You don’t need to be a coding guru to develop a chatbot



Thanks to chatbots, people now have the convenience of interacting with brands or websites without having to contact a live person. Chatbots are set to revolutionize the customer service industry. If you’re like thousands of other business owners who are following the advancement of chatbots and considering whether to use one for your own business, you’ll be happy to hear that developing a chatbot isn’t as hard as it seems. But first, here are some reasons to invest the time in creating one.


Chatbots speed up customer service


Nobody likes the experience of reaching out to customer service, either through a hotline or through a chat service only to be placed in a queue waiting for a live agent to be available. Businesses can try to arrange to have a sufficient number of customer service representatives at all times but there will undoubtedly be times when there is a higher-than normal call or chat volume and customers will have to wait, and by waiting, they’ll feel unimportant and unappreciated as customers. When they do get a live agent, the conversation is more likely to start out hostile and lead nowhere. This is where chatbots come in.


Unlike live agents, chatbots can assist an unlimited number of customers simultaneously. A chatbot can lessen the strain during an especially busy time period by answering simple questions and resolving easier issues. For more difficult matters that the chatbot can’t resolve, there is still a benefit. The chatbot can obtain account info, ask security questions, or pull up an order before routing them to the person who can help that customer with all of the preliminary steps out of the way.


The problem


If chatbots are so incredible, why isn’t everyone jumping at the chance to have one? Because in order to be reliable and accurate, a lot of artificial intelligence and a solid understanding of coding is required and the average person simply doesn’t know the language of computer programming required to develop a chatbot. The biggest companies with all the resources buy up all the engineering talent leaving small companies with few options. Fortunately, there are affordable alternatives.


Chatbot development platforms


A number of companies have done the artificial intelligence and coding work for you, so you don’t have to. These chatbot development platforms work in a way that’s similar to website building platforms. The platform does the heavy lifting and the user can drop and drop features and work from templates to develop their own chatbots with minimal understanding of coding. These platforms range from the more simple (and limited) and the more complex (with more features but at a higher price and a steeper learning curve). If you are interested in chatbots but fear you don’t know enough, you can get started by familiarizing yourself with the most basic aspects of chatbot programming. Then you can use that limited understanding and with the help of a chatbot development platform, create your first bot. It might not be very good but you’ll get better if you keep fine-tuning and learning about chatbot programming.


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Five ways that Chatbots and AI are changing the workplace

Snowbot on a phone in an office-1


When chatbots were first introduced, the business world knew they had potential. There were implications early on for improved customer service and increased productivity but few could have predicted just how much chatbots would change the business world over time. Here are just five of the ways.


1. A personal assistant for everyone


Most businesses don’t have the resources to give every employee a personal assistant. But thanks to chatbots, every employee, not just the higher ups can have a personal assistant that can manage their calendar, schedule, edit, or cancel meetings, book travel, handle any other secretarial work that they might need.


2. Better customer service


While chatbots may not be as effective at resolving customers’ problems as humans, they can work 24/7 with zero breaks and can assist limitless customers simultaneously. Businesses can use chatbots to provide limited customer service during hours when there might not be a human customer service representative to help and even during the day, a customer service chatbot can help by pulling customer information, asking a few questions to get a sense of their problem, resolving simpler issues without needing to involve a human agent, and directly more complex issues to the appropriate person that can best help.


3. Shopping assistance


One reason people still prefer to shop for certain items in-store instead of online is because of the experience of asking questions of a salesperson as they decide to buy. But salespeople can’t be everywhere at once and they can’t know everything about every product. Chatbots can. Businesses can design a chatbot designed for customers to use in-store in order to ask information about products that may not be printed on the label. That same chatbot would even be able to ask questions of shoppers to narrow in on products that are most likely to appeal to them.


4. Empowered IT departments


When it comes to IT problems, some are harder than others. A chatbot can serve as a kind of automated IT service to help diagnose and resolve the more common tech-related issues that might arise from day-to-day. Not only can chatbots resolve simpler issues without any help, they can also access vast amounts of data on a per-user basis much faster than a human would be able to in order to find the source of an IT problem.


5. Increased productivity all around


All of these and other ways that chatbots can and will be used by businesses have one thing in common: they increase productivity. Personal assistants for every employee allows them to focus on more important things; customer service chatbots mean that customer service representatives can spend more time on the more difficult problems and customers get faster service; shopping assistant chatbots free up salespeople to close sales and ring up customers without being sidetracked answering simple questions; finally, IT chatbots free up IT professionals to devote more time to resolving more challenging problems.


