The next conversation you have about a B2B product or service could very well be with a bot and not a living, breathing human being. And many of us won’t even realize we’re chatting with computer software.
Adoption of chatbot technologies is expected to grow significantly among businesses whose customers are other businesses. An estimated 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate chatbots in 2020 — up from just 2 percent in 2017 (Gartner). And that’s just the start. By 2022, an estimated 70 percent of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis (Gartner).
So this year, the smartest hire your B2B company makes could be a chatbot, which is automated messaging software.
Software With Mad Skills
Chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) to answer questions, provide information, book appointments, solve problems, and even make purchases. They run on versions of the technology that underlies personal assistant applications such as Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon, Google Assistant and Cortana from Microsoft.
In B2B applications, chatbots can be deployed on your company’s website, social media and other online platforms. Chatbot software is able to:
- Look up and share original research and unique insights
- Answer specific market and site questions
- Collect contact information for follow-up
- Schedule future conversations
- Route a customer to the right person within your organization
The experience of interacting on a computer, phone or tablet is more like a conversation than a conventional online search because, well, chatbots talk back.
And they don’t sound like the robots shown on television or in movies. Powering their skills is native language programming (NLP). That’s what enables the software to respond with text or voice messages with an understanding of context and intent. Their responses are delivered in real time and so smoothly that human customers often believe they’ve reached another person. In reality, the chatbot is only serving up programmed answers that the B2B company anticipated might be needed by customers — when and where the customers decide to ask.
“NLP is going to be incredibly important for business. It is going to fundamentally change how we provide services, how we understand sales processes and how we do marketing,” Richard Socher, the chief scientist at Salesforce, told Forbes.
Chatbots Already at Work
Chatbots are showing us how AI technology enables B2B companies to share business information, insights and expertise at the very moment customers are searching for a solution. That’s such a leap forward from conventional processes in which customers must leave a voice message or fill out an online form and then wait — sometimes hours or days — for a response.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, expanded its presence on Facebook to offer readers another way to be alerted to headlines about the day’s biggest news and the latest stock quotes. By utilizing capabilities available in the Facebook Messenger app, the newspaper enables customers to search its files for key financial data and customized company information. You can use the tool, found on the newspaper’s Facebook page, to compare two companies you might be considering investing in.
Another example comes from SalesRabbit, which offers sales enablement tools. The chatbot deployed on the SalesRabbit website greets visitors and asks what they’re looking for. The greeting is immediate, and you’d swear there’s a real person typing rapidly on the other side of the screen. Then comes the killer app: a series of programmed questions that begin to identify the customer’s needs and level of interest. SalesRabbit has chosen four initial options:
- “I have one quick question.”
- “I’d like to chat here with an expert.”
- “I’d like to schedule a guided demo.”
- “I’d like to watch an overview video.”
When a visitor clicks on one of the four buttons, the SalesRabbit chatbot retrieves content available from its resource center. For customers further along in their purchase consideration, the chatbot can schedule a software demonstration or connect the visitor with a product specialist. This saves time for customers, who can avoid a long search through the company website to find the information they want.
Should You Build a Bot, or Not?
You can evaluate whether a chatbot is right for your B2B customers by first identifying the opportunities to better serve customers. (There’s not a bot you can ask. This one’s up to you.) Start by answering the following questions:
- Why do you want to build a chatbot?
- What do you want customers to do with a chatbot?
- How will a chatbot improve the experience for customers interacting with your company?
- Which questions or information requests can we anticipate coming from customers?
- How will we respond to customers’ inquiries, and where will the information and resources included in our responses be found?
- What internal or third-party resources are needed to develop and implement a chatbot?
Ready to Learn More?
If communicating with voice or text chat technologies can benefit your customers, let’s talk. We can help you find ways to utilize chatbots that are right for your B2B business.