Should Your Business Consider Chatbots?

The business community has benefited greatly from advancements in digital communication technologies. Today, there’s practically no end to the ways companies and brand representatives can engage with, troubleshoot for, market to or otherwise stay in touch with their fans and customers.

Chatbots are a relatively new addition to a bundle of tools that already included email, video chat, SMS, social networking and more. Chatbots are the next logical step in many ways when it comes to keeping businesses and customers in constant and easy contact. But they’re not for everybody. Below are some of the advantages of — plus one or two warnings about — chatbots to help you decide if it’s the right time and the right tool for your company.

What’s a Chatbot?

This word is one of those terms that pretty much gives it all away up front: A chatbot is an audio-based or text-based assistant that can autonomously help customers find answers to questions, troubleshoot problems or carry out other business-related tasks, such as ordering or re-ordering products, changing payment information, inquiring about or renewing subscriptions and memberships and much more.

Command-based chatbots are relatively rudimentary but still deceptively “intelligent.” They can respond to customer inquiries using heuristics that match replies with the most relevant topics or sub-menus for the customer.

On the other hand, AI-based chatbots are more sophisticated but also have a further way to go before they’re available to a wider array of businesses and more consistently able to reply accurately to any inquiry. But chatbots powered by AI are undoubtedly already showing their potential: Thanks to their use of natural language processing, they can reply “from scratch” instead of using canned responses. They can even become better over time at picking up meaning and intent from conversations with human callers.

With the different types of chatbots a little better understood, let’s move on to the main question, which is whether or not chatbots are worth the investment for your business. For a start, some industries are simply a likelier fit than others.

If Chatbots Make Sense for Your Industry

Chatbots are a relatively new concept, but they do already exist out in the wild. And there are several frontrunners when it comes to the types of industries that are well-suited to adopting chatbots. Some of them are:

  • Hospitality
  • Banking and financial services
  • Retail
  • Service-based companies

Based on polling, some 80 percent of business representatives would be interested in bringing chatbots into the fold at their company. But early popularity in the industries mentioned above already indicates which use-cases might yield the best results and return on investment. In hospitality, guests and travelers often require nearly instant solutions for checking into hotels and lodging, boarding airplanes and other conveyances, choosing venues, organizing transportation for meetings and conventions and a multitude of other tasks that have to happen at the speed of business.

In financial services, chatbots can help even regional banks and nonprofit credit unions provide members with account information or help them tailor their retirement or college savings. In retail and services environments, chatbots can pick up some of the slack during high-traffic times of the day or season by taking orders, pointing customers to what they’re looking for and more.

The point is, there might be use cases in your industry, and there might not be. Industries that depend on timely, accurate, always-available customer interactions appear to be early favorites, but as the technology improves, applications will undoubtedly continue to appear almost everywhere.

If You (and Your Customers) Value Time

On the customer and the company side of things, the first major advantage of chatbots is that they’re on standby 24 hours a day and don’t take a single day off during the year, provided there aren’t any technical snafus behind the scenes.

Allowing customers to have their questions answered on their own time is great already, but chatbots also save time for the company by providing an automated solution to the “problem” of answering common inquiries all day long. Both parties can breathe easier. Customers know they won’t have to try their luck calling back during business hours or trawling through a website for answers, and businesses know their employees are a little freer to respond to other, more urgent demands on their time.

There are one or two caveats when it comes to using chatbots in extremely customer-facing industries. Human beings know — or can be trained by locals — to respect cultural taboos and avoid words or phrases that might cause offense in another country or region.

The problem of maintaining cultural propriety during international affairs is not a new problem. But while it seems to make sense to turn chatbots into public liaisons in regions where you don’t have a strong employee presence to process customer calls, those chatbots had better have been developed with linguistic and cultural input from the region they’re intended to serve.

Being mindful of potential cultural frictions and even the subtleties of respectful political correctness is key to successfully using a chatbot to fill in your service gaps here and abroad.

If You Want Additional Insight Into Your User Base

The average interaction between a human customer and a chatbot can yield a surprising amount of information about your user base — too much, potentially, for a human operator to take in all at once, much less record and pass on to interested parties.

A phone conversation is practically analog compared with a chatbot chat when it comes to the potential to take in information from your user base. When your customers interact with your chatbot, with just a couple of simple questions and basic analytics, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how they use your products, where common sources of frustration are coming from and nitty-gritty details. These details include their location, the device type they’re using to contact you or interact with your services and other factors that might be of interest to your marketing team, your R&D team or both.

