Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, said it back in 2016:
“Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile-first to an AI-first world.”
This prediction is slowly becoming a reality as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning technologies are seeing mass-scale adoption. At home it’s Amazon’s Alexa, on the go it’s Apple’s Siri and, on the web there are chatbots.
Chatbots are slowly becoming the norm in business-to-consumer because most people actually prefer to send a message than speak on the phone. Besides, Salesforce reports, 9 out of 10 consumers will use a chabot instead of a form if it’s available. So, it’s no wonder that 80% of enterprises will deploy chatbots in 2020. Many experts also think that chatbots are crucial for a great user experience.
“Call centers, websites, and mobile apps are no longer the only means of interaction with brands. Chatbots are fast becoming a business imperative for businesses that want to engage with their customers. Online chat through chatbots has grown faster than any prior channel.” —Eileen Brown, ZDNet.
For modern brands the question is not if utilizing chatbots and AI is a good idea but which chatbot software to choose.
If you want to skip to the reviews, here’s our list of best chatbots:
If you’re not in a hurry, let’s dive deeper and look at what chatbots really do.
What is a Chatbot?
According to this Oxford Dictionary, a chatbot is:
“A computer program that can hold a conversation with a person, usually over the Internet”
To expand on this definition, the word chatbot derives from “chat robot” and is a computer program that can communicate, either via voice or text communication, or engage with a human, answering questions, finding products or information, and even offering advice. Chatbots typically communicate via smart speakers, smart devices and popular chat and messaging platforms like SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and LINE.
Chatbots range from basic button-oriented software applications which offer predefined answers to familiar questions to AI-powered virtual assistants that can recognise detailed questions and respond intelligently. The best AI chatbots rely on Machine Learning to understand the behavior of the individual user and better answer her enquiry.
Let’s look at Mitsuku, for example:
Built for entertainment, Mitsuku illustrates how people can engage with chatbots. (Source)
Why Your Business Needs Chatbots
Chatbot platforms are improving all the time and the most compelling reason to use them is cost savings. Back in 2017, IBM found that chatbots could help businesses quickly save up to 30% on their customer support costs. Juniper Research suggests this figure will continue to grow and, by 2025, companies will be saving $11 billion in support costs by using chatbots.
The future for chatbots does look bright. Consumers already engage with many of them on a daily basis and, in fact, this is great news for businesses because complaints are resolved 90% faster with a chatbot.
Faster responses can lead directly to more sales because many consumers are making buying decisions based on customer service above other variables. Not only that but, as per PwC, they are willing to pay up 16% more for products and services from brands which deliver excellent customer experiences.
What Can You Use Chatbots For?
Chatbots are often used to answer simple customer service questions and requests for information. But, in addition to this, they can also capture and convert leads, automate work efficiency and give product recommendations.
Here are a few use cases for chatbots.
You can use a chatbot on a landing page or on a Facebook page to engage the visitor in a conversation. Many SaaS companies like Broadly (below) are doing this to understand visitor intent.
24/7 customer support
Chatbots can help customer service agents deal with complex questions more effectively by taking on simple, repeat functions. For example, your bot can be connected to your knowledge base or wiki and programmed to answer FAQs.
Recruiting and employee onboarding
HR chatbots can help with recruiting by conducting surveys among candidates. They can also be used to answer employee questions such as “How many leave days do I have?”
Product and service recommendations
Bots can be programmed to recommend products and take user orders. For example, the AirBnB chatbot can find a place for you to stay and make the booking for you.
Chatbots can be a great tool to streamline frequently-performed tasks. A testament to this are the numerous Slack bots which automate repetitive tasks, helping workers save time and be more productive.
Gathering customer data
Not only does a bot improve the user experience, but it can also analyze user behavior and make the insights available to your sales and marketing teams. Most chatbot platforms provide analytics that help you gauge customer satisfaction. Some can also be connected to your CRM to enable you to understand the buying journey more easily.
