Along the way, you’ve probably heard that bots are the future. Even if you haven’t heard of chatbots, chances are you’ve probably run into them somewhere on the internet with a sneaking suspicion that the person on the other end of the screen might be a robot. In this episode, we’ll breakdown the differences between good and bad chatbot experiences and how to implement a bot on your website.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Hi everyone welcome. Today we have Austin Heimerman with us and he has expertise in eliminating the friction between business and marketing with automation resulting in an overall better brand experience and today we're gonna be talking a little bit about conversational bots. Welcome Austin.
AUSTIN: Hey, I'm glad to be here.
KRISTA: Cool cool. So tell me what is a chatbot?
AUSTIN: A chatbot is a chat tool on your site or on a social platform that you can take a first best guess at what somebody is going to want and help guide them through a conversation.
KRISTA: OK so why would people kind of utilize this type of tool?
AUSTIN: You would use this type of tool to make an experience better. You see a lot of you see a lot of chat bots or or want to be chatbots.
KRISTA: Probably a lot of those right?
AUSTIN: There's some pretty bad experiences out there. When when you ask for the weather you want to get the weather not some some snide joke unless you signed up for the snide weather joke chatbot. When you're trying to create a chatbot you want to focus on making an experience better.
KRISTA: OK. So it's really kind of figuring out why somebody is there, why would they be asking a question and kind of guiding them?
AUSTIN: Yeah I think that would be a good way to first look at a chatbot is a guide.
KRISTA: OK so are people actually using these now you kind of alluded to like there's maybe some wannabes out there?
AUSTIN: Yeah I know there's like a a Whole Foods chatbot out there and they, Hello. Like it starts out saying "Hello how can I help you today? And here's some options. Would you like to browse for recipes, search for a specific recipe, or find a location." And those are things that the bot is built to do instead of "hey how can I help you today?" Open ended question. It helps guide you to something that one is going to help the experience and two is capable and it was designed to do those things.
KRISTA: Yeah absolutely. I mean that kind of makes sense with the way that we think about usability on the Internet and giving people specific options or specific things that they can do rather than just here's everything you could possibly do and choose one, it's you know hey maybe you want to go here here here is that. I mean it sounds like that's kind of what you're thinking about chatbots as well as really kind of honing in?
AUSTIN: Yeah. When you first engage with the chatbot it is very much that it's it's very much like a Website. And here's the things you can do but where the chatbot comes in handy is if you answer one of those questions and it gets to and you ask the right questions and then go into that kind of a conversational setup. This is the power of the chatbot is being able to direct to a human share that needs the human detail touch or that human the human touch in that conversation. And this allows the chatbot allows you to scale because a chatbot can intercept all these incoming messages whereas a human can't do all of that all at once. A chatbot is good at repeating each task and getting you know basic answers that a human doesn't necessarily, like they can, but that's not scalable and that's when that chatbot goes through and gets those basic questions out of the way it can decide, you can program into it, or build it. When a chatbot gets those basic questions out of the way it can be built in a way that if that person doesn't actually need to talk to human it doesn't and it doesn't take that time from the human that the person needs to actually be routed to a person at the company to help them.
KRISTA: Gotcha so kind of takes the tasks that maybe a person doesn't have to do that could be automated and kind of gets those out of the way and then if there is a real reason for somebody to have a conversation they can filter through those people till they actually can have those interactions at the end. Cool so it can help streamline everything make sure everybody gets communicated with but doesn't necessarily have to take a person to do that. Very cool. So you kind of talked a little about Whole Foods as maybe a good example is there maybe a bad example of a chatbot? Or something that's maybe been our experience that maybe could be optimized we could say?
AUSTIN: Definitely I alluded to the the that weather I had, I was asking a bot about weather it was trying to joke around and you know that let's not timely or helpful. I needed to decide what kind of shoes I needed or coat I needed that day. Like is it gonna be wet? Do I look like, don't wear the nice white sneakers right?
KRISTA: Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. So really going to keep in your your audience in mind and what they're ultimately trying to do even, even if your brand may be a little tongue in cheek, making sure that it's appropriate.
AUSTIN: Yeah. I mean there's time and place for it but make sure it's the time and place.
KRISTA: Absolutely, so are there lots of online tools or lots tools available to help make online chat possible for people?
AUSTIN: There's a plethora of tools and they they span anywhere from doing live chat really well and that's just the one on one communication between a person and a person. And then there's other tools that also do live chat but there's a, that bot element. So a bot can kind of be the incoming concierge service like there's the restroom, there's the there's your hotel room, there's the cafeteria, and direct them to where that person is actually meeting to go based on what they told you.
