Chatbots have become all the rage. They’re supposed to be a fix to the website form, the solution to the form, and bring more value to the user and company alike. They're supposed to be the next best way to “converse” with leads and users. But, there is nothing conversational about being greeted by a bot that provides options like a multiple-choice test.
Most chatbots are just elevated forms.
Hear me out.
I am a marketer. My responsibilities are all focused on driving leads for our sales team through our website or other digital assets.
I love the idea of grabbing the lead when they’re on our assets to engage and qualify them rather than seeing them leave. I fully understand the value of the promise of a chatbot, which I’ll get into below. But, frankly, the chatbots I see on most SaaS websites today suck.
I am often looking at websites to either see the next best demand generation software or just to learn tips to better my craft. Most of the time I am greeted by a chatbot with a generic welcome. Something like this:
Hey, how are you?
Hey, how can we help you?
Or the most conversational way to greet a potential customer, with a few options masked as buttons just like a multiple-choice test, like below.
I don’t know about you, but nothing in the above example screams conversation to me. The sad thing, this is the first opportunity for me to engage this company, it is just the beginning of the rabbit hole.
But, before we get too far, I think it makes sense to dig a little deeper into the impetus of a chatbot. It was supposed to be the medium for the category of conversational marketing; which was promised to be a one-to-one approach to marketing that companies use to shorten their sales cycle, learn about their customers, and create a more human buying experience.
Just an Elevated Form
Now, let’s get back to the rabbit hole. To me, the example above is just an elevated form. I am supposed to pick a few options to not only improve the experience I will get but also provide the company data.
The example was supposed to provide a replacement for the form and an improvement to the two options we used to have on websites, which were:
- Call the number provided on the website and either hear music by Kenny G or hear a monotone computer say “option 1 for sales, option 2 for support... “
- Fill out the form and hit submit only to never hear back from the company again
Over time forms got smaller, fewer fields, because website users stopped filling them out.
So, something had to be done to improve the experience. Wha la, the chatbot was created.
I get it. I am not hating on the strategy, it makes sense. Companies can create better value for their leads if they know more about them. Thus, the button options present on chatbots today.
But, it is far from conversational. It is not authentic and it doesn’t improve the user experience.
How many times have you had an experience like this?
I can’t count the number of times I get stonewalled by the bot like the above. I play their game and pick a starting point option. I tell the bot what I want, I want to talk to sales. I am supposed to get a human experience.
The hilarious thing, they actually say I have to submit information like a form to get to the sales team. So, the solution that was built to better the form is going to ask me for the same information, only on their cadence - rather than my browser just filling in most of the contact information in seconds. It takes me longer than a form, but I get the same experience - I submit information and have to wait to get my questions answered.
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As I defined conversational marketing, I thought it would make sense to define what a chatbot is so we’re all on the same playing field.
“A chatbot is a software application used to conduct an online chat conversation via text or text-to-speech, in lieu of providing direct contact with a live human agent.”
So, for the purposes of this post and to clarify a pet peeve of mine, chatbots are not live chat with a human interacting via chat on a website.
It is a software application that interacts with a website user, so it is a human interacting with a robot on the other side.
It was supposed to replace forms, it was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Only the promise of the chatbot has never really delivered.
So, the website based chatbot was built to fix forms.
What if the form was not the issue?
What if the issue was the fact that 58% of businesses never follow up with website forms?
The more times your customers fill out your form but get no response they lose faith in the option.
What if the form was a little longer but the expectation to get a response quickly was there? Would you fill out that form?
I know I would. I would be happy to submit my information in a form, even a longer one if I knew there would be value after I hit submit. I am not talking value in a week or 4 days. I am talking value when I want it, now.
I am also not talking about the value of a generic automatically generated follow up email.
The value I am talking about is contact with the company and the opportunity to get my questions answered within minutes.
Sound too good to be true?
It’s not. We built it.
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