Types of Chatbots
Based on the level of complexity and the quality of the user experience, chatbots can be categorized in three main groups: Button-based, Keyword-based and AI chatbots.
- Button-based chatbots
These chatbots can only answer a set of predefined questions. The user is presented with a menu that contains the different options.
- Keyword (NLP) chatbots
Moving up the complexity ladder, these chatbots utilize customizable keywords and AI to find the best response to the user’s query. They try to conduct a free-form conversation and can usually interpret language correctly.
- Contextual (AI) chatbots
Contextual chatbots are the most advanced kind of conversational bots. They utilize machine learning and AI to remember conversations that happened in the past, with specific users, to learn and grow over time. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant are some examples of contextual chatbots.
How to Choose a Chatbot Solution
Here is a list of the questions to ask when setting your mind on a chatbot solution:
- Who will build it? If you can dedicate internal development resources, you can go with a chatbot platform that requires programming knowledge. If not, look for one that allows you to design the bot’s flow with code-free tools such as a drag-and-drop editor.
- Where will you publish it? Consider the bot’s integration channels: Will you be using the chatbot on your website, on social media, in mobile app? Does the platform support the outlets you need?
- Will you get user insights? Whether you need the bot for marketing or customer support, analytics are a must-have, so check for this functionality.
- Will it integrate with your existing software? For example, if you plan to use the bot for lead capture and you’re going to send the leads to your CRM, you have to make sure that the chatbot platform can be integrated with your CRM.
- Can it hand-off conversations to a live agent? If you need the bot for customer service, this feature is essential.
Best Chatbot Software
If you plan to use your bot only on Facebook Messenger, Manychat may be the solution that you need. This platform is in fact a Facebook marketing tool that helps you attract, engage and understand your followers.
The visual drag-and-drop builder helps you set up a messenger bot in a matter of minutes and without any coding knowledge. You just have to define automated messages based on common keywords and the platform will do the rest. ManyChat can collect emails for you and store them in its own CRM in the backend.
- Drag-and-drop bot builder
- Automated message workflows
- Tag and categorize subscribers
TARS is a web-based chatbot platform that is designed to replace the forms on your landing pages. The conversational interface helps you create an engaging experience in advertising campaigns and quickly capture leads.
The easy-to-use flowchart-like interface surely makes TARS one of the best chatbots out there. What’s even better is that the platform can be integrated with Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel and AdWords to enable you to track results and measure the ROI of your campaigns.
- 500+ chatbot templates
- Preview and test your chatbot
- Export leads to your CRM via API
Tidio provides an all-in-one proactive chat solution for your website that makes use of chatbots as well as live chat software. With Tidio, you can communicate with your website visitors in real-time, capture leads, and create personalized offers for your customers-to-be.
Tidio can be integrated with some of the most popular eCommerce platforms including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento as well as integrated to third-party apps via Zapier. Tidio makes the interaction with website visitors easy and enjoyable.
- Free chatbots templates
- Multilingual translations
Advanced NLP technology
Smartloop is a chatbot platform that enables you to not only capture leads but also to nurture them with conversions. This AI-powered chatbot platform uses Machine Learning to understand the context of your users and provide a better experience.
Smartloop enables automated conversations on your website, Facebook Messenger, Viber or a custom channel. Another great advantage is the automated messaging engine. You can create sequences to re-engage cold leads or upsell existing customers.
- Conversation analytics
- Handoff to live agents
- Message broadcasting
Botsify is an AI chatbot builder that you can use on Messenger, Slack or your website. This bot platform enables you to collect user data in forms. Besides the standard inputs like email and phone, you can also create your own custom data fields.
Botsify is easy to set up and comes with pre-built templates for various industries like Travel or Restaurants. The platform does a great job as a customer service or sales chatbot because it can answer customer questions and seamlessly transition to a human support agent when it gets stuck.
- Ability to analyze customer conversations and pick the best answer using AI
- Can be embedded on your website
- Can be translated in multiple languages
Chatfuel allows you to build bots on Facebook Messenger and Telegram. What makes this platform one of the best chatbot apps is that it’s very easy to use. The ready-made templates make it possible to build bots with no prior experience.