KRISTA: Gotcha. So are there a few things that you might look at? So since there are a bunch of tools or a few things maybe you want to keep in mind you know when you're looking for what tool is going to be best for you?
AUSTIN: Sure there's there's a few. Just top level simple things you can look for. Obviously you want to make sure that it's easy to use because if if it's complicated and hard to make updates or it needs like manually programmed with programming languages. Chances are you're not you're not going to be able to iterate on it at the rate you want to. And that it integrates with a CRM so it can log these conversations so if you have for example an unhappy customer coming to you on the support line and you don't know that coming like as a human coming into it and see if they're not happy you don't want you want to there is a certain way to handle that. That you would differently.
KRISTA: Yeah. Absolutely kind of having that log all right there for that person. So you know what if they've been chatting about in the past and how unhappy are they? And all the context.
AUSTIN: And this is not time to make a joke.
KRISTA: Exactly. Don't joke about the weather right now. Yeah, definitely. So is there like a time and a place or when and how should chat bots kind of ultimately be used? Is there like a good time to have them in a bad time to have them?
AUSTIN: Something I see a lot of people when they first are introduced to a chatbot they're excited about it and they just want to put it everywhere. They want to put it on every page every site and it's the same but the problem with that is each page on your Website or social media it's a different experience. Those pages aren't all trying to accomplish the same thing and chances are a one size fits all bot isn't the right answer because the page that it's on should be trying to accomplish something and you should look at a bot as a an add on to support the mission of that page. To support what that page is trying to do.
KRISTA: So if you had a particular service page maybe that bot centered around that particular service page or something like that?
AUSTIN: Yeah. You know you have a machine that is good at doing one thing you might ask specific questions about it like a pro... A machine project. Sure you might ask questions about that specific machine and its capabilities as opposed to hey how can I help you today or what machine are you looking for? Well I'm obviously on this specific machine page, engage me with something that I may not know.
KRISTA: That's relevant?
AUSTIN: Or that's relevant you know. Yeah about that specific machine.
KRISTA: Yeah yeah that definitely makes sense and it can adjust for service. Right. Yeah it would be so much easier to respond to that versus I don't think anybody really likes. I mean even when you're taking surveys or anything like kind of the open ended answer scenario. It's like you can say anything in there and it's so much easier if there's just an option and I can choose one of those or say an other if there is something different that I want but it's it just seems like you would be able to get a lot more interaction that way.
AUSTIN: And that's that's where that again that's the power of the chatbot if it is the other. And it's not one of those things that the bot was built to do. We can send it to that human and if enough of those similar things come in we can add add that as an option and kind of build that, build that functionality out.
KRISTA: Yeah. And this may be a really awful analogy, but it does remind me of kind of when the automated phone system came out you know and not every single call that came in had to go through the operator, you know, you could route somebody really easily to the place they want to go. Versus having to go through five thousand different people to to finally get to your end place. If you know hey I'm calling because I want to pay my bill, and sometimes you don't even have to have a person for that you can enter your account number right there and it's really easy. So it's kind of a, I know that's a little bit more on the traditional side but it kind of seems like that's kind of where we're going with some of this web stuff. Is you're really just making those conversations and things easier and kind of automating those places where you just don't have to have people involved.
AUSTIN: So so the phone system. Right. Like an automated phone system that's that's a general approach to one singular number. And that's where bots are different is that you can have a different bot that's purpose built per section or per product or service.
KRISTA: Yeah. So you could really kind of dive into each one of those and get specific really quickly.
AUSTIN: Make it very relevant to where that person at is in their journey.
KRISTA: Really personalize that experience for them. I could really see that adding a lot of value to their journey for sure. So what about a bad experience what could that look like?
AUSTIN: So internally a bad experience when thinking about chatbots. We're not trying to replace humans we're just trying to elevate their time and help them solve problems or engage with the right people and to keep in mind that the chatbots we're talking about, we're not we're not trying to create artificial intelligence like what Siri is or Alexa or the Google Voice assistant. These are these are simpler, simpler bots conversations that are just trying to come... complete or achieve a specific task or action a download or something like that.
KRISTA: So we've kind of talked a lot about you know what is it how does it work. So how can people actually kind of start working with this? So kind of alluded to putting things on different pages so if people are planning on implementing a chatbot on their site how should they kind of get started with their overall strategy? How could they... how should they kind of be thinking about this?
AUSTIN: I would look at your most valuable pages on your Website and focus on one of them. Don't. Don't try and create a one size fits all for the site. You won't see much success with that. Chances are you're going to see better success if you, if you purpose build it for one action and then learn from that and expand and build bigger bots later. But start with something that can accomplish a specific task. And oftentimes those are those are things like maybe the home page or the home page where you could send them you know help guide them to the right place. Or a contact page where you could maybe book a meeting right away or a service page to help them product or service page where you can help them download a spec sheet easier or something like that. Something that has a bigger purpose that adds value and can make that experience better.
