Using Chatbots to Grow Your Business

How to use chatbots to grow your business - A Beginner's Guide

In the past few years technology has completely disrupted the way organizations and companies approach customer support and care. The introduction of chatbots followed the same pattern. Lots of research exists our there to back this up, just look at this one by Net Imperative that status that 89% of customers would rather communicate with a virtual assistant than a real person.  
With this post, we’d like to explore chatbots in the context of using them to grow your business. We’ll explore some fundamentals, imlplementation tips and even some of top tools that came up in our research. By now, if you’re reading this much, our very own chatbot “Anya” has already prompted you on the bottom right side of the screen. Go ahead, have a chat and experience it first-hand.
Ok, back to chatbots and learning more about them. Let’s begin.

Chatbot Advantages

Reduced Costs
Before the introduction of chatbots, companies had to rely on human support. Chatbots solve that problem by answering customer concerns and providing them with needed help and advice. Even though implementing chatbots isn’t free, think of how much you will be saving. You will no longer have to a) pay for dedicated human support and b) pay for their associated expenses (like phone bills). There are also non-monetary savings associated with chatbots, like time and effort— just think, no more contracting call centers!
Personalized Selling
With bots keeping track of every choice a user makes on your website, they are the perfect salesperson. They can effectively cross-sell, and upsell your clients. Also, over 50% of people believe businesses should be available 24/7— a schedule chatbots can work with! They can reach out and push products as soon as users become promising leads, giving more meaning to the saying “make money while you sleep”. Along the same lines, they are the best multi-taskers, as they can be chatting with multiple clients at once.
Easy to Use
Even better, chatbots are easy to use— for both you, and your customers! They are super easy to implement, more importantly, are incredibly user friendly. You can even optimize your chatbots for mobile. Since 90% of our time on mobile is spent on email and messaging platforms, they are extremely convenient for both you, and your customers. Moreover, since you can personalize your own bot, they are extremely implementable.

Chatbot Disadvantages

Security issues

Of course, when dealing with sensitive information, chatbots can be a liability. Sensitive information such as credit cards, personal information and others must be handled with care. You should be vigilant and proactive on monitoring your chatbots security system. This becomes even more important if your core business deals with customers personal information, such as banks. If customers do not trust the security of your chatbots, they will not interact with them!

Not All Bots Are Created Equal

There is a downside to chatbot personalization; you need to put in the work. If you are not the most chatbot savvy, your skills may be limited. Even if you are, chatbots can sometimes go a little rogue. When Microsoft launched their chatbot Tay, things quickly got out of hand. She was designed to communicate like a millennial girl, and learn from every interaction. Unfortunately, users started teaching her extremely inappropriate things, to which she, well, repeated. Moreover, customers have certain expectations for chatbots. If yours doesn’t meet, or exceed, these preconceived notions, your customers will be dissatisfied.

They Have Their Limits

Unfortunately, chatbots do have their limits. For the most part, they are currently unable to process complex questions or requests. Instead, they are better for more superficial communication. As such, so far they cannot completely remove humans from the equation. Moreover, their communication style is slighted limited. The average bot does not interpret sarcasm well, and will instead take it literally. Which is so helpful.

I know you’re already well acquainted with Anya on the right, but are chatbots really as good as they seem? And if so, how can a small business owner implement them into their customer care?

Chatbot Implementation

Now that you know about why you should implement chatbots, let’s go over some tips as to how best you can implement them.

Define Your Vision & Objectives

First things first, you need to outline your objectives, vision and long-term goals for your chatbots. Subsequently, you need to determine your target audience and use cases. If you’re new to the game, leveraging existing customers may be worthwhile. You already understand these customers, and retaining existing customers is much easier than attracting new ones. Afterwards, you should identify the tasks needed to reach your long-term goal. For example, if you decide improving customer experience is your main focus, your first task may be to identify common questions customers may ask your bots. After doing so, your next task may be to define your bots domain (ie. the topics they will know, and the breadth of their knowledge). It’s no surprise that different audiences use different slang terms and will have different expectations; so knowing this vital information can allow you to completely customize (and optimize!) the customer experience at every touch point. It’s also probably a good idea to try and predict future problems. For instance, what would you do if a customer gets stuck in a conversation loop?

Choose a Platform

Next step: Choose a suitable platform. Whatever platform you choose should align with your target audience and use case. Furthermore, your customers expectations will be different depending on which platform you use. It is important to be mindful of these assumptions, and act in accordance. For example, if you decide to target millennials, Facebook or Twitter may be viable options. However, this generation interacts with each platform very differently. Twitter is used more as way for customers to notify brands of issues, and hopefully get some compensation in return, while Facebook is used mainly for entertainment. Also, your customer’s location may influence which platforms you choose. If your target audience is situated in China, WeChat may be a platform to consider.