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How to make each text more impactful



Your customers are putting a lot of trust in you when they hand over permission to send a text message directly to their phone. Text messaging is one of the more intimate forms of communication. It’s not like a mass print mailer or email (the majority of which go straight to the trash or junk folder). Text messages are almost always opened and read, usually within just three minutes of being received. As a business owner or marketer, it’s your job to ensure that you’re not taking advantage of that trust, because if you do, customers will opt-out–and fast. The following tips can help you ensure you’re sending impactful messages that keep your opt-ins sticking around.


Know your target audience and cater to them


If, in your mind, your audience is everyone, then when you set out to try and target that audience, you’ll reach nobody. In an ideal world, everyone in the world would love your business and the products/services you offer. But in the real world, only certain demographics will. Before you can even think about crafting a text message to send, you have to figure out who you’re trying to reach. What kinds of people are most likely to be interested in what you’re selling or who is most likely to need it? Find out what compels your target audience. What do they like and dislike? What kind of approach is the most likely to succeed with them?


Understand the message you’re trying to get across


Along with knowing your target audience, you need to know your message–not the exact wording of any one given text message–the overall message you’re trying to send with your entire SMS campaign, your brand’s message. You can fuss over the exact wording of individual texts later but when first putting together your SMS campaign you need to have a clear vision for it and a clear message that you want to come through with each and every text. That message can be as simple as “we care about our customers.”


Select the right channels


Because text message marketing is one of the least expensive and one of the most expensive mobile channels, SMS is a given. But what about other channels. SMS marketing can’t be successful all on it’s own. For one, you need to make use of other channels to make your customers aware of your SMS channel. SMS can also function as a doorway to other channels. You can use SMS to funnel customers into your mobile site, social media pages, or video content. Which channels you use to get more opt-ins and which ones you advertise in your text messages will depend on your target audience and mobile marketing aims.


Never stop fine-tuning


No matter how hard you try, some customers will still opt out. The best you can do is try to learn from those opt-outs. Pay attention to opt-out trends. Where you sending too many promotional text messages prior to a surge in opt-outs? Maybe you need to be less pushy. Have recent texts been a little too long or uninteresting? Maybe you can reduce opt-outs by working on conciseness and directness. Continually fine tune your SMS strategy. It’s never finished.


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Five ways restaurant owners can use SMS to grow their business


Opening a restaurant is one of the most popular and challenging forms of entrepreneurship. In fact, it’s popularity is one of the reasons it’s so challenging. Restaurant ownership is a crowded marketplace and it can sometimes seem impossible to stand out when there are already so many restaurants offering every kind of cuisine you can imagine. Developing brand identity and finding something unique to offer is critical if you want your restaurant to thrive. Another good strategy to keeping your restaurant successful is to take advantage of the SMS marketing channel. Here are five ways a restaurant can do this.


Send special offers


Probably the most popular use for SMS marketing is sending mobile coupons or other deals to customers. This can be a great way to get more people through the doors during slower times if you do it right. The offer needs to be good enough to incentivize but not so good it will put you out of business if everyone comes to redeem it either.


Send reservation reminders


Missed reservations can really hurt your restaurant’s bottom line. Since 98% of text messages are opened (and 90% of those within minutes of being received) there’s no better way to send a reservation reminder that the recipient is going to see. Best of all, these SMS reservation reminders enable recipients to add the reservation to their calendar app by clicking on the date and time included in your text. This way they can get reminded again by their phone when the time of their reservation is near.


Create an SMS loyalty program


Just as punch-cards reward frequent customers with every ten visits, an SMS loyalty program can reward your frequent customers with exclusive offers that no one else can get. Make sure that at least a portion of the text messages you’re sending are exclusive to those who’ve opted in to receive your texts. If anyone can get the deal regardless of whether they’ve opted-in, then there’s less incentive to do so.


Make table reservations easy


Text messaging is the preferred method of communication for younger generations who are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with calling up a place of business, including your restaurant. You can deploy a chatbot via SMS that allows customers to make a table reservation by simply sending a text to your chatbot. The easier you make it for customers to make a reservation, the more reservations you’ll get.


