For a small e-commerce business, customer service presents a catch-22. Offer too little and your customers get dissatisfied and go elsewhere. But if you dump too much money into customer service, it can be hard to keep your pricing competitive. By integrating chatbots into your e-commerce business, you can strike a happy medium, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty while also saving on costs.
What Are Chatbots?
Chatbots are virtual customer service representatives powered by artificial intelligence. They interact with customers on your website.
While it sounds high-tech and 2010s, the technology has been around for decades. Earlier iterations of chatbots could give only scripted responses, limiting their scope of usefulness and making it obvious to customers that they were talking to a robot. Today’s chatbots can answer open-ended questions and even mirror the customer’s writing style. They can ask their own questions and understand the customer’s answers, no matter how complex. Sometimes the customer can’t even tell they’re talking to a bot.
A good chatbot can serve as a salesperson, a customer service rep, an order tracker, and a receptionist all in one. It can upsell customers or recommend related items. It can capture customers who try to X out of your website and convince them to stick around and shop some more. It can help customers find what they’re looking for and even negotiate price discounts. When a customer has questions about an existing order, the chatbot can pull the order up and let the customer know the status.
A chatbot can do all these things for a fraction of the cost to hire a support staff to handle the same volume of work. That’s why many big Canadian companies you’ve probably heard of, including Royal Bank of Canada and TD Bank, are jumping on board with chatbots.
Chatbots Provide Around-the-Clock Customer Service and Support
E-commerce is a 24-hour business. Even while you’re sleeping, customers around the world are shopping on your website. If they get stuck or have a question, they want help right away, not the next business day. If no one is available to help, they’re likely to head to a competitor’s page.
That sets up a dilemma for you. Do you staff your call center around the clock, a move not financially feasible for most small businesses? Do you save money by providing only rudimentary help, such as an FAQ section and email assistance?
With a well-programmed chatbot, you get the best of both worlds. The bot can work around the clock, offering specific help just like a live representative but without demanding overtime pay and benefits. The customer gets specific answers right away that actually help, and you avoid blowing up your budget by hiring more workers than you can afford.
Chatbots Eliminate Lengthy Holds
Have you ever called your cable or cell phone provider for a customer service issue? Sure you have. In fact, if you called yesterday, you might still be on hold right now. If huge companies with billions in resources can’t get someone to pick up in a reasonable time, how can a small business expect to?
Businesses large and small share a struggle when it comes to customer service staffing. There never seem to be enough workers to handle the volume of incoming calls. As a result, customers sit on hold, sometimes for obscenely long times.
Chatbots can end these lengthy holds by providing immediate help. Unlike a human who can assist only one person at a time, a chatbot — really just a bunch of lines of code — can help dozens, even hundreds, of customers at once.
Your customers are happy because they don’t have to sit with a phone to their ear, listening to bad music playing; you’re happy because you don’t have to pay for the massive staff it would otherwise take to shrink hold times to a reasonable level.
Chatbots Are With Customers Every Step of the Way
Chatbots do more than help customers when they have an issue, question, or complaint. Imagine you run a health website where customers can sign up to have vitamins delivered each month. The customer’s credit card gets billed a day or two before their monthly shipment goes out.
You can set your chatbot up to send personalized reminders that a charge is upcoming. It can let your customer know when their order has been shipped. If a customer wonders why his order hasn’t arrived yet, the chatbot can track it and let the customer know where it is.
No matter your business, a chatbot can serve as your customers’ first point of contact throughout the sales process, making their shopping experience more pleasant and stress-free.
Chatbots Make Your Life Easier, Too
Now you know how chatbots help your customers have a better shopping experience, but they can make your life easier too. When your customers are happier, you deal with fewer complaints as the business owner. You can focus on growing your business rather than putting out fires.
Chatbots lower your labour costs and free up money to invest in other areas of your business. They boost your revenues by decreasing the number of incomplete and abandoned orders. When a customer tries to click away, the chatbot is there to figure out what went wrong and how it can help.
A chatbot benefits both customers and businesses and contributes to a higher bottom line. That’s why, according to Business Insider, 80 percent of businesses around the world want chatbots by 2020. If you haven’t integrated chatbots into your e-commerce business, now you have a host of reasons to do so.