From the first inquiry about a product to searching for a solution or logging a service ticket, chatbots assist a customer in real time to ensure they receive what they need when they need it. Whether customers call with a question or want to chat via instant messaging, businesses are using bots to provide real-time, useful information to their customers when they need it. Because of their versatility, bots are used to assist customers throughout the customer journey, including both pre- and post-sale activities.
In this post, we’ll focus on what a chatbot is, and how chatbots can assist with pre-sales activities.
What is a chatbot anyway?
A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with humans.
How do they work?
Some chatbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems to communicate with the user and simulate a human conversation. Other, simpler systems scan for keywords in what the user types and look up a reply based on certain keywords, using a knowledge base or another database. Some chatbot logic even can improve its own results by altering its searching algorithms based on customer scoring: “Did this article help you?”
Where are chatbots used in pre-sales?
Chatbots are typically used in two different situations: pre-sales and post-sales. In pre-sales situations, potential customers can ask the chatbot which solution is best for them, and through a simulated conversation, chatbots and customers will narrow down the list of possible solutions to just a few, or ideally, just one.
Pre-Sales Use Cases
“We use a web form to gather information about our customers, but not too many customers fill it out.”
“We have called 100 customers, but we have been able to create leads for only 4 or 5% of them.”
“Which products are our customers interested in, and what questions do they typically have about them?”
Sound familiar? These statements are spoken often by marketing and sales professionals responsible for lead generation and qualification.
Imagine you’re a customer entering a search term into your favorite search engine, ending up on a website, and being presented with two or three possible products. What happens today if you have a question? You may be asked to fill out a form, and then you’re told someone will contact you soon. The first thought that runs through your mind is “I’m going to be spammed if I fill this out,” and then you leave the site to go to a competitor.
Voice and chatbots can be used in these situations to assist customers in real-time before they even purchase a product. Potential customers can have a simulated conversation with a bot to determine which product is best for them. Each time the customer answers specific questions, those answers can be recorded and added to a CRM solution as a lead that is already qualified. Imagine an inside or field sales rep opening up a new lead in a CRM solution and seeing not only the customer contact information, but also a list of products that might fit his or her needs, and possibly a complete transcript of a conversation.
When SaaS or other subscription-based products are sold, bots can assist in customer acquisition as well. Inside and field sales channels are, by definition, relatively expensive channels for selling SaaS and subscription-based products. Base salaries, commissions, office space, and all other personnel related costs quickly eat away at probability and EBIT of a small monthly subscription to a service or product. Chatbots essentially can eliminate those costs by assisting a customer through the entire process from the initial inquiry all the way through the entire order to cash process. The benefits of this process become clear quickly, customers get instant access to the products they need, and organizations reduce their cost of sales and increase customer satisfaction at the same time.
To learn how chatbots can help you grow business and satisfaction from customers after the sale is made, check out the second blog in our series, The Rise of the Bots, Part 2: Chatbots Enable Customer Support to Grow Your Business, Not Lose It.
About the Author
Joel Sarapin has more than 15 years of sales and business development experience in the software engineering industry. Currently, he is OFS’s VP of Sales responsible for new client acquisition, and he also manages several key strategic accounts around the United States. Joel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).