Gather feedback


Many receipts nowadays have instructions for going to a website to offer feedback in return for some deal during a future visit. These tend to be ineffective because it involves too much work for the customer. A better way is to send a text (if they’ve opted in) a day or so after their visit to your restaurant asking them to participate in a very short survey (three or four questions tops). Since you initiate the survey and they know up front it’s short and they get something in return, you’re going to get more feedback which you can then use to improve your restaurant.


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Best practices for creating an effective SMS chatbot



Though there are many different platforms for Chatbots such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, SMS (text messaging) is still the ultimate platform when it comes to chatbots. Because there are so many different messaging services now and it’s impossible to know which one your customers prefer, SMS is the safe option since virtually everyone is familiar with the concept of sending a text through their mobile phone provider. SMS also boasts the highest response rate for messaging services. So if you’re going to deploy an SMS chatbot to assist customers, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.


Set clear boundaries


When your customers engage with your chatbot via SMS, it should be immediately clear (either by telling them directly or by just making it very obvious) that they are in fact texting a chatbot and not a real person. Additionally, customers should know what they can expect the bot to do and what they shouldn’t expect the bot to be able to do. Research suggests that people are more understanding of a failed chatbot interaction when they have clear and realistic expectations going in. On the other hand, if it’s hard to distinguish between chatbot and human customer service representative customers are more likely to grow frustrated when a chatbot fails to understand seemingly simple requests or questions.


Have a fail-safe


Make sure to implement a number of friendly denials and error messages. Better for the chatbot to be upfront in stating that it doesn’t understand or can’t assist with a specific issue than to have the chatbot and customer run around in circles getting nowhere.


Make it easy to get a human customer service agent


Along with that fail-safe, make it as easy as possible for the customer to get connected with a live person when a chatbot is failing to assist the customer. A well-programmed chatbot can often connect the customer to the appropriate customer service agent even if it can’t understand how to answer the customer’s question itself. Don’t make the customer listen to several options and waste precious time like many automated phone response systems do.



Let bots answer the easy questions


Where chatbots excel is in freeing up human customer service agents by tackling the easier issues. When programming a chatbot for your business’s customer service needs, think about the issues and questions your customers are most likely to call in with. If your chatbot is efficient at recognizing and appropriately responding to the most frequently asked questions, that’s going to be a lot more helpful than anything else.


Don’t make it weird


Too many businesses are caught up in making their chatbots more personable or chatty like human customer service agents would be. As it turns out, customers usually don’t respond well to more life-like chatbots. For one, it blurs the line between human and computer and it sometimes creates unrealistic expectations for chatbots as mentioned above. Also, people prefer their chatbots to sound like bots. It’s unsettling to know you’re talking to a computer when it sounds so much like a real person. So just focus on designing a bot that’s quick, efficient, and has a neutral but pleasant tone.


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Businesses aren’t using SMS marketing to its full potential


The average smartphone owner will interact with their smartphone in some way over 200 times per day. US consumers are spending 25% of their media time on their smartphones. It stands to reason, then, that US businesses would be spending around 25% of their marketing budget on mobile, but they aren’t. Companies are only devoting 13% of their marketing budget on mobile advertising. Budget allocation isn’t the only disconnect between the opportunity mobile presents and the effort that businesses are putting in. For instance, the majority of video advertisements are simply repurposed from TV commercials and many text messages are simply emails sent via text. The problem is that many advertisers group mobile marketing in with the larger category of digital advertising. But in this day and age, it’s more beneficial to view mobile marketing as completely separate.


Mobile marketing: a whole different animal


Each marketing channel has different rules of engagement. The people who consume these various media have different expectations about the advertisements they’ll encounter. When marketers treat mobile as a subset of digital, they’re bringing their perceptions of one marketing channel and trying to force it to work with a different one.


The reason traditional digital marketing doesn’t work for mobile consumers is because mobile is non-linear. When people watch television, they might channel surf for a while but eventually they settle on a program and watch until it either gets boring or it ends. With mobile devices, consumers are jumping between video content, web browsing, social media, mobile apps, shopping, and texting/calling. The attention span of a mobile user interacting with their mobile device is much shorter that someone sitting in front of the television. Videos and text messages must get to the point faster.