Chatbots are here already — and companies are figuring out how best to put them to work. By 2021, say industry experts, the chatbot “market” — including third-party cloud-based chatbot solutions — should reach a total value of $15.8 billion. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just remember that chatbots are a product like any other, and computing their probable ROI isn’t that much different, no matter what else you’re promised by a software vendor. In some cases, the human touch might just be the better choice for your business anyway — you’ll need to decide based on your unique circumstances.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

5 Ways to Run a Successful Food Truck Business

Running a successful food truck business is a lot of hard work. Yet, many make the mistake of treating it like a hobby. If you are serious about making your food truck business successful, then follow these five tips.

Offer the Best Food

You need good recipes to make your food truck successful. Think about foods that not everyone in town is already serving. Then, find a great source of high-quality ingredients for those recipes. Prepare them to the best of your ability. Finally, test them out with people and incorporate their feedback until you have perfected them.

Get Quality Equipment

You will need to get quality equipment like stainless steel test sieves from a reliable supplier like newarkwire.com to run your business. Think about making a list of all the equipment that you will need to fix your recipes, and then get the equipment needed to prepare them. Buying quality helps to keep costs down in most cases as you will not have to replace them as often. Finally, consider buying more than one of each piece because equipment always seems to break at the most inopportune moment .

Employ Social Media

Part of the secret to running a successful food truck business is to connect with people on social media. It is a great way to let your customers know your location each day. Show them how great your food looks, so they are tempted to come to your location. Social media is also a great way to show customers the personality behind your company, so do not be afraid to post something funny or something that will tug at your customer’s emotions.

Be Dedicated to Customer Service

You need to be sure that your customers know how thankful you are for the opportunity to serve them. Start by offering them quality containers for their food and drink as flimsy containers can be hard to handle in an outside setting. Once they make the decision to order, then make sure to thank them for their order. If there is a problem, then correct it as quickly as possible. Remember that a satisfied customer will brag about your business to a few friends, but an angry one will tell everyone they know including posting it to social media.

Keep the Area Clean

While cleanliness is hard to maintain in any food environment, it can be especially difficult when running a food truck. Concentrate on keeping everything spotless. This includes the outside of your trailer as it will be the first thing that the customer sees. You and your employees also need to be sure that your personal grooming is above reproach.

Keeping these five tips in mind will help you run a successful food truck business. Now, go show them what you have to offer. Stay in a positive mindset and soon your customers will be hunting your food truck down to get your wonderful creations.

5 Ways To Encourage Customer Loyalty

Many companies focus all their energy on gaining new customers, but often it can be loyal customers that give businesses a steady income. If you want to get more customers coming back, here are just a few tricks that could help to encourage return visits.

Get to know your customers

Getting to know your customers can make them feel more appreciated and can build trust in your company. You don’t have to become friends with your customers, but being able to engage in a bit of small talk and understanding their needs can make them feel more comfortable using your company than any other company.

Keep ahead of your competitors

Loyal customers are likely to jump ship if another company is offering better value services or perhaps doing something fresh and innovative.You don’t want to get too obsessed with chasing competition – instead of trying to copy or outdo them, focus on creating your own unique selling point. This will help you stand out from competition and will give you your own pull factor that no other company has.

Reward customer loyalty with discounts

You can also encourage return customers by introducing loyalty discounts. A loyalty card or a points card could be one way of doing this – after a certain amount of purchases, they can get rewarded with a freebie. You may even be able to give away vouchers with a purchase that encourage people to come back.

Sell gift cards

Another way to encourage loyalty could be to sell gift cards. People will buy these gift cards for friends and family members,encouraging these people to make return visits to your company until all the money on the gift card is spent. Even if these gift cards never get used,you’ll still be making money out of them. You can design your own custom gift cards with your own branding on. These could be sold in your store.

Keep loyal customers in the loop with notifications

By keeping customers aware of deals and events you can encourage them to return. Mailing lists are one of the most popular ways to keep customers updated. This could involve emailing them information or texting them updates. In order to do this, you’ll need their email address/phone number and their consent – you use surveys and pop-ups on your website to ask customers if they’d like to join your mailing list. Social media can also be a great tool for keeping customers in the loop. Here you can post news on events and promotions. You can then encourage your customers to follow you on these social media channel in order to see these notifications.

7 Growth Features You Can Use To Stand Out In Crowd

7 Tips on How to Become a Top Business Competitor

If you’re just starting, or well into the business world, you would know to start up and maintaining a business is not easy. There are plenty of obstacles you will encounter along the way that you will need to overcome. It’s all about the effort you are willing to invest in your business that is going to make it succeed. A business is like a machine you have to make sure all of the compartments are well managed and looked after, or it will slowly deteriorate.

