Chatbots: Do they work for B2B?

Team ThunderAct

Chatbots simulate a human conversation and can answer questions, suggest products, or even make simple sales. A common reason why businesses adopt them is their ability to support customers 24/7 without the need to have round-the-clock support staff. One of the most alluring capabilities of a chatbot is the reduction of the payroll costs in a department that requires an immense amount of human labor to maintain. Recently, chatbots have become a popular way to help customers self serve in support or sales transactions. 

Bots can be very useful in B2C companies as they can automate follow up to the most common questions. However in B2B, clients have different needs and a much higher average sale price. In the B2B space, bots require a different way of thinking. A chatbot can be a good option for providing very basic information after hours, but using a bot to try and replace support or sales human interaction comes with special challenges.


B2B customers deserve to feel special 

When a B2B customer browses your website they could be the buyer, an influencer or a user. Regardless, they want to feel like you know them and can help their specific needs. As briefly described before the main two use cases when using bots are in support and sales customer interactions. 

B2B selling does not lend itself to a “one-size-fits-all” approach. A selling bot promoting a product or service before fully understanding the customer's needs could lead to frustration as these customers are accustomed to a high level of personalization. To these customers, real human interaction is critical. 72% of business buyers said they expect vendors to personalize engagement to fit their needs. 


Automation of support can cause frustration

Just recently I had an issue with the office printer that kept declining my new toner. I went on the company website and I was greeted by a sophisticated looking chatbot. I answered all the questions the bot asked me, hopeful that it would lead me to a quick solution for this annoying problem. After 20 min of trying to convince the bot that I’m not asking about how to handle paper alignment and endless typing “talk to human”, I ended up googling the support number hoping to talk with a live person. Sadly, due to COVID19 the support operations of the provider has reduced their staffing and I had to wait over an hour to speak to a human. I was so frustrated I ended up ordering a new printer from a different vendor. 

When it comes to support queries, many B2B companies offer a very rich support library and endless articles that should answer almost every customer support need. When a client fails to find their resolution within those articles, the client expects to be able to speak with a human to resolve their issue. Having a chatbot direct to a useless help article for your complicated question can be irritating, but knowing that a human is ready and able to step in to assist when necessary can help relieve some of that frustration.

If there are questions or support issues that are taking up a significant amount of time for your team, it is worth investigating whether these make sense to put into a chatbot. If you chose to do so, use data to determine what these questions are, how they are asked, and whether the answers are simple and repeatable. We advise you always give an option to leave contact information in case the problem is not resolved, if additional help is needed, or to provide any feedback. 

Remember that the goal of a business when embedding a bot is to reduce costs of repeating trivial client needs, to be available 24/7 and to collect critical information. A bot in a B2B space can not and should not take the place of human interactions. Human interactions are the ones who will close tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of deals. You risk losing out on recurring revenue if the client isn’t able to realize the product value due to support issues.


First, know your customer

Building a chatbot comes with a price whether it’s time, actual cost, or the risk of losing money because of poor implementation. When taking the first step in building a good bot you first need to understand your customers. As a B2B brand you already have a tremendous amount of data about your customers, the market you operate in, and the way you do business. Your challenge is to look closer into the notes already captured by your customer facing teams.

 Your organization likely has hundreds of thousands of notes and data points stored in various platforms and locations. How much time do you think it will take to analyze them all? Many organizations try setting a taskforce to do it but find it requires an unrealistic investment that is then challenged by different interpretations of different interactions. By the time the results are gathered the data may not be relevant anymore.

Luckily, ThunderAct is here to help! Before investing the time and money in building your next chatbot, let ThunderAct help you determine where and how it can be incorporated best. ThunderAct will find the insights you need by analyzing your sales and support interactions (and any customer interaction actually) to know what would give you the highest ROI by automating with a chatbot. Contact us to learn more.

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