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The 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Chatbots as a Website Marketing Tactic

February 21st, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

 
 

Does your business get a lot of customer service questions? If so, you may be considering adding a chatbot to your website to curb the volume. Tapping into tech is a good instinct.

After all, 62% of customers prefer to use a bot vs. waiting for a human agent, notes a study by Tidio. But do chatbots involve? What are the pros and cons? Are they the right move for you?

At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we've helped companies with their digital marketing strategies for 15+ years. In this blog, we dig into the top perks and drawbacks of using chatbots on your website. We'll cover:

  • What chatbots are (in a nutshell)

  • 5 top advantages of using chatbots

  • 5 top disadvantages of using chatbots

By the end, you'll better understand what this form of AI is all about. And you'll feel more grounded and confident about your next steps — whether you go bot or not.

What chatbots are (in a nutshell)

A "chatbot" is computer software that can interact with people and simulate conversation. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) or other automated technology to do this.

Depending on a business' need, chatbots either replace human support or supplement them. They're often used in customer service and support roles. 

There are three main types of chatbots. They include: 

  • Simple or task-oriented: These do the job for a basic process, like ordering a pizza.

  • Smart or AI-enabled: They're more complicated and need lots of data. They can decode language and intent. These are more like Siri.

  • Hybrids: This is most likely what you'd use on your website. It's a combo. There are baseline rules set down, plus AI that helps it continue to grow. Think: Amazon support.

5 top advantages of using chatbots

A chatbot can boost your website's accessibility and speed, along with leads and sales. It also helps with operational costs and data collecting. Plus, it gives prospects something they want.

Let's look at these five perks in deeper detail.

1. It boosts your accessibility and speed.

Chatbots can be available to assist prospects 24/7. That's hugely helpful, especially for small/medium companies, which often can't staff support around the clock.

Even if you limit your chatbot hours to business hours, it can be a good "tier one" support level. It saves your support employees valuable time. And it does this on demand.

2. It helps bolster your sales and leads.

Chatbots answer questions and are proactive, which stirs up more engagement. You've probably been to a website where a friendly bot pops up to ask if you have questions. Or it could tell you something about a new product or service based on the page you're on.

Chatbots are designed to meet customers' needs and offer instant help. This builds trust and esteem — and increases the odds people will buy or commit to something from you.

Bonus: Bots can ask on-point questions and work to convince customers. That means they're helping nurture more qualified leads, too.

3. It can help optimize your operational costs

Whereas human agents can manage two, maybe four, customers max, chatbots stretch infinitely. This can bring down your operating costs while satisfying prospects at a primary customer support level — where it all begins.

4. It gathers, analyzes and personalizes data.

Chatbots are also programmed to gather data as they interact with people, which they use to improve their responses. They're aces at identifying commonly asked questions and needs, along with services and products folks might like.

That data helps your marketing strategy, too. As it learns, you can keep creating better experiences. Plus, the data is a clue about your chatbot's performance since more engagement means a better bot.

5. It's something people have come to expect.

Especially among millennial customers. They're more likely to look for an online chatting option first, before picking up the phone.

Having this option increases your odds of interaction with new customers, especially in this age group, but also generally. A few more stats from the Tidio survey we mentioned in the intro:

  • 96% of people know what chatbots are

  • 88% of people had at least one chatbot exchange in the past year

  • 69% are satisfied with chatbots, 21% feel neutral and only 10% are dissatisfied

5 top disadvantages of using chatbots

Chatbots aren't human, which has limitations. They're also somewhat basic and need maintenance. Plus, they're an investment and might not work for your business.

Now let's turn a spotlight on these cons.

1. They're not human.

It's a given, but it has ripples. Chatbots can lack a deeper understanding of language flow and idiosyncrasies. They struggle to recognize slang or pick up on and reflect emotion. As a result, they can come off as mechanical.

AI is evolving rapidly and starting to close this gap, but there's still a disconnect. Sometimes, that frustrates customers (since AI isn't always good with nuance and empathy). And that can negatively impact your customer service experience.

This is also why you should not try to pass off your bot as "live support," complete with a real-sounding name. Be honest and "own" that your customer is dealing with a limited-capacity bot.

Bots can also sometimes take too long to respond. This period of silence or delay can prompt folks to bail out. That's irritating for them and possibly lost business for you.

2. They can be 'basic' and limiting.

Typically, chatbots only offer general information that's pre-programmed. They can't handle complicated questions or things that go "off script." Of course, this is changing quickly, but for now, you'll need actual agents (i.e., people) to help with backup.

3. They need ongoing maintenance.

Unfortunately, this isn't a "set-it-and-forget-it" proposition.

Services and products change, and companies make new developments. On top of that, AI's ability to understand natural language is constantly evolving. That all requires programming and updating your bots, so they're giving the best responses.

You also want to keep up on most common questions and tweak those responses as needed, based on the data you gather.

4. They're an investment.

This holds true whether it's your company's own time or hiring an expert agency to install and run your bot. Some sources put the cost at anywhere from $50-$5,000/month. At least one company puts its custom development rates at $20,000 to $80,000.

Of course, these numbers will vary based on the complexity of the tech and whether you're running it in-house or with an agency. But either way, you'll need to spend money to make it happen — and happen well.

5. They might not work for your business.

Chatbots might not be an effective tool depending on the nuance and size of your company. Verloop reports that the 11 top industries chatbots do work for include:

  • Ecommerce

  • Medicine

  • Hospitality

  • Banking

  • Food tech (e.g., delivery services)

  • Travel

  • Human resources

  • Education tech

  • Auto

  • Real estate

  • Logistics

If your industry isn't on the list, it doesn't necessarily mean chatbots won't work for you. What's key is researching what can help your customers first.

What are my next steps for exploring chatbots?

Chatbots harness powerful AI and tech to help people out instantly, right on your website.

As we've explored in this blog, at their best, they help with customer satisfaction, leads and overhead. But they also have limitations and require money and maintenance.

Would chatbots be a fit? Talk to us. At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we've provided digital marketing solutions for 15+ years and can help you explore your options.

In the meantime, ensure your site is working at its best — a crucial first step before launching chatbots. Learn how in our article highlighting the 12 features of a good website.

Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.