Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Are Chat Bots & Why Should Your Business Use Them?

As things get hot over Web 2.0 strategies in the Service Industry, one of the more challenging technologies that Service Managers dread to deploy is a Chat channel for Customer Support. The concerns over using chat for support are legitimate, and are usually attributed to resource management, productivity, and whether or not a chat interaction will be more productive over the long term since an agent has to type to engage upon solution solving.

So now Gartner and several other multichannel support vendors are buzzing about over the concept of Chat Bots and it is likely being driven by the popularity of Second Life and it's use in the Business World. Gartner predicts that by 2010, over 15% of Fortune 1000 companies with a web site will have some kind of chat bot deployed on their web site. The concept of Chat Bots is far from new however. Anyway who utilized the MIRC in the early days of chat on the internet know what I am reffering to, so in this post I will summarize what is a chat bot, and how should a service organization utilize them?

What Are Chat Bots?

In laments terms, a chat bot is simply an automated agent that a customer or person online can ask for information and the chat bot would serve the individual the information requested. In the context of a support tool, you would ask the chat bot a question and the chat bot would attempt to answer the question prior to being directed to an actual live agent.

Perhaps some of the most familiar chat bots in our everyday virtual lives is in AOL's Instant Messenger Bots. These bots are active in the Buddy list for you to ask questions on a variety of things such as the following:
  • The Movifone Bot - Too find out where is your favorite movie playing and at what time.
  • The WSJ Bot - Wall Street Journal Bot to find stock quotes.
These are just some of the several bots you can use on Instant Messenger, and they serve as great automated sources of information to the consumer.

Why Should Your Business Care?

So you rolled out chat and saw the value of it, but what if you could eliminate 15% of your inquiries prior to a live chat engagement? What if 100% of your inquiries can be managed in an automated fashion with a personal touch using a chat bot? The reality is that customers today and future customers are living in a virtual world. Technologies like Virtual Chat Bots will be essential in the future as a front end to your live web support vs. today where it is more of an option.

In the context of support, companies are utilizing chat bots as a front end to support their customers prior to reaching a live agent over the web. Unlike traditional Knowledge Bases or Online Support Forums where keywords are utilized, Chat Bots provide a more conversational and question oriented approach to resolution while providing the end user with a more personal experience in real time. Typically, if the chat bot is not successful in automatically resolving the customers inquiry, then a live chat interaction with an agent takes place.

There are certainly some good and bad with the Chat Bot concept, and the technology is currently maturing. Solution providers like eGain, and PandoraBots, and Microsoft acquired Colloquis are some providers taking the lead in this space. But depending on your business, this may or may not be the best approach. One instance where we do see automated chat put to good use is on 1-800-Radiator's Web site. The company recognized that it had a much better chance of converting customers over the phone than online, so it used an automated chat service to pre-qualify customers, gather information and then escalate the contact to the phone via click to call.

Click below to download eGain's White Paper on Chat Bot Best Practices.

8 Tips For Superior Web Self Service Through Chat Bots


Anonymous said...

Your article includes these phrases:

"Anyway who utilized" ???

"In laments terms" ???

Can you connect me to the chat bot instead, please?

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