Build it with the Right Tools

Time to get your hands dirty— let’s start building! 40% of bot users disengage after only one interaction, so it’s imperative you build what the users want (it took us 35 min to build Anya on the right.. )
If you’re a bot baby (aka Chatbot beginner), tools like Chatfuel, Botsify and GupShop can really help. With Chatfuel, you can create a personalized AI Chatbot (with no coding!), and integrate your little minions easily within popular consumer platforms. This tool is used by some big brands, including TechCrunch, Uber, and Adidas. Botsify provides a simple interface and design process, user support and several platform integrations. They also have some shiny customers, including Apple! GupShop has pre-build templates, and building tools for everyone (bot babies and bot bosses alike) and for your entire chatbot lifecycle.
When building, it’s important to emphasize your chatbots tone, likeability, believability and brand voice. As discussed earlier, your bot also needs to effectively communicate with your target audience.
And always remember, just because it’s completed doesn’t mean it’s done! To keep your relevance and competitive advantage, you should continuously adapt and improve your bots. Tools like Bot Analytics can help, by gathering meaningful information about your bots performance, so you can make changes and improvements as necessary.

Test your Chatbot

Last, but certainly not least, you should test your chatbots suitability. Your bot should not only be functional, but also secure and appropriate for your target audience. For language, you should test for your bots tone, style, and overall understanding. There are some tools to help you at this stage, like the aforementioned ChatFuel— which can test your bots overall usability.
Considering all the benefits chatbots bring, and that the overwhelming majority of consumers would rather communicate with chatbots, you should probably get used to our friend Anya
Understanding your customers is crucial for the success of your bots, learn more about how you can with our recent article on persona surveys.
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Insurance Technology: A Tale of Two Extreme Ends

Learn about the biggest innovations in insurance technology =

Insurance technology and the industry are both undergoing a seismic change driven by several macro trends. Of these trends, technical innovation and changing customer expectations are driving insurance companies to invest significant resources in topics such as Big Data, Internet of things, blockchain and wearables. While some players in the industry stand to win and capitalize on this shift, some, unless they innovate, will put their company at risk.

Insurance Technology is Innovating at Lightning Speeds

According to a paper published by the Institute of international finance on insurance technology:
Cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, telematics, the global positioning system (GPS), mobile phones, digital platforms, drones, blockchain, smart contracts, and artificial intelligence (AI) are providing new ways to measure, control, and price risk, engage with customers, reduce cost, improve efficiency, and expand insurability.”
Customer expectations for services have significantly changed. In an article written earlier this year, I outlined how customer experience is taking center stage in 2017, and the impact this has had on the retail industry. The insurance industry is no different. Many customers today expect to be able to get their car insurance online, and instantly, and at a great price. After all, “15 minutes can save your 15% on car insurance”, right?
Insurance companies operate on the premise of risk reduction, that means whatever information can be gathered about the driver can help provide a better assessment of the driver risk, and therefore determine the rate. Yes, sometimes it is cheaper. In the past, you called your insurance broker, they asked for your driving history, how many miles you drove in a given year, what kind of car you drive, where you lived (to assess the likelihood of theft), etc. This data was collected once a year when it was time to renew. That, of course, was before GPS, IoT and Big Data were in play. Today, companies like Progressive can install a little device in your car, and monitor everything from the way you slam your breaks to where you pick up your kids, here is how it works according to ABC 15’s “Car insurance companies to track driver habits for research” story.
Privacy aside, these projects cost millions of dollars and help insurance companies, save money, make money, and yes, sometimes pass the information to you. For the customer, the potential for money savings, and a better experience, compared to calling my broker every year and going through the data collection dance, is a win.
Of course, this innovation is not limited to cars, these days, homes are being automated with systems like SmartThings which knows when you turn on your heat and when you fry your chicken a bit too much, and thanks to the proliferation of the Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect Fire Alarm and the ever connected Ring doorbell. Indeed the American Family Insurance Company has partnered up with Ring, and Liberty Mutual have partnered with Google to share your data and reduce costs…
Need good health insurance at an affordable price? Hey, how about a free Fitbit to go with that policy, thanks to John Hancock’s partnership with Vitality. Yes, at one point, data from wearables will be shared with your insurance company to analyze, revise risk, and cost to the customer.
The world of insurance will further be disrupted by autonomous vehicles, drones, AI, block chain, and more, here is an infographic that can shed some light on how insurance companies are looking at technology.
Infographic on the innovation of insurance technology and its impacts

Source: Innovation in Insurance Report by Institute of International Finance

But who exactly is investing in these projects? It’s the big companies, such as State Farm, Progressive, John Hancock, and Liberty Mutual. The reason for that is quick basic, big data and IoT projects require the ability to make data sharing deals in the market, the ability to roll out an expensive, usually multi-year, and multi-million dollar big data project. These projects require large sets of data, access to latest technology talent, and data scientists. If successful, the companies that have figured this out will stand to win, and that means a direct and integrated relationship with the client who is less likely to switch providers

Don’t Fall Behind on Insurance Technology!

