Chatbots and Social Selling

Chatbots and the future of Social Selling

By Sander Biehn | Jan 11, 2017

Sander Biehn is founder and CEO of Thought Horizon, LLC. After a successful career in sales at AT&T, he founded his company in 2013 helping organizations to build, manage and succeed using social selling.

Question: When will Chatbots hit the social selling spotlight?

Answer: soon (very soon).

“Just push your way through any digital, CX, or marketing conference today and you are bound to hear how Chatbots are replacing everything from phone trees to customer service reps themselves.”

These text-based robots allow customers to converse in native language with AI robots to get needed information or get common questions answered. The Chatbots can carry on rudimentary conversations with anyone online. The key advantage is that Chatbots can converse simultaneously with customers. Customers are answered immediately by a machine that can take on a multitude of conversations at the same time.  Say bye-bye to hold time.

Despite their limited application today, Chatbots have a ton of future potential on social media.

1. Rise of online Customer Service over Social Media – What used to seem like a ‘back door’ for responsive customer service, social media customer support has gone mainstream.  I still remember the days when friends would spin tales about how Delta airlines got them on a flight that was oversold via the power of Twitter. Today, sophisticated brands run large ‘call centers’ that respond to complaints or questions coming in through Twitter. Cool new-economy brands like Airbnb and UBER don’t give customers any other way of contacting them. To handle the new demand on social media, Chatbots was inevitability and will only be developed further.

2. The inevitable labor arbitrage – Just like when calls first came flowing in on toll-free “800” numbers, marketing and customer service is already looking for ways to automate requests coming from social media. This is where Chatbots come in. If 10% of all inquiries ask for directions to the closest store, why not give people a way to access that information from a machine? Each call that a person does not have to answer saves the business money. This is exactly what Chatbots are doing for brands online. The Chatbots answer the easy questions and leave the harder ones to people in the response center. This off-load of inquiries has a pretty clear cut ROI.

3. Continuous improvement – If Chatbots can answer the easy questions, shouldn’t they be able to answer harder questions over time? This is the promise of Chatbots. Perhaps an entire customer service team can be outsourced to robots. When you think back on the last few calls or online inquiries you have made, it isn’t tough to envision how those questions can be answered by a machine, right?

What about social selling?

This leaves us with the question, when will Chatbots start striking up conversations about products and services with prospective buyers? It shouldn’t seem all that crazy by now.  There is already technology on the market that automates finding your target buyer on social media based on what these consumers are searching and talking about. Why shouldn’t a Chatbot be able to take it to the next level with a prospect? Based on today’s technology, the conversation will need to be handed off to person fairly quickly, but when it does, it will no longer be a cold call.

We don’t envision that sales people will be replaced by Chatbots, but rather Chatbots will help sales people be more effective at selling.

Content marketing already plays an important role in getting prospects ready to buy. If a prospect interacts with a piece of content, why be satisfied to get them to fill out a form that can be followed up on later? Why not begin the process with a few pointed chat messages?

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