Chatbots, also known as messenger bots, are pieces of software designed to automatically respond to messages from customers. Chatbots are mostly used on a brand's website, as well as their social media pages (including direct messages).

Chatbots generally work in 1 of 3 ways:

  1. Keyword-based — chatbot scans a customer's message for pre-set keywords, and offers a pre-determined response that has the highest chance to be relevant based on the keywords customer has used;
  2. Dialogue tree — chatbot offers a set of pre-set responses a customer can either type in or click on in order to initiate and maintain a conversation. Simply put, the customer is set upon a set conversation path;
  3. AI or machine learning-based — these kinds of bots scan the previous interactions with customers to "learn" the best responses to common queries over time.

The benefits of chatbots

Using chatbots is a useful supplement to customer care, sales, and marketing teams. Some of the main advantages are:

  • Available 24/7 — in case you work with international customers, chatbots are indispensable for providing assistance to a customer outside of your normal office hours. Even if the issue a customer faces is too complex for a bot to fix, they can be used to provide info on when a member of your team will revert back to them (based on their timezone);
  • Automation of repetitive tasks — handling the most commonly asked questions your customer care team gets can be fully relegated to a chatbot. Additionally, a chatbot can easily handle multiple conversations at once, helping refocus your team's efforts on other tasks;
  • No wait time — chatbots are able to respond to any query (at least in some way) in a matter of seconds, improving your customer's experience.
  • Conversation starters — you can engage a website visitor by automatically sending them a quick message via the chatbot. This proactivity is helpful in driving the visitor further along your marketing funnel.

With that in mind, it's important to remember that chatbots supplement, not replace, human interaction. Your customers will definitely have questions and issues a chatbot cannot handle, so your teams need to be prepared to jump into the conversation.

3 best tools to build a chatbot

Today, there's no need to be a software developer to enjoy the benefits a chatbot brings to the table. With so many tools on the market, here are some of our picks:

  • Intercom — among many other customer-care-related things, Intercom allows you to design highly customizable chatbots with no software development skills. These bots can then be easily added to your website, social media pages, or even CRM. Intercom, however, offers no free version to try;
  • HubSpot Chatbot Builder — HubSpot's Chatbot Builder allows you to create and deploy robust AI-based chatbots with no coding skills and, surprisingly, at no entry fee;
  • Botsify — a straightforward chatbot builder tool, Botsify also allows you to make AI-based chatbots using templates. These chatbots can be integrated with many 3rd party services, such as Slack, Shopify, WordPress, ZenDesk, Facebook Messenger, and so on. Most importantly, it offers a robust pricing system that features a fully free plan.