Chatfuel is an AI-powered bot platform that enables you to set up automated replies based on specific keywords entered by the customer. This is extremely useful if you want your bot to answer pre-sales or customer support questions. The platform allows customers to purchase items straight from Messenger.
- Collect user email addresses and custom data
- Auto-reply to comments and ads
- Track sends, opens and click-through rates
Whether you choose to build a fully automated bot or one with live reps on the other end, you can do it with Drift’s playbooks. They are simple to set up and come with a number of options to capture and qualify leads in real time.
One other standout feature is the ability to segment your leads and to send them relevant content when they visit your website. Drift can integrate with CRM and MAS systems such as Salesforce and Pardot which enables you to take your conversations elsewhere when you need to.
- Watch live visitors run through your playbooks in real time
- View analytics about playbook performance
- Set up rules to route chats to a single agent or a group of agents
Built for customer service, Freshchat can be used across websites, web apps, mobile apps and even social messaging apps like Messenger, bringing all conversations inside one inbox. The wide range of integrations makes this chatbot platform a great fit for omni-channel customer service.
Freshchat’s bot can be configured to automatically hand off tickets to your agents. It interacts with the customer until it can’t assist further and then assigns the query to a human. Freshchat is great for streamlining your support but it’s not full-blown customer service software. For this, you will need to integrate it with a dedicated platform.
- Answer FAQs in Messenger
- Collect user data and segment your users
- iOS and Android apps
With its impressive range of features, Pandorabots may as well be the best AI platform out there. For example, Mitsuku, the award winning AI chatbot we showed you above can be incorporated as a “chitchat” layer in Pandorabots to help engage users.
If you can dedicate development resources, Pandorabots can become the powerhouse of your conversational commerce. The API allows you to integrate it with just about any website, social platform or app you want. The only potential downside is that the platform is not as easy to work with as the rest on this list.
- Deploy to both text and voice channels
- Uses open standards which means you can download your source code
- The bot can learn and adapt to user context in real time
Ada is an AI-powered chatbot that is both easy to use and highly customizable. The platform enables you to create custom responses to certain consumer questions to make the conversations sound more natural.
One of the features that stands out is the ability to set up separate chatbots per department. This can help make hand-off within your company easier and more efficient. Ada’s surveys and customer feedback forms enable you to capture qualitative and quantitative customer data.
- Supports more than 100 languages
- Enables you to store customer information, like name, email, and more
- Integrates with popular customer support software
FlowXo’s superpower is that it can host multiple chatbots to use in multiple sites at once. It’s compatible with 100+ platforms like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, and Google Drive.
FlowXo can answer common questions and help you qualify leads based on a predefined set of rules. You can go as far as to let customers subscribe to specific “feeds” and send them push notifications or on-demand content.
- Create drip marketing campaigns
- Send attachments in bot messages
- Set up up keyword auto responses
LivePerson is enterprise-grade chatbot software. This platform enables AI-powered chatbots to run on all of the most popular messaging channels including SMS, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, WeChat, Line, and Facebook Messenger.
Liveperson comes with pre-built chatbots customized for various industries. Among the platform’s most impressive features is LiveIntent—an AI algorithm that analyzes customer conversations and reports intent in real time to reps.
- Track key metrics like conversions and containment
- Proprietary AI engine recommends relevant content to reps and customers
- Real-time intent analysis
Chatbot Software + Knowledge Base = Great CX
Chatbots can be programmed to resolve questions and enquiries, that’s great, but what happens when the information changes?
If all answers to customer queries are trapped within your chatbot platform, you will most likely have to modify the bot’s workflow. An alternative solution would be to connect your chatbot to a knowledge base such as Helpjuice right from the start. This way, your bot will always have access to the latest product and service information. And so will your customer service or sales reps.
If you want to help both your human and bot agents perform better, feel free to try Helpjuice.