The why, when, and how of implementing a bot for your business for maximum ROI

You may have heard of it everywhere in the news, on blogs, from friends’ posts, on social channels, and so on. Maybe you have considered it for your business. Perhaps you’ve even started looking for someone who can help you make it.

What is it? A bot, of course; the new media sensation that promises to help you increase your customer engagement, support efficacy, commerce results, and even give you news and weather on demand. Big claims, on a new channel.

That said, how do you know if a bot is really right for your business? When does it make sense to implement one for it to be really useful? And how do you start going about it?

Why should you have a bot?

Some people today may be looking at owning a bot for their business simply because it’s cool or on-trend. However, the basic premise of having a bot is that you have a business process that you want to improve or augment. (It is a business after all, and requires you to get some tangible returns on what you spend on.)

For example, you may be selling products or services online that you could better serve customers with faster sales qualifications, better customer support for common questions, or to provide news and offers in a timely fashion. These are all good reasons for having a bot, as these are directly tied to your bottomline.

Even seemingly custom jobs like consulting have processes – Think about the onboarding questions that consultants have to better qualify and understand the needs of customers, or the standard requirements that custom-made product makers collect from customers before they’re able to start working on the job.

Another interesting example is from Lasik clinics – There is a process flow all the way from taking a questionnaire to testing for compatibility, until the after care treatments. Our businesses may not actually have those physical tests in execution, but there are definitely specific checkpoints that we have in mind to streamline them to the way they are today.

So think of bots in terms of flows and processes.

We usually map out the flows of the objectives, ideal experience and interconnected questions so as to better visualize what the bot can do for a business.

When should you think of bots?

Since having a bot closely tracks the stage and progress of your business, there are several factors that you may see as important in your decision to implement a bot.

You get a high volume of inquiries or requests

Since bots are a form of automation, they will help your team if your support staff (or you) are swamped with lots of messages, emails or tickets every day. With the right inquiry flows and FAQs added to a bot, this can be a godsend for your sales and support efforts.

If the bot developer you choose helps you to manage load balancing and scalability, the bot will be able to serve a lot more customers automatically, significantly reducing the stress of responding to these requests on a day-to-day basis.

Your business has repeatable or scalable elements

Instead of a “We’ll reply in 48 hours”, you can get response times counting in the seconds with bots. If you realize that more than 40% of your inquiries are repetitive (we built an engine that can recognize repetitive issues, for example), this may be a good threshold to start looking for a bot solution.

If 40% of your inquiries are repetitive, it is a good indicator that you have a very good chance of directly automating these repetitive elements away.

Not only would you have faster and more accurate responses, customers would also get information to make decisions or resolve issues faster, making it a great loyalty play – Customers who get their queries quickly resolved are more likely to stick around.

You have a call script or already hired a call center

In a similar vein, if you have already codified call flows into a script, you can easily turn these scripts into a bot script that could guide your customers through a certain action or purchase decision (rather like a recommendation bot.)

While your bot should have a script, it’s also important to check that your bot provider can add the flexibility to help you improve and iterate on the language over time, with artificial intelligence and natural language processing that will help the bot understand customers better.

You serve international customers around the clock

Having to serve customers 24/7 is a no-brainer factor for choosing a bot. Instead of having to staff people in your time zone to work overtime, or find contractors in a time zone in the opposite side of the world, a bot will simply stay up all the time, and help customers out tirelessly. A bonus is that the bot can also be multilingual, so that quickly adapts your product to the local markets.

Your bot can serve customers around the clock, tirelessly.

While some may argue that calls are still the preferred medium for customers, several studies have shown that text receives 90 CSAT points out of a 100, as compared to a 78 points for calls in recent times. You can also observe this by looking around – People prefer to text, instead of downloading another app or waiting on the line for an hour to figure something out.

You have a business that relies on being at the cutting edge of engagement

Despite the initial qualification that a bot should not be only adopted because of a fad, it is imperative for your business to have one if you require your brand to constantly stay at the cutting edge of innovation and early technological adoption.

In spite of this, having a good grasp of what the bot brings you in terms of engagement and financial returns will help you to evaluate it on an ongoing basis, investing in more workflows and features if it is truly making a difference to the customer experience.

How should you implement a bot?

There are, as always, two ways: Make one, or buy one.

Make your own bot

There are several ways you could think about making your own business-ready bot. First, if you are confident that you can identify all relevant content and scripts that your bot should handle, then you can start looking for frameworks such as the recently released Microsoft Bot Framework (.NET mostly) and Facebook Bot SDK to try your hand at it.

If you believe that you are somewhat sure of what is needed, you can start gathering more inputs from your team on what could be the most commonly asked or necessary points that the bot needs to know. After this, check with your design and development team on their project bandwidth to find out if they have the capacity to fit in a brand new bot project.

Buy (or co-create) your bot

Another way you could go about it is to get professional help to help you craft the experience and content that should go into the bot. You should work closely with your bot provider to discuss your business needs and flows (remember, if your bot provider does not ask you about this, it means it may not be actually solving a real business process for you.)

Your bot provider can then talk about which channels you want your bot to be on, based on where your target customers are, and give you a definite timeframe and deliverables list, and finally help you figure out how to ease the process in with your current sales and support teams.

It’s important for your solution partner to understand your support requirements, past data, and intended goals in order for your bot to succeed.

Each of these has its own merits and drawbacks, but it is unique to your situation and you should take into account development time and opportunity costs when deciding to make your own bot. As it is an effort that requires ongoing development, support, maintenance and analysis, you should treat it with as much gravity as you would a new channel like opening a phone line or a live chat.

As solution providers ourselves, who build and maintain customer support automation experiences grounded in past conversational data for businesses, we know that you can achieve spectacular results in CSAT and revenue uplifts (40-90% in some cases) with bots; just keep the points we discussed here in mind when making your initial decision to implement your own!