In today’s technology-driven world, pretty much everyone demands a quick, instant-gratification type of online experience.
What does that mean for your apartment community?
It means, when a potential resident visits your website, you have about two seconds to give them what they’re looking for. People want to be able to ask their question and get an answer, immediately.
Enter: The chatbot.
Whether or not you’ve heard this buzz word before, there is a lot of information to digest out there.
The good news is, this post is going to dive into everything you need to know about chatbots in simplified terms – the good, the bad, the why, and the how.
So, let’s get going…
The future is officially here, folks. A chatbot is an artificial intelligence software that essentially holds a conversation with your customer via a type of instant messaging platform on your website.
No matter how much information you put up on your website, there really is no replacement for human connection. And although it’s not exactly a human, people will feel like someone is always there on the other end to help – and that is just good business practice.
You may have seen this before when browsing some of your favorite sites. A little pop up “instant message” window appears with a, “How can I help you today?” type of message.
You think, “Well, simply typing in my question, or clicking on a few options, is a lot easier and faster than digging around for the answer on the website.” And it is.
Both live chat and chatbots can be effective in connecting with customers online, but they aren’t exactly the same. Here’s what we mean…
Live chat is when a customer service agent sits at the computer, and literally responds to your prospect or resident in real time.
Pro: The great part about this is, human interaction is immediate and you can pretty much ask anything and everything, and you’re sure to get a legit response.
Con: The bad side of this is, if the representative is away from his or her desk, the user will get some kind of message saying, “Great question. Please leave your email address and someone will get back to you soon.” This can be counterproductive for the user, who just wants an answer, now.
Chatbots are different. Because the user is speaking to a robot, it is available around the clock. This “robot” never needs to take a break and its capabilities are essentially limitless.
While all chatbots are designed to “act” as one of your representatives on the other end, available 24/7, ready and able to assist your site visitors, not all chatbots are created equal. Some are slightly limited and some have more sophisticated capabilities than others.
For example, some chatbots are programed to answer questions based on a specified keyword. This word must be included and spelled correctly for the bot to understand. If it doesn’t understand, users will get an error message saying something like, “I do not understand, try again.” Or, if the user misspells something, the bot is not really able to decipher what the user means.
Other, more advanced chatbots can accurately process users’ questions regardless of misspellings or errors. They also do not rely on keywords, and can essentially hold a full conversation with your user. These also store conversations for future analysis. The more they are used, the “smarter” they become.
Some also factor in natural language processing, meaning the way the people tend to verbally communicate.
The short answer: yes.
Chatbots are instrumental in improving the user experience on your website.
Your website is likely the first thing people see about your apartment brand. Therefore, if it’s not a good experience, the user will bounce away and never return.
Unlike people, chatbots are available 24/7.
This means your prospect who is up at 3 a.m. searching for a home because his or her current neighbor is blasting music again, still has access to a chat line should he or she have a question or need help. You don’t have to miss out on any leads when your office is technically closed.
Online chat can be better than a phone call.
First of all, this day and age, people rarely make phone calls – even to people we like. People also generally have poor experiences when calling a customer service line. There are wait times, calls dropping, and maybe an unknowledgeable or moody representative who can’t even answer the questions. Chatbots make it so easy to just click a button, type in a question, and get an answer. It’s simple. It’s fast. It gets the job done right. Plus, since chatbots are devoid of feeling, they always give positive, friendly responses and a helpful attitude.
Chatbots have unlimited potential.
Again, unlike humans, chatbots can do a million different things at one time – without error. So, no matter how many people are on your site utilizing this chat service, they will all have their needs met.
Cost is also a factor.
It’s more cost-effective to implement a chatbot system on your website than to hire employees to answer these initial questions that can be found on your website. You would essentially be paying a small investment, rather than employees’ regular wages.
This isn’t to say that you will completely replace your leasing agents.
People need human interaction at some point in the sales process. Your agents play a critical role in giving tours and getting leases signed, after all. The chatbot is just designed to answer initial questions, not necessarily close the deal. You can also program your chatbot to be available only at times when your employees are out of the office.
You’ll be able to generate leads.
You can program the chatbot to collect an email address before getting started, or at some point in the conversation.
For example, if someone is looking for a particular floorplan, your chatbot can ask a series of questions, and then recommend the floorplan that is right for the user. The bot can end the conversation with, “It looks like you would be a great fit for floorplan A. If you’re ready to get started, just enter your email address here.” Once you collect their information, you can then follow up with a marketing campaign.
Here’s some data on chatbots that we’ve collected so far…
There are 5 billion monthly active users on messaging apps – that means people like this form of communication, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Based on recent data from clients using the Resident360 chatbot, we’re seeing a high number of users scheduling property tours. Usage of the bot varied by area and by property type with most chatbot leads (user requesting a tour or call) averaging between $1-$5.
A chatbot can be the hardest working non-human on your website. Think about it, when your leasing office is closed, the chatbot is still on 24/7, answering questions and scheduling tours. For the minimal monthly investment, it’s worth adding to your website.
Andrea has been a marketing professional and copywriter for more than 10 years, and is currently a regular contributor to the Resident360 blog.