By combining the best of automated chatbot and personal services, businesses can create a new model of customer engagement
IN THE WAKE of the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses have been forced to increase their reliance on digital communications and online transactions of one form or another. And for many small- and medium-sized businesses, this quick transition has highlighted the crucial need to advance their online customer experience (CX) capabilities — and in some cases, start them from scratch.
While the usual, employee-driven customer service channels are oversaturated or unavailable, businesses still need to share information and engage in conversations with customers to initiate sales or solve problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Chatbots ― those windows that pop-up on a website with an offer of help or a greeting on behalf of a brand ― present an efficient way to communicate consistently and at scale, especially important now as organizations are flooded with inquiries about everything from pricing and membership changes to product or service (in)availability, among a host of other customer service queries.
Since the outset of the pandemic, “face-to-face selling has been pretty much gone,” says Kris Pypka. “It’s really a new world.”
Which, for his purposes, might not be so bad. Pypka is the founder of Boncierge, a London-based company that designs and implements chatbot systems for small businesses in order to help convert website visitors, qualify them as a sales lead or nurture them for follow-up.
Pypka is the first to admit that chatbots can seem a little cold and soulless. “Text can be impersonal,” he says. But in that he sees opportunities ― not just for his own chatbot business, but for other small businesses looking to get a leg up in the ecommerce world.
“Really, what people are looking for is a fast way to the information and a solution to their problem,” Pypka says. “We can attach the instant and human component to the sales process and walk people through a sales process as opposed to just having them stop at a website.”
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His insight is simple: the more human you can make a digital chatbot — which is not to say how convincing can you make it (no need to solve the Turing test here), but rather how authentically will people interact with it — the more you are able to replicate the value of in-person sales for the digital world.
“Websites still require some level of engagement,” Pypka says. “There’s a sales process. There’s fact-finding; there’s a back and forth.”
Pypka believes this offers an almost instant advantage for the companies utilizing chatbots. In his applications, he strives to keep the dialogues simple. The idea isn’t to create a pushy digital salesperson, but instead a useful resource for someone who might be in the market to buy or engage but is still looking for more information. He likens it to in-person shopping — even the nicest luxury store won’t keep you from walking out if there’s no one there to help you.
Kris Pypka, founder of Boncierge
“The bot’s not really meant to sell anything,” he says. “The bot’s meant to get you the lead and get you the phone call.”
There has been research to support this approach. A 2019 report found that while having chatbots can increase sales up to 67 per cent, most people still find them off-putting and weird, and ultimately prefer human sales.
And the results, Pypka says, speak for themselves — around 80 per cent of the leads generated by his bots, he claims, tend to pan out in some way. “They’re pretty hot leads,” he says. “If you can get back to someone within five to 10 minutes, the chance of you selling something goes up astronomically.”
It’s no secret that the small business world is hurting right now, and Pypka believes that embracing this kind of technology, and embracing the idea that online engagement shouldn’t (or can’t) be treated as a hands-off service, will be crucial going forward.
“As long as it’s just a simple, easy way to engage, people are interested,” he says. “All they need is just a helping hand saying follow me.” Kieran Delamont