Our planet is open 24 hours a day, and this means your business must also be. People want an answer to their question before it even pops into their head. Smartphones contain the secrets of the universe, but we still crave interactive education.

The result? Live chat is becoming more of a necessity, and conversational marketing engages an active contemporary audience. Live chat needs someone in the box responding to queries. But smart chatbots can do this job unmanned, at any time of day or night.

The growth of chatbots

A 2017 report by Forrester Research shows that 57% of companies use chatbots in some form already, or plan on doing so in the coming year. Why this rising popularity? Quite simply, bots allow businesses to provide round-the-clock customer service.

This evolution in customer relations has provided a new way for users to engage. The benefits of this are twofold. Firstly, your customers can praise, complain, or get the info they need at any time of day. They can also be titillated by your latest special offers. In theory, a chatbot can provide the intricate services of a human representative.

Secondly, you get to learn about your customer. Yes, this is a bidirectional relationship. Your chatbot can gather invaluable data, which can be used to generate further leads, secure conversions, and facilitate long-term relationships.

Like any AI development, chatbots need to be implemented with care.

Biggest mistakes with chatbots

Here are five of the biggest mistakes to avoid…

Mistake #1: When your bot feels too much like a bot.

Unless you optimise the user experience, the person will abandon ship. Users want to be heard, and ideally heard by a human. A 2016 study by Accenture Strategy found that 79% of customers prefer to interact with a human when getting advice.

To give this impression, your bot must express emotion, modulate its voice, and maintain some personality. An attentive ear is essential for good customer service.

CAVEAT: It’s also a legitimate approach to go the other way completely. For example, be explicit about the chatbot not being a human, and make light of that fact. Rather than attempting realism, you could be transparent. This removes the tension and creates a more understanding landscape. Either way, a relatable humanity or personality must enter the conversation.

Mistake #2: When you have not defined the goals of your bot clearly.

If you’re not ready to launch your chatbot, don’t launch your chatbot. The detrimental effects of taking it out of the oven too soon far outweigh the need to experiment.

Consider why you’ve decided to employ a chatbot. Is it to take over the information desk? Is it to handle queries about your product? Is it to field complaints? Is it to attract new customers? Map out what you want your bot to achieve, and how you envision it being able to achieve it.

Mistake #3: When your bot becomes Frankenstein’s monster.

Depending on your technology, the chatbot might learn from the information it’s fed. As it grows to be more sophisticated, it’s unwise to sit back and let it off the leash. Frankenbot might be released, wreaking havoc on previous brand-building efforts. Always employ a human botsitter.

Mistake #4: When you don’t know if your bot is even helping.

KPIs are important, especially when implementing new tech. Measure what your chatbot is achieving for your website or app. If the goal was to increase conversions from the homepage, how is this working out? If you want to guide visitors to specific blog posts, has this occurred?

Strategic implementation and a goal-oriented approach must be the focus. How is your chatbot making a genuine impact?

Mistake #5: When your bot hasn’t learned to leave the party.

Give your chatbot an exit strategy. Don’t let it become that guy at the party who doesn’t know how to get out of a conversation. Many bots are programmed to ask questions to gauge user intent. This can get grating. Consider how you will pass the user onto another stage when the time is right; either when they’ve found what they’re looking for or when this can’t be done.

Tips on how to do it right

Don’t let these mistakes deter you from implementing chatbots. It’s possible to do it right and when you do, you will quickly be able to reap the rewards.

Here are three quick tips to guide you:

  1. Don’t skimp on development costs. An amateur developer can spell the end of your chatbot success.
  2. Don’t get too cute and clever. It’s easy to get seduced by the gimmicky nature of chatbots. Don’t. Set up bots that are able to provide your customers with the information they need, not little characters that tell jokes and have fun colours. Remember your priorities.
  3. From start-to-finish, plan, implement, assess – and then start the process again. Always ensure you’re operating in a self-aware manner. Remember, that’s what a human should be able to do best.