The wrong metrics


Businesses also need to look at different metrics when developing their mobile marketing strategy. For a long time, businesses have tracked the success of an advertisement by looking at the metric of how many people made a purchase after clicking on a link to the product. This doesn’t work as well on mobile though, because they might encounter an ad while using an app, open up a web browser to do additional research about the product advertised, then open up a shopping app like Amazon to read reviews and then finally complete a purchase. Traditional metrics often overlook this journey the consumer takes before completing a purchase. Businesses have to look at many different metrics to get a sense of how their strategy is working.


Location-based marketing


Many businesses are now experimenting with location-based marketing that will automatically send special offers via text when people are near that business location. This is one of the most promising mobile marketing strategies and it’s proving to be especially effective since it takes advantage of one of the most unique features of mobile: its mobility.


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Three things you can learn about SMS marketing from direct mail marketing


SMS marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal, but only when you’re using it in the right ways. One strategy for using SMS marketing more effectively is to offer variety in the types of messages you’re sending. In this aspect, you can learn a lot about SMS marketing from direct mail marketing strategies. Here are three direct-mail techniques that apply equally well to SMS marketing


1. Offers that motivate


The most effective direct mailers resonate with customers. These are the ones most likely to motivate customers to act on them. There are a few qualities that a motivating message will have:


    • Personalized. Customers should feel like the message was directed straight at them even if it was sent to thousands


    • Exclusive. Recipients should feel pampered—like they’re getting special treatment that other customers don’t get. You can accomplish this by making certain offers exclusive only to those who’ve opted in to receive your texts


    • A clear call to action. Don’t leave it up to the customers to realize what you want them to do, come right out and tell them.


2. Appointment reminders


Every missed appointment is a missed opportunity for a sale. It’s also lost productivity. For years, companies have been using direct mail to send appointment reminders. Studies show that a simple appointment reminder can reduce no-shows by about 35%. SMS is an especially effective channel for appointment reminders since it’s immediately received once sent and much more likely to be read. Not only will appointment reminders improve productivity and increase profits, it can be a great lead-in to getting customers to opt-in for promotional text messages as well.


3. Coupons


Coupons are the oldest marketing trick in the book but they’re still the most popular because they work. In 2015 alone, American consumers redeemed a total of 2.5 billion print coupons in stores. Approximately 87% of Americans report using print coupons that they receive in the mail. The numbers for SMS coupons are even more startling because they’re more immediate. While the average direct mail coupon is held for 17 days before being redeemed, SMS coupons are more likely to be used within the first few days. Though you might assume coupons are old-fashioned, they’re still a powerful marketing tool especially when combined with newer marketing channels like SMS.


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Making customer Service More Important


You probably already know that customer service is essential to a successful business model. However, most businesses don’t make it a priority. The problem is that customer service ties into all the other parts of your business including sales and marketing. It is on the front end of the sale and the back end too. A customer will make judgements about your entire company and whether or not it is a good one based on a few minutes working with customer service. So why aren’t businesses making it more important? Here are some ways you can do just that.


Hire the right people


Part of making customer service a more important part of business is making sure you hire the right people to do the job. While some candidates may be able to put on a show for their interview, most will be themselves giving you a good idea of their personality. If they aren’t respectful and polite to you, then how can you ever expect them to be that way with customers? Look for good signs like dressing appropriately, saying please and thank you, never speaking over you. Better yet, if they take an interest in you or the company with questions of their own, then you know they will be able to make a customer feel comfortable during an interaction. And if they can persuade you to hire them, they probably will do okay in the job.


Get the right technology


Customer interactions are not restricted to one type of conversation over the phone or in person with your representatives. In fact, most people prefer to have multiple ways of communication to best suite their current needs. For example, having customer service texting available makes it easy for your customers to interact with your business on their time and without having to set aside extra time during the day for a lengthy phone call. Social media interaction gives them a chance to either promote or put down your company based on their experience and also gives you the opportunity to respond to it. Email communication makes it easy to voice a long opinion about something and even attach documents to explain better.


In every situation, there is a different way your customer wants to speak with you. Making sure you have the technology available to meet those communication needs will make customer service much more important to your company and more valuable to your customers.


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Personalizing SMS Marketing with Emojis

SMS messaging is a powerful means to spread your marketing message to the masses. Millions of people have cell phones and use text messaging as a means to communicate. In fact, Forbes reported in 2013 that more people had cell phones that toilets. So if you are trying to decide between marketing through SMS messages or through bathroom reading material, you can be assured that marketing through SMS messaging will reach a whole lot more people.

