We have all navigated to websites only to be greeted by an apparent chatbot, asking us how they can help. A fair amount of service websites use chatbots or “live chat” on their homepage in an attempt to lure visitors into engaging in a productive dialogue with the hope of converting them into a customer. While the concept may make sense, in theory, most users find chatbots to be a total waste of time. In most cases, live chat is NOT a good call to action, and here’s why:
Though AI is presumed to stand for artificial intelligence, when it comes to most live chat systems, artificial ignorance is far more appropriate. Not only are these chatbots, not intelligent, but they are, at times, frustratingly ignorant. Why is this the case? Because most of these mechanisms are built on something called “decision-tree logic.” Basically, anticipated keywords are programmed into the system to induce a relevant response. Though technology is getting closer to developing bots that can learn languages and converse appropriately, they are still not quite there. For the decision-tree concept to work well, the programmer must anticipate an absurd amount of potential keywords, phrases, contexts, and more, a feat just not possible without a wealth of financial resources. The end result is that these live chats are not successful.
The biggest hurdle to be cleared in the world of live chat technology, is context recognition. As human beings we converse with people based on contextual cues that are dispersed back and forth between parties. Things like sarcasm, reference, presumed knowledge, and more, all go right over the head of a common live chatbot. This failure of the technology to interpret context can actually frustrate users on the other end of the conversation. When it reaches this point, not only is live chat not a good call to action, but it can actually serve as a deterrent to customer acquisition. When branding your roofing company website, personalization should be a major component. There is nothing less personal than a robot talking a potential customer in circles.
Many service websites that deploy the use of chatbots fail to make this fact known to their website visitors. As a result, a percentage of users mistakenly believe they are chatting with an actual human being. Though tech savvy users are likely to infer the chat’s robotic tone, older consumers with less digital experience may believe they are chatting with a real sales representative. This is unethical and will only create division between your roofing company, and potential customers. People value transparency, so if you do end up using a chatbot, it is imperative that this information is clearly displayed to visitors. That won’t prevent the intelligence of consumers from being insulted, but at least you won’t breach ethical lines with a misleading element.
Live Chat Alternatives
Until your company can afford cutting edge technology that learns language and interprets context, chatbots should not be an option. In the same breath, unless your company can afford to pay knowledgeable employees to personally attend to live chat inquiries 40 hours per week (at least), live chat should not be an option at all. But if live chat is NOT a good call to action, what can be used in its place? Consider the ideas below:
- Click to Call Functionality: Embedded phone number links that connect mobile website visitors directly to your office phone line
- Contact Forms: They may seem obsolete, but contact forms can at least move you closer to a meaningful interaction with a potential customer
- Video Autoplay: Because video is the hottest content medium on the market, embedding an autoplay YouTube clip of your company imploring a call to action (i.e. calling a phone number), can engage target customers