Decide on a Niche

One of the biggest decisions you can make as a business owner is choosing your market. Establishing what and who you want to sell to can help determine the projected outcome for the first years sales. You want to make sure you can create your own path in that market, it will give you the upper hand against the competitors. For example, there is a company that provides their clients with game show buzzers and other equipment.  Employee satisfaction is always the first and foremost growth tactic, so coming up with an idea of providing them with entertainment is undoubtedly out of the mainstream. It’s always helpful to think out of the box or do some research to find out what you can do differently from the others.

Providing Top-Notch Customer Service

Consumers are attracted to a company that provides value. Quality customer service goes a long way. Not all companies hold their employees to the same standard, and that is why it is key. The first representative your consumer speaks with sets the tone and establishes the impression of the company at that moment. You want to make sure that the consumer is treated like a valued friend or family member. That is why it is important to show your employee appreciation and acknowledge their hard work. The more you invest in the culture of the company, the better the morale and service of the employees will be.

Developing Your Company Brand

You want to make sure that your brand reflects your values. Transparency is important in a company, it allows the consumer to feel confident, also adds an element of trust. The only way to gain credibility is by keeping up the high standard of quality you have provided from the beginning. When the majority of competitors start to slack on their performance is when the business suffers the most.

Become Solution Oriented

You want to develop a loyal customer base. The consumer wants will feel secure in knowing that there are multiple methods of contact in case there are any problems. It is always a good idea to plan out the possible problems that may occur in advanced so that you have a solution ready. The more efficient the resolution, the higher the probability of the consumer’s returns.

Use Upselling to Your Advantage

Upselling is a technique that is used in a variety of different brands. It makes the sale more appealing to the buyer. Promotions are used to boost sales, they also help with the retention of consumers. About 34% of in-store consumers prefer and use the promotions they are sent from companies they have previously bought from. Everyone likes to save a dollar or two when it’s possible. You can also consider creating package deals, or periodic sales if your market allows.

Create a Footprint Online

E-commerce has taken the free enterprise market to a new plateau. You can now expand your brand from national to international quickly and from the comforts of your home. It also creates a convenience for those individuals that don’t have the opportunity to physically go into the store. The goal is to always make any exchange between the company and the consumer as smooth and simple as possible. The internet provides you with so many different methods of advertisement. The website also gives you the opportunity to personally and create an engaging environment for the consumers.

It is always a good idea to make the website user-friendly, for individuals that are not as technically savvy as others. Also, another element a lot of consumers like is when they have the ability to give feedback. Good reviews bring in more customers. Allowing them to express themselves also makes them feel as if their opinions matter to the company.

Find Ways to Reinvent the Company

Every so often you have to update and readjust to the standards of current society. Every company goes through a facelift, where they change or almost reinvent themselves. It’s usually a positive change and a sign that they are trying to keep up with the times. Innovation is another key component to keeping your brand relevant. Never stop doing your research on methods to grow or expand your business and products.

As an entrepreneur, you want to keep in mind the brand you create is a reflection of you. It doesn’t take money to create your own individuality within your market. You just need to instil your values and effort into your brand, and your company will exude originality.

World-Class Customer Service Tips You Should Never Forget

Customer service is something that all businesses today need to master. After all, it does not cost a lot to smile and provide a few friendly words. Of course, effective customer service goes a lot further than this. It is viewed as an opportunity to secure new customers and to strengthen relationships with existing ones. It is important to recognize that the way you act has a massive impact on your brand, and with the Internet how it is today, one bad move could be stuck with your company forever. With that being said, continue reading to discover some world-class customer service tips you should never forget.

You need to give credence to customer complaints – There is only one place to begin, and this is with handling customer complaints. No one likes to receive a complaint from anyone but it is part of being in business. How you deal with complaints makes a huge difference. View this as an opportunity to improve your company. You also need to make sure that you remain consistent in tone and process. The CARP method is a good one to use. This means you should control the situation, and then acknowledge the dilemma. Once you have done this, refocus the conversation and then problem-solve so that the consumer leaves content.

You need to communicate clearly – Another important tip to follow when it comes to achieving world-class customer service levels is to make sure that you practice clear communication. There are so many different factors that impact communication, for example, tone and styling, and your employees need to be aware of this. They also need to make sure that they do not confuse your customers with technical jargon, colloquialisms, or slang. You also need to make sure that you use positive language, avoiding negative words at all costs.

You need to recognize when it is right to outsource – The best businesses today are those that outsource and do so effectively. You should not just outsource any old element of your company. You need to make sure that it is something that is going to benefit your business. For example, a medical answering service could benefit a healthcare practice because it means employees have more time to focus on patient care.

You need to give your customer service team the right tools – Last but not least, you need to make sure that your customer service team has the right tools so that they can provide the right support to people that call. If you do not have any software in place that enables your customer service representatives to pull up accurate client records, for example, they are never going to be able to provide them with an efficient and effective support service.

