Chatbots and Customer Service

Every entrepreneur and business owner knows that customer service is key to a lasting and successful project, initiative, or company. Being the department that possibly interacts the most with your audience, it’s highly likely that you have spent countless hours looking for the best customer service employees and tools to elevate your service to the next level. When the digital age arrived, however, the rules with customer service began to change. No longer were you greeted with a, “Hello, how can I help you?” from a real live person, but instead with a, “Please press 1 for more options” message coming from a robotic voice. While both methods are efficient, it’s important to note that the customer service rules have changed, and programs like chatbots will soon become the norm.

 

Chatbots were born out of a necessity to more efficiently police and traffic calls in high volumes. Quite frankly, it would be nearly impossible for a small office of people to handle transferring incoming calls for a large company such as Wells Fargo or Apple in a timely manner. And with the technology available, companies are able to save money by no longer needing to hire that team of switch-board experts. Chatbots are also attractive to businesses because they allow the customer to have total control of the direction of the call, instead of relying on who is on the other end to understand what they need.

 

At first, chatbots were not very sophisticated and often served as a point of frustration for customers. Since they work off of keywords and not actual context, customers had to readjust their own customer service visions and learn how to interact with the new technology. Chatbots have come a long way since then, and have been integrated with machine learning technology that allows for an easier experience thanks to advancements within artificial intelligence.

 

Chatbots are able to do more than just get a customer from one complaint to a solution, however. They also can yield valuable data and metrics that show where the majority of customer complaints come from. Further even from this, because of the real-time nature of chatbots replacing employees live-chatting with customers to troubleshoot, they’re able to point customers in the direction of other services on your site that they may be interested in as well, all from the keywords that you used during your chatbot inquiry. This will drive sales and increase customer satisfaction.

 

The bottom line behind chatbots and customer service is to not be afraid of the growing technology. There is a healthy balance between an in-person customer service rep and chatbots, and by learning about the best practice for both services, you can create a custom service platform that will serve your customers in the best way possible. And as technology continues to advance, look to chatbots to become even more capable of driving your business towards success in more areas than just customer service.

New Year’s Resolutions for Business Owners

pexels-photo-38196In a recent blog I shared some tips for finding success as a first-time manager; there are some very important, relevant lessons included within. Yet, since success is as much about evolving as it is about getting things right, I decided to create this post as a complement, and/or as a message for seasoned business owners, about making some resolutions to do things differently (read, better) in the new year.

 

  1. Stick To Your Goals
    Considering that just 8% of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually go through with them, this is the most important piece of advice to adhere. Set goals for yourself, both for the long term and short term, and some actionable steps you can take every day to achieve them. If it helps to write things down, get a brand new planner or journal and do that. If you’re not good at keeping yourself on track, partner with someone, like an assistant or confidante to keep you motivated and to hold you accountable to achieving everything you’ve set out to do.
  2. Do Something That Scares You
    Step out of your comfort zone. Going out on your own to start or lead a business is a challenge within itself, and a display of courage and confidence. However, since then, what have you done that made you afraid, that put you in a position where you didn’t have control over the outcome or direction? If the answer is nothing, it’s time to shake yourself up. Try something you said you’d never do; challenge yourself to face your fears, and you’ll be better for it.
  3. Learn Something
    Likewise, commit to learning something new. Whether it’s investing in a few books or actually taking a class, continued development is highly important and deserving of your time and money. To be clear, however, new lessons don’t have to be business or industry related. It can be anything from archaeology to baking. Whatever you choose to keep your mind active and expand the scope of your own understanding, will serve you well in your career.
  4. Improve Your Online Presence
    The Internet isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting bigger. If you haven’t made a professional website and career-focused social media profiles, you’re far behind but not incorrigible. In 2017, put more effort into your brand and the message you want to send online. It’s a part of who you are.
  5. Take Time Off
    Last but not least, take time off. So few Americans take a vacation. As the leader of a business, doing so may seem further away from reality because of various, important responsibilities and tight schedules. However, while setting up your calendar, build some time away from the office into your agenda to ensure that you can destress, rejuvenate yourself and be more productive upon your return.

Lessons for Your Business from Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go in actionPeople walking around on their phones with their heads down is not alarming. Afterall, in the age of technology, the complete disassociation with the outside world is commonplace from the dinner to table to the office (sometimes unfortunately). Yet, you may have noticed some recent changes in our culture that is consumed by tech. People aren’t just walking around on their phones, they’re talking about them with others, congregating in parks, showing up at random buildings, and driving around their neighborhoods with a purpose: catching Pokemon via this year’s hottest mobile game, Pokemon Go.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game and the story behind it, let me explain it briefly. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game which uses phone cameras and GPS location data to catch digital creatures (Pokemon), and is based on a nearly 20 year old video game franchise of the same name. Now, less than a month after its launch, the game boasts some 10 million daily players at its lowest estimate, and the number of those doing so is growing. But how did a game that had seemingly past its prime attract such a mass, loyal customer base? Experts from Entrepreneur to Forbes have provide insight.

