A how-to guide on chatbots for an anti-COVID-19 strategy

07 January 2021Reading time: 6 min.

Chatbots are great tools for powering a conversational marketing strategy. In emergencies like this, setting up a constant, barrier-free conversation with the public is vital.

New needs and urgencies have emerged since the pandemic’s onset. First, this has involved the need for companies to constantly provide information and updates, optimizing assistance services that bridge the gap. Chatbots have shown to be extremely useful for communicating during an emergency. This has made companies discover an effective potential, even under the new normal, which comes from the many benefits of this chatbot technology. 

What are chatbots? 

A chatbot is a software that uses artificial intelligence to understand a person’s requests and provide relevant information by simulating a conversation with a human being.  

As a conversational marketing tool, their use is relatively new. According to Hubspot, around 45% of companies have begun to leverage chatbots in their strategies. 

Source: Hubspot

In exploring their potential, many aim to use them effectively so that they can merge with Email Marketing strategies and more. 

Take your conversational marketing strategy to the next level with chatbots

Chatbots: key benefits

There’s no “right way” to use them, but one thing is for sure: chatbots let the user receive assistance and answers in real time without needing to email, look up a telephone number, or wait for an answer from the operator. In a world where users feel more and more at home with streaming, on-demand services, and getting what they look for in few clicks or seconds, providing immediate support at anytime is a must. Only chatbots can fill this gap. 

Besides being able to converse in real time, chatbots can:

  • save time and money for your organization letting the Customer Care staff manage complex issues instead of simple requests like info on hours or contacts, and 
  • generate more leads and increase conversions. Conversations initiated by chatbots often begin with questions like “How can we help you”, “What are you looking for?” or “What brought you to our site?” Based on the responses, you can offer your visitors exactly what they are looking for and facilitate a conversion. 
  • Improve the user experience. The right questions enable the chatbot to understand the visitor intent. In an easy, swift browsing experience, the bot will guide the user through your web pages to find exactly what he or she is looking for.

Statistics 

Beyond the reasons we’ve just listed, we can see the effectiveness of chatbots by taking a look at the recent statistics:

  • according to Aum, 80% of companies will use chatbots as part of their strategy by the end of this year;
  • 86% of customers prefer immediate and proactive forms of assistance—just the kind of support that chatbots offer—and 84% of users believe that receiving an immediate response is extremely important in a tough situation;
  •  79% of consumers prefer messaging apps for getting assistance over traditional forms of communication;
  • companies that use conversational marketing strategies have seen a 10% increase in revenue;
  •  79% of the top performing brands have implemented forms of Marketing Automation, like chatbots, to boost the number of leads.

Learn more about the theory and practice of Marketing Automation!

Integrating chatbots into your strategy: 3 avenues 

1. Segment and qualify visitors

Chatbots let you segment and qualify visitors to your website in a way that is much more direct than filling out forms. 

If you want to use the technology in this way, then Nutshell suggests 5 strategic questions that your chatbots can ask visitors to qualify them in a few moments:

  • Are you a [role/profession]?
  • Tell me more about yourself 
  • What brought you here today?
  • What do you know about [product name]?
  • Would you like any help?

In a few steps, questions like these allow for grasping the user intent, what they’re looking for, what they expect from you, and eventually, who should address them within your organization. 

The main objective of these questions is to guide your lead in their search and, if needed, whom to put them in contact with. This way, you won’t waste anyone’s time in a barrier-free mechanism. It’s like a wireless phone. 

Even more, in an emergency like the one we’re in, optimizing workflows and immediately understanding the expectations and needs of the user who visits your website is even more important. 

2. Customize the UX

Undoubtedly, Marketing Automation is the cornerstone of a personalized customer journey. Chatbots are one of the many automatisms that can optimize and expand such customization

Offer your visitors a highly personalized virtual experience by leveraging the data collected during their last access. Use chatbots to start a conversation in formulas like:

  • Welcome back
  • Hi [name], nice to see you again
  • How can we help [company name]?

Each chatbot should be used in a different way depending on the web page or platform. A WhatsApp bot will use a more informal language to mimic the personal conversations that normally happen on this type of app. On the other hand, a bot on your brand’s homepage will take on a more formal style to mimic the company-user exchange. 

Personalizing a virtual experience is key as social distancing has become increasingly important in our day-to-day lives. So, using chatbots to make the user feel closer to your brand can be a very effective anti-COVID strategy. 

3. Provide support

Last, you can use this technology to optimize the performance of your assistance service. In fact, this must guarantee efficiency and timeliness now more than ever. Indeed, chatbots are key technologies in the digitization process that’s revolutionizing the company-customer interaction.  

Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have become more and more used to receiving what they need in real time and companies have increased services based on convenience and timeliness. Chatbots respond exactly to these new needs. 

Using a chatbot to provide assistance lets you automate many repetitive tasks and collect all those requests for easy resolution, enabling Customer Care staff to focus on more complex issues. 

Chatbox examples used during COVID-19

The health emergency has sped up the process of integrating this new technology into the marketing strategies of many companies, revealing a potential that had been left unexplored before the crisis. 

Chatbots have been used in anti-COVID strategies on several fronts, like the management of late delivery complaints or refund requests for suspended services, not to mention the optimization of the Customer Care team work. But by far, the health sector has been leading the way in chatbot use throughout the crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, some companies in the healthcare sector have been implementing chatbots to offer virtual consultations in the medical field and provide information on coronavirus symptoms. This technology has proven to be very useful in:

  • preventing possible complications;
  • decongesting hospitals and clinics, especially during contagion peaks, thus facilitating the work of health personnel, and
  • reducing the risk of infection by limiting waiting room movement in hospitals.

Here are some chatbot examples in managing the health emergency:

  • Bayer, in collaboration with Paginemediche, has introduced the “Ask an Expert” teleconsultation service on its SapereSalute site. This service lets you speak with an expert 24/7. You’ll also get an answer in less than 24 hours. A digital assistant supports visitors by providing a preliminary COVID-19 diagnosis and outlining actions to take based on the contagion risk. According to StartupItalia, the chatbot has managed 25,000 chats from its start date through October, proving to be valuable in avoiding hospital congestion. 
  • Microsoft Healthcare Bot was created in collaboration with INAIL and made free for all Italian healthcare facilities. It uses artificial intelligence and the Azure Cloud Platform to integrate a coronavirus symptom verification system while guiding on what to do if there’s a suspected contagion. Again, the goal is lessening the workload and reducing the requests received by medical personnel. 
  • Citel Group has offered its experience by donating the chatbot, Cristina, to the Italian Red Cross. This supports all citizens seeking assistance. Estimates state that this chat service has reduced the amount of telephone requests at the switchboard by 23–30%.  
  • The Florentine start-up, Kinoa, has developed the DESI chatbot. It’s designed for all Public Administrations wanting to effectively manage communications on the emergency and provide their citizens with an additional information channel on COVID-19. 

Conclusions

In our current emergency, providing information, updates, and support to the public are two key objectives. 

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitization process. It pushed the urgency of support and interaction methods that are timely and capable of coping with physical distance. 

It’s here where the use of chatbots has seen a significant uptick, revealing this new technology’s full potential—especially in healthcare. 

Chatbots can never replace empathy and the qualitative value of human support. They can, however, represent a valid way to manage requests and lighten the workload during emergencies. 

This article was written by

Paola Bergamini

Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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