It’s 2017, and with the rapid evolution of technology and social media tools, it’s no surprise that services and features such as live chat widgets and chatbots are rising in popularity. With consumers expecting businesses to be available almost 24×7 and on a more human level, new social communication tools are now leading a new method of customer interaction.
Although emails, contact forms and ticket systems still have their place in many businesses (especially B2B), B2C companies are now embracing more instant forms of messaging. Whether it’s using the built-in feature of Facebook Messenger, or using a website widget, if you’re communicating with customers, you should be making the move towards instantaneous communication platforms.
Competition is fierce, and you don’t want to lose business simply because you didn’t respond in time.
The headings below will outline the benefits (and downfalls) of each platform:
With over 1 billion people on Facebook, the social media platform is one of the easiest ways to reach and communicate with new and existing customers using its Pages feature. With a separate app (called Pages Manager), you can respond to messages sent directly to your Facebook page. There’s almost no setup required, as the messaging platform is a core feature of Facebook and Facebook pages.
Here are some reasons why your business should be using Facebook Messenger (via Facebook Pages Manager) to communicate with users:
- No tools required – simply install the Facebook Pages Manager app on your mobile, or access the Page Manager from your desktop computer (via Facebook on your web browser)
- “Everyone” has it – Facebook Messenger is a trusted platform that’s easy to use. Users will be able to communicate with you using a familiar interface – eliminating the trickiness of backwards and forwards emails, numerous phone calls or trying to schedule appointments.
- Easy on mobile – Facebook Messenger is available (and optimised) for the mobile experience. You don’t need to worry about the technicalities, that’s Facebook’s speciality.
- Automation – through third party platforms, you are able to automate or semi-automate the chat experience. Automatically sending messages, responding to enquiries or collecting data.
- It’s social – people want to interact with people, not a faceless business, what better way to achieve this other than social media?
Now for the negatives. Admittedly there aren’t many, because seriously, what’s wrong with communicating using modern widely adopted technologies??
- It requires manpower and effort – depending on your business, you may need to hire one (or many) employees to man your social media page, handling enquiries as they come in. Because of this, it’s expensive and responding to customers is limited to the hours your employees are working. (Like many businesses nowadays anyway).
- Automation platforms can be expensive – third party tools to automate the chat process often come at a price, and this needs to be evaluated from a business standpoint – what does it offer and is it worth it? Keeping in mind that automation is optional
- Lack of customisation – unlike live chat widgets, emails or website forms, Facebook gives you almost no level of customisation for your messaging experience
Now onto live chat. Live chat widgets are commonly seen floating around the bottom left/right of a website (on both mobile and desktop), when clicked they bring up a window which resembles that of a Facebook Messenger conversation. Allowing website users to interact with your staff in real time whilst browsing your website. Here are the pros:
- Branding and customisation – live chat software usually offers a great deal of customisation, allowing you to: pick a colour scheme, set logos and pop up images, choose when and where to display it on your site, and heaps more
- Canned responses – often find yourself repeating the same information? Canned responses allow you to send predefined messages to users with the click of a button, speeding up the customer service process
- Ability to capture information – live chat software allows you to have a pre-chat form, prompting users to enter certain data before initiating the chat. This allows you to store their phone, email (or whatever you like) for future reference, say for example you need to follow up on an enquiry
- Reporting – important in any business environment, live chat software often allows you to monitor a variety of important stats, including: what page they entered on, how long they’ve been on the site, what browser/device they are using, and plenty more!
- Screen sharing – some live chat apps even allow the user to share their screen with you, making it easy for you to guide them through a process on your website
- File sharing – majority of live chat apps have a file sharing feature, making it easy to send photos, PDFs, Word Documents and more
- Ticketing – unable to help the customer out through live chat? Live chat programs will allow you to assign a ticket to a particular user, making it easy to communicate with them once the chat session has ended
- Categorisation – if you start to get inundated with large volumes of chat sessions, you can categorise them using tags. For example – if someone is asking about a particular product, you could tag it as the product name, and if someone had a general account enquiry, you could tag the chat with “account” (or similar). This makes reporting even easier – you’ll be able to see what users are using the live chat for, and tailor your web experience for them
- Polls/feedback – once the chat ends, it’s always helpful to know whether or not the user appreciated the interaction. Different live chat apps have different setups, but usually you can gauge a user’s experience with a simple thumbs up/down poll at the end of a chat session
- API integration – some live chat apps integrate with other services such as Salesforce and MailChimp. Others allow Zapier integration, which means importing/exporting data between almost any system is possible.
Wow! So many positives! There are a few cons you need to take into consideration though:
- It requires manpower and effort – depending on your business, you may need to hire one (or many) employees to man your live chat software, handling enquiries as they come in. Because of this, it’s expensive and responding to customers is limited to the hours your employees are working
Last, but not least, Chatbots. Gaining in popularity, Chatbots require little to human monitoring once the system has been set up. Here are the pros of using a Chatbot over Messenger or Live Chat:
- 24/7 – computer code doesn’t sleep! You can answer enquiries on your website at any time of the day, any day of the year
- Multiple chats – have multiple users wanting to contact you at the same time? No worries, many Chatbots can handle a few (even unlimited amounts of) enquiries simultaneously
- Responses are instant – Chatbots respond using a database of predefines responses depending on their relevancy – because of this, they can reply to messages instantly
- Cost efficient – depending on your needs, a Chatbot will almost always be cheaper to maintain than hiring a staff member to respond to enquiries
- Potential to be fully automated – you basically don’t have to touch a single key on the keyboard, everything is handled by if-this-then-that pieces of code, and almost anything can be implemented depending on your Chatbot software
Whilst a “robot” may solve some of your problems, new issues often arise due to the lack of a human element, please consider that:
- The software may need training – just like humans, a Chatbot needs to learn how to respond to questions, and a bit of initial effort may need to be put into setting up the system
- Lacks a human touch and empathy – whilst you can make your predefined responses sound as friendly as possible, at the end of the day, they’re coming from a computer. Many consumers still want to interact with a human
- Responses may not be specific enough – many website users turn to live chat widgets as a quick and easy way to get relevant information. If the Chatbot doesn’t understand what it’s being asked, it may send back a generic response that doesn’t help the user at all
- User frustration – because of the points mentioned above, someone on your website may get annoyed and frustrated, a simple question for a human may prove difficult for a computer. Depending on how you implement a Chatbot, it may do more harm than good.
So which one is right for me?
Well it depends on your business, here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- How do people currently contact my business – through social media, email or phone?
- How many enquiries do I get and how frequently?
- Do I usually respond with similar information, or is every enquiry unique?
- What’s my budget?
Need help deciding?
Get in touch with me on social media, or click the Contact tab!