  1. Leverage Existing Platforms
    Instead of creating the wheel entirely, Niantic (the creators of Pokemon Go) brought their idea to users through an object they already own. With millions of people already in possession of a smartphone, the company lowered barriers related to adoption, allowing users to follow their normal behavioral patterns. In other words, go where customers are and seek to integrate into their lives rather than alter it.

  2. Social Media, Local Marketing and Mobile Integration:
    This strategy, known in the marketing and tech world as SoLoMo, has been one of the largest reasons for the success of Pokemon Go. Niantic has integrated social media with the real world unlike any other game or company, with remarkable success not only for themselves, but for small businesses. Indeed, the popularity of the company has resulted in increased traffic to local businesses and subsequent revenue. Entrepreneur Magazine encourages businesses to do the same through tools like checkins to get customers to engage your business on and offline.

Furthermore, Tech.co shares some very practical examples of how businesses can use Pokemon Go as a marketing tool in addition to learning from it. Some of their advice includes getting on the action by adopting some of the language and themes of Pokemon, which can pay off for your business, turning players into customers. Advertising your business as a stop (if it is one), for those who may not be playing at the time. It requires a bit of effort, but such an acquisition is invaluable, whether the game continues to dominate or not.

Best Social Media Practices for Small Businesses

Pepper Rutland's photo of facebook and scrabble piecesBefore the 1990s, companies relied mostly on print and broadcast media, such as television and radio, to get the word out about their products, services and/or progress. Prior to those inventions, word of mouth and various guerilla tactics were the focus. Nevertheless, with the advent and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet, businesses saw the importance of getting online. Those who weren’t early adopters, relying still on the aforementioned tools to reach customers and supporters alike, learned quickly that “the net” could not be ignored. Today, more than half of small business have their own website. However, as trends continue to evolve beyond a mere home for your business, the need for web presence via social media has become just as, if not more, imperative to the success of business owners, especially smaller businesses. Yet, while most have at least taken steps to create a social profile, not many use it to their full advantage.

Nearly two years ago LinkedIn reported that 81% of small to medium business had some form of social media. Why the remaining 19% hasn’t caught up is a concern in itself, but that’s not the primary issue at hand. Of those which do have a profile, approximately 95%, virtually all, of them use it for marketing reasons alone. While this makes sense given the wide reach of such platforms at little to no cost, simply using the space to announce deals, sales or new products is akin to handing out flyers on the corner. You may reach a lot of people, but it doesn’t guarantee connection nor interest. Therefore, creating a strategy for engaging your social media audience is key. Here are tips for doing so.

1. Create Quality Content

Consumers are exposed to about 5,000 ads per day, in comparison to 2,000 in the same time, just 40 years ago. The oversaturation and overpopulation of advertisements have led many to either tune them out or block them altogether. That said, using your business profile to do just that creates an automatic division between yourself and the client/customer you’re trying to reach. Instead, create and publish content that is informative and relevant to your product or service. As a result, your business comes across as an authority on related subjects, and appears to onlookers as a brand that is interested in its customers, not just selling to them.

2. Interact With Followers

Use social media to be social. Just as it would be rude to only talk about oneself and never respond to any questions, comments or inquires, in-person, the same applies online. Perhaps there is no dedicated social media person on staff, thus making it difficult to respond to every single interaction; however, merely acknowledging the message goes a long way. Such can be done with a simple like or share on many social platforms. And when it makes sense to do so, follow back.

3. Use Analytics Tools

The larger and more popular websites provide very specific and helpful data, including how many people viewed a post as well as liked and/ or shared it. Not only do these details provide insight about the value of your content to your audience, they can provide key information about how many people you’re actually reaching and optimal times for doing so.

4. Be Channel Specific

As the old saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything. Each business owner or dedicated social media specialist would do well to note best practices of each platform. For example, content on Twitter must be shorter, to the point, and use of hashtags bolster the length of your reach. On Facebook, content can be a little longer, more in depth and media heavy. Hashtags are not as effective, though available, and click through content, such as a link to an external website or presentation, are normal. Using a cookie-cutter approach to all platforms only diminish the effectiveness of your message and goals online.

As we enter this new year, there is an even greater incentive to try new things. With over 2 billion users on social media, an incredible opportunity exists for all businesses to not only acquire new customers but to retain them. Regardless of your product or service, your audience is online. Your competition will certainly be doing all they can to reach them. Beat them to the punch.