Chatbots and Small Business

Topics: Small Business Advice

As the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and marketing technology grow, you may be wondering whether using a chatbot could help you keep up with the trends and compete in a crowded marketplace. One of the key advantages of chatbots for both companies and consumers is that they leverage AI to provide greater convenience with relatively minimal operating costs, which could result in a boost of your business's bottom-line performance and allow greater consumer access to information about your brand.

So, exactly what is a chatbot, and how could your small business benefit from using one?

How Does Chatbot Technology Work?

AI tips for small businesses

A chatbot is a computer program that mimics conversation through artificial intelligence. If you've ever interacted with a Google Home, the iPhone's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, you've used chatbot technology. Thanks to AI, these chatbots are designed to interpret individual requests and, based on a few rules outlined in the chatbot's programming, point the inquirer to the appropriate resources or directly answer the request.

As a chatbot receives more data, the AI technology that supports it can help the chatbot become more sophisticated, allowing it to respond to more intricate requests, like what kind of product would be the best choice based on specific customer needs or wants.

What Can a Chatbot Do for My Business?

As a small business owner, you've most likely thought about or even have documented the most frequently asked questions from your customers or leads. By syncing with data that you already have, a chatbot could be the first line of defense to address these FAQs. Here are three distinct ways a chatbot could benefit your small business:

1. Improving the customer experience

As a business owner, you may not always have the time or resources to keep up with answering your customers' questions or concerns 24/7, especially as your business expands. A chatbot can instantly reply to the visitors who engage with it so they don't have to wait for your business to open or search through your site to get answers to common questions.

2. Automating standardized service

If you're like most business, you'll hear the majority of questions customers ask over and over again. For example: "What are your store hours?" Or, "How do I get a refund?" A chatbot can use existing documentation to answer these questions for you, and it even can be programmed to connect customers with a human when necessary so you and your staff can focus on the most urgent or intricate requests.

3. Providing enhanced marketing data

One of the best features of a chatbot for small businesses is that they collect valuable data about your customers. For example, if you run a food delivery service and allow customers to place orders via a chatbot, you'll easily be able to track how much money your customers spend with the bot, what your best-selling food items are and more. You can use all of this new data to improve your chatbot, customer service and marketing efforts.

When and Where to Use a Chatbot

Many chatbots for businesses today are built on top of already existing messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. These bots make it easier for any business owner to respond with agility to increasing demand for social interactions.

Facebook offers its own documentation on how to get started building a chatbot for its Messenger service, and there are even bots that can help you build bots for Facebook Messenger and other social sites. If you want to hire a freelance designer to build your bot, sites like Upwork can help you find experienced programmers who are able to design chatbots that can help you accept payments, provide product support, answer frequently asked customer service questions and perform other consumer-facing activities.

Before deciding to design your own chatbot, think through the scenarios that would offer the best return on your investment. These scenarios include cases where you have a high demand for information and standardized data sets that can be leveraged to respond to these requests. If you can think of applications where linking existing data sets with a machine that can learn will provide a better customer experience and free your internal resources for more specialized tasks, then a chatbot is something to consider.

As with all tech trends, the business applications for chatbots will most likely expand with time. For now, use the guidance above to determine whether artificial intelligence and chatbot technology may be right for your business.

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This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact with your local RSM for more information.

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