By Sandi Rosner for Stitchcraft Marketing
When you need to get in touch with a person or a company you probably pick up your phone, but not to make a telephone call. You might send a text message or an email or look for the “contact us” page on a website. In fact, you might be annoyed if the only way to get the service or information you need is to actually speak with a person on the telephone.
Consumer behavior is evolving along with our preferred methods of communication. In late 2016, Business Insider reported that the top 4 messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber) have surpassed the top 4 social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+) in monthly active users.
It’s not a surprise that younger customers have been quick to integrate interaction with chatbots in their daily lives. But Baby Boomers aren’t far behind in embracing the ease and speed of service available through automated communication.
How can you keep up with the increasing expectation for instant response through messaging apps, given all the other demands on your time? A Messenger chatbot might be solution you’re looking for.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence, simulating natural conversation to answer questions and provide information. Most chatbots are designed for text input, but some incorporate speech recognition. If you’ve ever been on a website and seen a little pop-up box asking, “How can I help you?”, it’s likely you were being offered the opportunity to interact with a chatbot.
The use of chatbots grows every day, and examples are not hard to find. Chatbots are being deployed to answer common customer service questions, help you hail a ride, provide recipe suggestions, and order flowers for delivery.
How can a chatbot help my craft business?
Anyone who has spent time working in customer service knows that many inquiries are routine.
- What is the status of my shipment?
- What are your hours?
- How do I take care of this product?
- How should I use this product?
A chatbot can answer all these questions and more, for far less cost than hiring a customer service rep. The chatbot can also provide links to other content on your website, such as product tutorial videos or project inspiration.
Chatbots can also act as virtual personal shoppers, asking questions to hone in on what the customer is seeking and presenting clickable options.
How can I get started?
Chatbots are one of the hottest topics in the tech world today. There are lots of companies and developers who would be happy to charge you a lot of money to create a custom chatbot. Fortunately, there are also some simpler and less costly ways to put chatbots to work for you.
Shopify has developed an app that will integrate your product catalog with Facebook Messenger. If you already have a Shopify store, it’s free to download this app.
The Shopify Messenger app brings the entire shopping experience into Messenger, using simple prompts to lead the customer along a decision path. The app automates some notifications, such as shipping confirmation.
To see how one company put Shopify Messenger to use, take a look at this case study.
If you’re looking for a more conversational chatbot, take a look at Chatfuel. The basic version is free, with more features available with paid plans.
Chatfuel was designed as a no-code tool for creating a highly customized chatbot to run on Messenger.
Why focus on Facebook Messenger?
Messenger wants to be your communication channel. They are actively courting business users with tools for shopping and customer service. And Messenger is the dominant global messaging app, with 1.3 billion active monthly users as of January 2018.
You need to be where your customers are, and your customers are on Messenger.
At the very least, you need to be prepared to respond to those customers who choose to reach out to you via Messenger. Here are 4 things you can do this week:
- Create a Messenger greeting. Your customer will see this greeting the first time they connect with you on Messenger, before any messages are sent. This is a great opportunity to set a friendly, welcoming tone.
- Create an Instant Reply. You can’t be watching your Messenger account all day every day. Create an automated reply so your customer knows you’ve received their message and will get back to them soon.
- Create an Away message. An away message helps manage expectations by gently reminding customers that you don’t work 24/7. You can schedule this message to be sent instead of the Instant Reply at night time, weekends, or when you’re traveling.
- Establish a routine for responding to incoming Messages. Prompt and courteous responses to incoming messages will help build trust with your customers. Decide who will be responsible for monitoring and responding to Messenger. How often will you check for new messages? Once an hour? Once a day? Set a reminder on your calendar until it becomes a habit.
Once you’ve connected with your customers on Messenger, either through a chatbot or live chat, you can run a form of paid advertising known as “sponsored messages.” This allows you to send targeted messages directly to people who already know you. Since your message shows up on Messenger instead of in their Facebook newsfeed, it’s far more likely to be seen, read and clicked than a standard Facebook ad.
Chatbots will not replace human customer service anytime soon, particularly for craft businesses that focus on the handmade and low tech. You’ll still have customers who want to talk to someone on the telephone or prefer the familiar medium of email. And you’ll need a knowledgeable human to respond to questions beyond the limits of the bot’s programmed responses.
Stitchcraft Marketing can help you integrate Messenger and chatbots into your overall marketing and customer service strategy. Contact Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn how we can help you grow your craft business.