KRISTA: Awesome. So is there a way that kind of you would attack figuring all of that out?
AUSTIN: Yeah there's there's basically four questions you need to answer in order to help guide the direction of the bot. OK so the four questions you need to ask is "what page are they on?" You know are they. Are they on a home page or are they on an educational page? Is it content? Is it a blog? And just answer that question where you're trying to focus and then "who is it?" Are they do you know who they are? Is it an anonymous visitor? Is it a return visitor is it an ideal customer? So if it was a return return visitor and they've been to the pricing page 50 times in a week a chatbot could address that person that's been there 50 times differently than an anonymous visitor.
KRISTA: They're kind of digging into it. Why haven't you pulled the trigger?
AUSTIN: You're really interested in this should we, should we have a phone call or...
KRISTA: Maybe I can answer your question.
AUSTIN: Check out this video. Yeah. What's going on right. So what page. Who is it and "where did they come from?" Did they google search and come there organically or did they directly go to a page? Are they coming from an ad? If they're coming from an ad the messaging on the ad you can use the chatbot to support that messaging again. So if they're if they're expecting to have a 20 percent off coupon or whatever from an ad the chatbot and say "Hey do you have a coupon today?" You know what is it or hey here's this 20 percent coupon. Right. And support that. Engage them that way something that they're already expecting. That's just a few examples of that. So again what page. Who is it and where do they come from. And kind of the last question. Probably one of the one of the more important ones is "why are they here?" Are they trying. Are they trying to answer a question or are they just evaluating your product or service to see if it's a good fit? Are they trying to just educate just in general? Do they need directions to maybe to maybe a product like if I was going to implement this product what would I need or are they a customer and they need support and they do they have an issue? So if they have an issue can we go ahead and create a support ticket that gets logged into the support system and just automatically creates it and automates it that way and makes it not so great experience better by making the submitting a ticket.
KRISTA: I think that was the true test. If you can get somebody who is already irritated let's say you you know you're an AC company or you know one of those companies that people are just mad when they call because they don't want to spend money on your product or service but they have to. If you can make that experience good and you can you know make those people happy I really feel like you've won.
AUSTIN: So just to reiterate what page are they on. Who is it. Where did they come from and why are they here. And together all of these questions will help you create a better experience for whoever's interacting.
KRISTA: Awesome. So let's just chat a little bit about what the kind of structure of the conversation is because you talked about where they go and kind of what they do. But we have really talked about how you structure the conversation, because it seems like there's quite a bit of thought that would go into like what do you actually say. Kind of on these things you talk just a little bit about that.
AUSTIN: There's three basic building blocks to chat about conversation. First you want to engage. You want to make something that first question they see. I keep saying you know how can I help you. But unless we're getting specific on on what that's kind of the best example for now just so how can I help you. And make that catchy and kind of an icebreaker to the conversation or support what they would expect to see there. So like the 20 percent ad, some some catchy catchy line engage. And then after they engage you got their attention and you can ask another question or get an answer so that you can understand what they're trying to do. Are they trying to learn more? Are they having an issue? And then after you have engaged and you understand, now you can recommend what what they need to do. That bot can send them to content that might be helpful with their situation or question or whatever. Or it can direct them to a human. Or it can automate a task like submitting a ticket or booking a meeting.
KRISTA: Sure OK. So we've kind of talked a few different ways about how some of these could be used kind of different departments. You want to just kind of head on maybe the top few departments or different ideas that by the way it bots the way bots could be used and get that out.
AUSTIN: Sure we can use chat bots and a lot of places that the customer journey happens and so are they first learning about us you know, let's let's create a marketing chatbot are they trying to buy from us let's create a sales chatbot, are they a customer and need help or support on the product. Let's create a support shop.
KRISTA: Gotcha. OK. Very cool. So I feel like we've talked about a lot of different things today. Kind of covered the broad spectrum of of chatbots in general. What are kind of the top few takeaways that we can leave our listeners with?
AUSTIN: I think the biggest takeaway is create better experiences. Always always make sure that it's going to be helpful. Always add value and try and accomplish a specific task or action with that chatbot.
KRISTA: Fantastic and we actually have a chat bot starter guide that is available for download on the TANK New Media site so you can go to TANKNewMedia.com/bots and download that starter guide as well. If you're interested in kind of getting this kicked off and I want to say thanks Austin for joining us today. I feel like you gave us a bunch of really cool ideas to get started with chatbots. Thank you.
KRISTA: All right thanks everybody and don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe.
KRISTA: Learn more and TANKNewMedia.com
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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