We know that SMS messages are a powerful means to market to people. You can get marketing material in people’s hands within seconds or minutes that the message has been sent. But what kind of messages will be most impactful to those receiving your messages? To know what to send, we should understand how people like to message others.

Texting with Emojis

According to a report from Appboy, a customer relationship suite for marketers, the use of emojis is rapidly increasing in a variety of mediums. They also reported that people and brands use different types of emojis. For example, when people send messages back and forth, face emojis are the most frequently used. Emojis are used by people as a means of self-expression and to express their emotions. But no matter what emoji is used, the point is that people are using emojis. Despite the brevity that text messages already allow, emojis make messaging even more simple. When some texts a friend a joke, the friend can respond and say, “haha, that is so funny,” or they can simply respond with a laughing face emoji. Or if someone wants to show agreement to a message they received, they can write a message back or they can simply send an emoji of a thumbs up.

How Companies Use Emojis

Brands use emojis more to gain attention or to evoke an emotion. Companies want emojis to catch the eye of the receiver in their marketing messages. It is significantly easier to get a message across to someone if you have their attention. So are emojis a good way to catch people’s attention?

Since people use emojis within their own texts, companies have the opportunity to use the growing fad to their advantage. And companies are. Use of emojis in marketing messages has grown 20% a month, on average, this year alone.

Best Practices for SMS Message Marketing and Emojis

There is no harm in throwing an eye-catching emoji in your SMS message market campaigns. But if you do, there are ways to work them to your advantage.

Pair your company and brand with a correlating emoji. If you sell ice cream, make use of an ice cream emoji. For example, Domino’s Pizza used this idea to run a pretty successful Twitter campaign: they invited customers to order something by tweeting the relevant emoji. Use emojis that will make the most sense to your marketing campaign.

Most of all, make sure you know your audience so you know what messages to send and which emojis to use. Younger people might appreciate emojis more than older people will. Make sure the emojis you use match the audience and the message that you want to send.

People are using emojis in their various means of messaging. Companies have the opportunity to personalize their marketing messages and catch the attention of their readers if they use emojis that relate to their audience and to their message.

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SMS Messages Reach Everyone Everywhere


If you are wondering about whether SMS messaging is an effective marketing approach, you need to consider where you audience is and what they are paying attention to. If you go anywhere and stop to just look around or watch people, what do you see? People on their cell phones. Which means people are sending and receiving text messages.

People are constantly bombarded with marketing campaigns. When you walk through the mall, you see big signs for clothing sales, new products, and delicious food. Some of those signs might be bordered with neon lights or bright colors. But where are people really looking? They are looking at their phones. Whether they are walking through the mall and simultaneously pulling up a coupon from on online ad or they are comparing prices at another store, people are constantly on their phones. Reaching people on their phones might be the most powerful and effective approach to get people’s attention and market your campaign.

Reaching your Audience through SMS Messaging

SMS messages are short and powerful messages that can be sent directly to a customer or a potential customer. The reach of SMS messages is endless. People can read SMS messages while walking down the street. They can read SMS messages while on the bus, or on a train, or on a boat. You might even reach them while they are driving a car (though for safety’s sake, we hope you cannot reach them then). You can reach people in the most private situations: while they are lying in bed, while they are eating a midnight snack, or even while they are sitting on the toilet. People read texts more often then they read the weekly ad or an email or a social media post. So if you are still wondering if you should market through SMS messages, consider the people you can reach at any moment of the day wherever they happen to be.

The Limitations of SMS Messaging Marketing

While marketing through SMS messaging is effective, there are limitations that should be realized. For example, federal regulations require that people opt in to receive marketing messages before a company can send them any messages. Do not make the mistake of sending messages to people who have not officially opted in to receive text messages. There is a hefty fine for anyone who breaks the regulations defined under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In fact, Papa Johns and Clickatell Inc. are both facing lawsuits by consumers who claim they received text messages before they opted in or after they opted out. So if you do decide to reach your audience through SMS messages, make sure you know and understand the regulations.

Once you understand the limitations of SMS messaging, you can design an effective marketing campaign. SMS messaging limitations should not stop you from marketing via text messaging. If you have any concerns about the worth of SMS messaging marketing, remember that billions of text messages are sent, received, and read every day and that a global audience is in your hands since you are sending messages directly to the devices that are in people’s hands.

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