So there you have it: some of the world-class customer service tips you should follow to help your business achieve more. Don’t overlook the importance of your customers and what they mean for your business. Without them, you would not have a business.

Want To Maintain A Special Relationship With Your Customers? Use These Tried And True Strategies

What makes your business great? Well, a big part of it’s you. Aww, don’t go blushing on me now. Seriously, it’s your spark of inspiration, your drive and your passion that built your business up from nothing. Your employees look up to you and you take your role as their leader very seriously. Speaking of your employees, they’re no slouches either. They’ve taken your ideas and run with them, using their initiative, their imagination and their work ethic to take your ideas and combine them with their own to take your enterprise to a whole new level. You’ve rewarded them in kind by training, developing and promoting them and ensuring that they’re fairly remunerated for their efforts. Then of course there’s the outsourced help that allowed you to get the specialist provision you needed without the staffing overheads. But there’s one vital component without which it would all be for nought… That’s right. Your customers!

You value your customers and acknowledge that they are the lifeblood of your business. You appreciate their loyalty and want to ensure that you retain their harmonious relationship with your business. But you’re not sure how to maintain this relationship or where to divert your efforts and resources. Here are some strategies to help you to do exactly that…

Your blog

Your blog is arguably your greatest asset when it comes to retaining your customers and improving your enterprise’s SEO. Keep customers coming back for regular, engaging and well written content and not only will you earn their loyalty, you’ll establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field with insights, thoughts and opinions well worth heeding. Just don’t besmirch your blog with low quality content sourced by cheap overseas content farms.

Email newsletters

It’s a tried and true means of customer retention, but one still worth considering even in 2018. Email newsletters offer customers a sense of exclusivity. You can include special promotions and offers designed exclusively for them and you can give customers the opportunity to peak behind the curtain at new developments within your business. Just check out https://www.palomasoftware.com/postman/email-newsletter-software/ to see why email newsletters are a worthy investment. Just make sure that they are only sent out to customers who opt in, especially if you do business in Europe and don’t want to fall afoul of GDPR legislation.

A rewards scheme that gives customers more of what they want

Different customers will be drawn to your business for different reasons and each will want something subtly different from a rewards scheme… So develop one that’s flexible and gives your customers the opportunity to get more of what matters to them. This is where market research becomes an extremely valuable tool. When you have a rewards scheme that’s tailored to the explicit needs and desires of your clientele, you’ll not only enjoy their loyalty, you’ll enjoy knowing that your business is catering to them as effectively as possible.

Your customers are the best and as such it behooves you to take steps to show them how much you appreciate them!

Opening a Restaurant Can Mean Tasty Profits

If the notion of opening up a restaurant has crossed your mind a time or two, will you go for it? For many restaurant owners having done so over the years, the profits have been rather tasty.

That said do not be under the assumption that a restaurant is an instant ticket to a gold mine. As any owner can tell you, there will be many hours of work and sacrifices when it comes to doing things right.

With that in mind, will opening a restaurant be your next move?

Know All That Will Go into Such a Move

If you decide opening a restaurant is your calling, be ready for the responsibilities.

Among them:

  1. Mission – What is your restaurant’s mission going to be? Before you even open your doors, you need to know what it is you want to do. To do so, you want to know for one what your competition is going to look like. For example, if opening a steakhouse in town, are there many ones there now? If there are, how can you get a foothold in the market? While you may well be the one to make profits, you could be wedged out because there is too much competition. By knowing the demographics and what you hope to do, you better position your brand for success.
  2. Employees – Running a restaurant of course means you will have to employ many people. As such, you want to do your best to hire the right people the first time around. If you do not, it can mean time and money working against you. Some of your employees will be the first lines of contact customers have with you. As an example, the hostess or host at the front door. You also of course have the waiter or waitress to serve customers once they sit down. Make sure you do your best to get quality people in such positions. And never forget the importance of a good chef and support staff in the kitchen. As you can see, you have to hire the right people for the right jobs if you want to make a go of it.
  3. Inventory – It is also key that you have the right inventory for your restaurant. For instance, items from ordering the best steak knives to good dishware can’t be overlooked. If you are of the notion that ordering second-rate supplies will save you money, it can come back to haunt you. Diners want to be able to enjoy their meals and part of that is making sure the food and how it is eaten are both exemplary.
  4. Marketing – Last, be sure that you are good at marketing your restaurant. From social media to customer testimonials, make sure the world knows about you. When it comes to customers, let them help market your brand for you. Their testimonials and remarks on social media and your site can go a long way in sending you business. When a customer has good food and stellar customer service, they are more likely to speak about it.

Despite long hours and responsibility, running a restaurant can be a great decision.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.