On the other side of the insurance chasm is the brokers, who today act as resellers to insurance companies, who have by in large remained static in their technology investment. Part of the issue is, of course, the fact that brokers are small businesses who do not have the resources or the data to undertake such projects, and part of it is cultural and these companies are family-owned business who prefer to maintain the status quo, change is hard.
The unfortunate reality is that the chasm in the customer experience when dealing directly with the insurance company is far different and better compared to the experience when dealing with a broker, and that chasm will continue to grow unless insurance brokers look for ways to service the customer better.
Recent data released by CSIO, Canada’s industry association of property and casualty insurers, brokers and software providers showed that by the end of 2016 only 6% of insurance brokers have adopted digital signatures solutions. That means that 94% of insurance quotes still expect the customer to print, sign and scan. That experience for the end consumer is far off from the expected experience set by the insurance companies.
While insurance brokers can choose not to invest in big data/IoT projects, they can still compete on customer service and leverage insurance technology to do so. Here are some very easy and cost effective way to simplify the customer experience.

  1. Invest in digital signature solutions (full disclosure here, we are a solution provider). However, the rollout of a digital signature solution takes little effort and eliminates one the core reasons why customers abandon quotes. Signature solution prices are quite affordable and can be purchased for as low as $8 per month.
  2. Live chat tools such as Olark or Intercom
  3. Communicate with your underwriting team digitally by implementing an internal chat system to speed up your processes, like Slack
  4. Go digital with your client onboarding processes by utilizing online forms, like Typeform or with embedded documents using an eSignature solution like Signority.

Also, be sure to read our recent post on what to look out for before going digital and be aware of the top emerging trends to stay ahead of the game!
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Top 5 conferences and groups in 2017 for Women in Tech

List of top 5 groups and conferences for Women in Tech for 2017

One of the best ways to get ahead of the game in for a women in tech, is attending conferences and gatherings on the topics you’re interested in. As a female in tech, this could mean you finding yourself surrounded by an audience consisting of more than 80% male. For many, it can be daunting, intimidating and dealing with prejudice is almost a given.
Why choose All-Women-in-Tech conferences?
There are many reasons why women in technology should choose to go to conferences, with the top reasons being: a chance to learn industry best practices, career advancement and networking opportunities. That being said, we can find so many other reasons why you should go to one as soon as possible. Some of them are:

  • Sharpening your skills – Sometimes we have to take a break from all the work, not to rest per se, but to learn how to work better and more efficiently. Conferences are a great way to do just that.
  • Meet experts and influencers face-to-face – There is no better way to get feedback from people you look up to as a business person, which wouldn’t be possible with online webinars or emails.
  • Networking opportunities – Except for all gurus you will get the chance to meet, you can also network and make some new connections and friends in high places.
  • New tips and tricks – Being in the same space as other people with the same interests as you, you’re bound to get some recommendations on what tools to use, how to use them and what they’re good for.

So basically, all-female conferences are just as good as mixed-gender ones, except being surrounded by like-minded females, which are more likely to have the same problems juggling housework and career. Which are the best groups and conferences to attend in 2017 if you are a woman in tech? Let’s see!

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing  

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference is the world’s largest gathering of women in tech, it is organized by the Anita Borg Institute and will be held on the 4th– 6th October of 2017 in the Orange County Convention center in Orlando, Florida. It has been going on for almost 15 years now and its aim is to raise awareness of the contribution of women in the computing world. With its focus on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Software Engineering and Security/Privacy, the conference offers professional development for its attendees through the means of mentoring and collaborations.

The Women in Tech Summit  (This summit is no longer in production)

With a combination of hands-on workshops, networking and multiple career discussions with other women in the technology field, the Women in Tech Summit conference’s main goal is to inspire, educate and connect their attendees to one another. There are multiple editions of it, so if you can’t make it to one of them you can always get to another one. The dates are as follows:  Washington D.C on March 24th, Philadelphia on 21st and 22nd of April,  Boston on July 22nd and finally, Raleigh-Durham on November  11th.

Fortune’s The Most Powerful Women Summit 2017  

Fortune’s The Most Powerful Women Summit 2017 gathering is built specifically for inspiring women, with speakers sharing their road to success. On October 9th-11th in Washington D.C, you will have some of the biggest names in the technology world and beyond answer your questions about how you can reach the same levels of success. Past speakers have included now-ex first lady Michelle Obama and many more.

WITI Women in Technology Summit 2017

Currently in their 23rd edition, WITI Women in Technology Summit 2017 conference is one of the most important meetups for women in technology. Held in Silicon Valley on June 11th-13th, You will find yourself in the midst of top women executives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. The WITI gives you the opportunity to collaborate with peers on innovative solutions for some of the most pressing problems, explore new business opportunities and make new connections.  

InnoTech Women in Tech Summit

Organized as a friendly fireside chat, along with some workshops and discussions, the 2017 InnoTech Women in Tech Summit focuses on keeping you and IT relevant. Held in Dallas on Wednesday, April 26th, some of the main topics that will be discussed during this meeting will be: IT leadership, operations and digital transformation, analytics as well as how to embrace digital disruptions.
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