huge load off. Since many customers are willing to converse with chatbots, they can take care of most basic requests. That leaves the human agents with a shorter support queue of only the major issues that require a human touch.
Improves business intelligence
Chatbots collect a lot of data from customers, both directly and indirectly. High-end virtual assistants can even analyze customers’ data, past conversations, and behavioural data to draw valuable business intelligence insights. For instance, you can gain clear visibility into your customers’ demographics, preferences, interests, site navigation patterns, and many other attributes. What a gold mine! Furthermore, understanding the customer and the platform’s overall performance can help the design and marketing teams finetune certain aspects of the platform to improve the overall customer experience and business outcomes.
Business analytics is a crucial necessity in a data-centric world. It equips the marketing, IT, planning, and product design departments with valuable cues to get things done accurately and efficiently.
Helps manage and support HR processes
You are probably familiar with externally facing virtual assistants designed for customer interactions. But did you know some chatbots are also designed to serve internal departments, particularly HR? Internal virtual assistants can, for instance, guide job candidates throughout the application process on a digital platform. They can also virtually onboard new hires by recruiting, orientating, and training them autonomously. By using a virtual assistant, employees can learn more effectively and at their own pace, completely unattended. This saves valuable company time and money.
Besides onboarding and employee training, virtual assistants can also supplement other HR and workflow processes. For instance, chatbots can help employees find necessary resources and guidance to complete their day-to-day tasks. This is especially helpful to remote employees working through a digital platform.
Chatbots are incredibly useful. This might be a simple statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true, especially in today’s fast-paced world. If you don’t have a virtual assistant on your business website, app, or workplace, you’re missing out on the chance to effectively automate customer engagement, lead generation, intelligence gathering, HR processes, and more.
Let me recap the undeniable benefits of using a virtual assistant:
- Enables 24/7 customer service support
- Augments the customer support team
- Saves time, money, and human effort
- Humanizes your brand
- Simplifies and eases the customer journey
- Offers valuable customer insights
- Facilitates HR processes
- Speeds up customer interactions
- Reduces support tickets
Virtual assistants are getting smarter and more robust thanks to advancements in AI and NLP technologies. And the good thing is that both businesses and customers appreciate what they bring to the virtual communications world. One thing is for certain: the best is still to come!