Do I need a chatbot?

If you’ve been in business over the past five-ten years, you’re almost guaranteed to have asked the question: ‘Do I need a chatbot?’

As a chat provider, you might expect us to advise an unequivocal ‘yes’ in response to that question. In reality, our advice is much more nuanced.

There is no universal answer that works for every business, and no silver bullet bot that will automatically add value out of the box.

While a chatbot for your website can indeed be a godsend, it’s not the instant quick-win that many businesses assume it to be. Indeed, a poorly deployed bot is worse than no bot at all.

How, then, do you gauge whether a chatbot would benefit your organisation?

A note re your website

First, it’s important to establish that a good website doesn’t necessarily need a chatbot. Any good website will still perform just fine without deploying a chatbot across its pages.  

Nor will a bad website necessarily improve by adding a chatbot. If your messaging is unclear, your navigation inaccessible, your design difficult, a chatbot simply is not a universal cure-all to those problems.

What a chatbot will do – like any timely helping hand – is help your website perform that bit better, and that bit more efficiently. (Particularly true of high-traffic sites with large volumes of queries.)

So, the answer to the ‘do I need a chatbot’ question depends, in part, on the nature of your business and its customer base.

Which businesses gain most from chatbots?

Realistically speaking, you only need a chatbot if your business sits in a service-heavy industry. (I.e. financial services, retail, travel, telecom, etc.)

And, even then, you still only need a chatbot if your company is large enough to have a contact centre operation or a customer support help desk. That is, if you field large volumes of inbound customer emails, chats, tickets, calls, or webform queries per day.

If you’re a one-man-band, or an agency with a few select customers, it’s unlikely that a bot deployment will pay off.

And this is due to another common misunderstanding: the initial cost and effort of implementing a chatbot into your customer service offering.

The costs of chatbot implementation

A chatbot – contrary to popular belief – isn’t something you can simply download and run.

To work effectively, your chatbot needs extensive training on how to answer your company’s FAQ and the many ways in which they can be phrased. This takes time, a wealth of data from real customer conversations, and typically months of development efforts.

Then, your chatbot needs to integrate into your existing help desk. This is particularly critical concerning your live chat channel. In the event of failure, your bot will need to escalate queries to human customer service agents.

Your human agents, then, will also need chatbot training. Supervisors especially will need to monitor and manage bots as they would any operator in the customer service team.

And from a resource management perspective, you’ll need to set aside time for regular evaluations of staffing needs and subsequent adjustments. Your bot, after all, will reduce the amount of manual labour required to field queries.

This is not to mention ongoing chatbot maintenance and fine-tuning. As your bot gets more data, it becomes more possible to upscale its responsibilities.

And don’t forget allocations for advanced setup requirements, either. What if your bot needs custom programming, hosting, or API integrations? Should you also implement extra functionality, such as hybrid chat mode in which the bot runs admin tasks for agents?

Finally, chatbots aren’t free. Whether you build your own or work with a provider, the costs of chatbot implementation also include the money you expend on the service itself. For a large scale deployment, this won’t be a trifling sum.

The ROI of a fully-fledged bot

Ultimately, the ‘do I need a chatbot’ question is a weigh-up between the cost and effort of its implementation, vs the ROI you get in return.

Make no mistake: the ROI of a fully-fledged, well-deployed chatbot is staggering.

Chatbots currently account for business cost savings of $20 million globally.

But you will only garner significant ROI if you can put your chatbot to work.

A bot that answers 5 queries a day is a poor investment. A bot that answers 5000 queries a day is a game-changer for your organisation and its resource expenditure.

Do I need a chatbot?

So, do you need a chatbot? The answer differs from business to business, and centres on the volume of queries you handle per day.

Further reading