What Is a Chatbot, and How Do You Implement One on Your Website?

More than 60 percent of U.S. consumers today prefer to use automated customer service, according to American Express. This includes digital self-serve tools such as websites, apps, and — notably — chatbots. But what is a chatbot, exactly?

Putting it simply, chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with humans, especially for customer service or business growth.

Live chat has become a vital tool for audience engagement and customer satisfaction, but it’s sometimes tough to field enough human customer-service representatives to meet the need. That’s where chatbots can help. Plus, the technology is only growing in popularity: Gartner predicts that 25% of customer service interactions will be handled with a chatbot by 2020. So, if you’re looking to scale your self-serve options for customer interaction, you may want to consider a chatbot for your website.

How to use a chatbot

Conversational user experience (UX) technology has advanced significantly as of late, and there are powerful use cases for chatbots across industries. Technology has also become more accessible than ever, and businesses can use flexible plugins for low-code or no-code chatbot website apps.

It’s important to remember that chatbots are not designed to be a replacement for customer service representatives. They’re made to fit specific use cases when a customer is seeking advice or basic answers, not when they are frustrated and seeking human assistance. Some smart use cases for a chatbot include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

1. Answering FAQ

Chatbots can help your customers navigate a large section of online resources or find answers to common questions. They can also guide customers through complex processes, such as setting up a new account or customizing your product.

2. Placing and tracking orders

Chatbots can efficiently accept secure online orders. They can also respond to inquiries for tracking or help repeat customers quickly reorder. Amtrak’s virtual agent, Julie, helps passengers pick the right route and book reservations for a trip, for example.

3. Finding resources

Chatbots can expedite the lead-generation process by helping point visitors to the part of your site they’re looking for. Some of the best chatbot examples provide real customer value in a way that isn’t directly based on sales. eCommerce retailers that help customers build style profiles are one example of this tactic.

4. Getting connected to the right help

Chatbots can be used to help route customers to the right source of support without having to wait on hold or navigate a phone menu. This can be valuable for lead generation or at businesses with multiple service lines. For example, MedWhat is a medical chatbot designed to help patients search for possible diagnoses based on symptoms.

How to incorporate a chatbot on your website

If your chatbot isn’t designed to solve a problem, it can easily create confused or frustrated customers. Conversational UX expert Dr. Carmen Martinez advises companies to start small with a chatbot that’s designed for a clear purpose, such as placing orders or getting connected to the right product. “Think about the problem she needs to be solved,” and create positive interactions by “defin[ing] a persona for the chatbot.”

Once you’ve defined the purpose for your bot, you can streamline the process of creating the conversational UX with a purpose-built WordPress plugin (to use third-party plugins on your WordPress.com website, you’ll need a Pro plan). Options like Collect.chat require no custom code and are specifically designed for helping businesses collect customer data to set appointments or generate leads. IBM Watson Assistant is another WordPress plugin that can be used to answer customer FAQs or product inquiry questions.

How to drive value with a WordPress.com chatbot

You should now be prepared to answer the next time someone asks you, “What is a chatbot?” This powerful customer service tool can help WordPress.com website owners scale human service agents and meet powerful new use cases, such as helping customers find quick answers or purchase the right product.

By understanding problems and how conversational UX technology can help you scale, you can offer website options for happier customers. Learn more about how to add a chatbot to your WordPress.com website here.


Jasmine Henry

Jasmine is a freelance technology writer, with interests in UX, mobile optimization, and web design trends. She's also a Project Management Professional with an academic background in Informatics and Analytics.

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