People are impatient — and getting more so everyday.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we still live in a world of two-day shipping, on-demand streaming, and constant feed refreshing. We've been conditioned to expect immediate gratification nearly across the board, and that goes for how your prospects and customers expect to interact with you, too!
As an MSP, you're already accustomed to setting and meeting response time expectations with your SLA, but do you treat prospects who visit your website and fill out a "contact us" form with the same sense of urgency?
If the answer is no, you're not alone. The majority of MSP business owners are just too busy putting out fires to jump on inbound leads as quickly as they need to in order to be truly effective, which, according to research, is in 5 minutes or less.
How can you expect to realistically hit that target? You know from the title of the post what the answer's going to be — with chatbots, of course!
What are chatbots and how do they fit into MSP lead generation?
Chatbots are the always-on, consistently-polite, and forever-accurate army of sales associates you need (and maybe can’t afford at the moment). You can use them to automatically answer questions, book meetings, and more.
As you can see, we use a chatbots here at NinjaOne (checkout the red chat icon in the bottom-right corner of your screen), and they've become a small, but reliable source of leads for us.
In this guide, we’ll share tips we've gathered from our own experience PLUS cover everything you need to know to get started with chatbots in your MSP.
For starters, let's talk about what modern chatbots can do.
What exactly are we talking about when we say "chatbot"?
When we talk about chatbots today, we’re not just talking about programs that run on if/then rules and scripted commands. Modern chatbots utilize artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities such as natural language processing (what we think of as “reading”) and natural language generation (what we would consider “writing” and “speaking”) to converse with humans. Using AI, chatbots can “learn” from their experience to a certain degree and adapt as new questions and conversations are thrown their way.
How can MSPs can leverage chatbots?
MSPs can use chatbots to automate a variety of functions — from simply asking visitors how they found your website to answering product questions, signing leads up for trials, and even connecting to your meeting software to schedule a meeting.
To use your chatbot as a conversational marketing channel that helps acquire leads, treat it like the forms you may already employ on your website to gather information like a visitor’s name, business size, contact info, and more. You might find that you’re able to collect even more information with a chatbot than a form, since people often find it more natural and noncommittal to share their details in a casual, chat format.
At NinjaOne, we’ve been using chatbots on our website for several years. What has worked well for us has been automatically displaying our chatbot about three seconds after a visitor lands on our website.
If you land on a page outside of our blog or resources center we start off the conversation by displaying a number of options that the person can choose from, including “Replace my RMM, “Ask a sales question,” “Just browsing,” and “Contact product support.” We also provide an empty text box in which a visitor can type whatever they want, but we've find that these prompts help reduce friction and get the conversation started.
Tip: Visitors are more likely to interact with chatbots when they're given clear options as prompts.
Behind each of these prompts, we’ve built out an elaborate workflow that maps out where each click or response takes the visitor next — whether it’s to additional options, an informative article, a product specialist’s calendar, or the queue of an available support person.
One of the best things about bots is how they keep working even after you’ve clocked out for the day. With the right integrations, bots can book meetings with you or anyone on your sales and/or support teams, so they're a super useful tool to consider.
Which chatbot software should I choose?
Chatbots being the tech trend they are, you shouldn’t have trouble finding plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re just getting started, my recommendation is to first know exactly which features you want — are you looking for a simple, easy-to-integrate chat solution, or do you want to upgrade your entire customer experience workflow? With that decision in mind, simply choose what you consider to be an affordable solution that offers a month-to-month plan that you can get out of if it’s not a good fit.
Also, if you're already using CRM software make sure they don't offer a chatbot add-on or have a preferred vendor before you go looking elsewhere. For example, HubSpot includes several chat options, and Zendesk offers a “Conversations API,” which enables the addition of AI-powered bots.
Intercom and Drift (which is what we use) are both well-known, premium solutions with tons of additional features and functionality for lead acquisition — a plus for MSPs with more mature sales & marketing operations and the time/personnel to spend optimizing.
Drift’s chat package starts off free, then ranges from $50/month (billed annually) to a $1,500/month (billed annually) “Premium” subscription. Intercom pricing for both their all-in-one and conversational marketing (which includes chatbots) packages ranges from $87 to $153 per month, but additional people and seats add up fast. Both services provide enterprise-level pricing upon request.
Zoho Desk’s help desk software is a budget-friendly option for smaller MSPs with smaller teams and smaller budgets. To access their AI-powered bot, Zia, users will pay $35/agent/month (billed annually). Tidio is another affordable but very lightweight chat solution that ranges from $0 to $18 per month for “Regular” plans, but can be customized for your unique needs.
If you’re ready to go shopping, these list articles will help you get informed:
- Best Chatbots Software for Small Businesses
- Best AI Chatbot – Which One is Right for You?
- The Best 10 Web Chat Tools in 2020
How much time will it take to get started with chatbots?
Once you’ve selected your chatbot vendor, completed onboarding, and gotten the script added to your website, the first round of getting your bot ready for the public shouldn’t take more than a few hours. If you’re really crunched for time, many providers even have an “out-of-the-box” option that you can just turn on and come back to later to customize.
But, of course, you can also spend all kinds of time fleshing out your chatbot once it’s up and running!
We recommend including some prompts that help first-time users understand what it can help them do. You could include options like:
- “I’m a customer and I need IT help”
- “I’m not a customer and I need IT help”
- "I want to know more about your services and pricing”
What happens when they choose one of these prompts is up to you. You can try to meet their needs using the chatbot, redirect them to a live agent, or give them your email address or phone number so they can reach out immediately.
Many chatbots will include at least some basic analytics — use them to see where people start and stop interacting with your bot. This could give you clues as to whether you’re asking too many questions, asking too few, and other insights you can use to tweak your messaging and workflow to gather more valuable lead information.
3 pro tips based on our experience using chatbots
As mentioned, we’ve been using chatbots for several years here at NinjaOne. So here are a few pointers that may help you avoid some mistakes and get more value from your investment if you do decide to give chatbots a try.
1) Customize chatbot messaging based on lead source
Depending on the vendor, chatbot messages can often be personalized based on a UTM (more about these here). That means you can create chatbot messages that are highly relevant to the article, ad, or other source that brought the visitor to your site. By positioning your chat options and messaging in that context you can create a smoother visitor experience and offer relevant options that you already know they’ll be interested in.
2) Target ISPs for ideal clients
Similarly, some chatbot providers will let you target ISPs so that you can send highly-relevant messages to visitors who come to your site from specific businesses or your ‘target accounts’. This is great for targeting those “whale” leads you may be going after.
3) Handling the conversation when it goes beyond the bot
If you're planning on having your chatbot connect visitors to sales or support you obviously want to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Here are some pointers we've given to our own sales and support people re: jumping in and taking over for the bot:
- Don’t go back and forth over chat more than four times without offering to call or email the person. This captures the lead while they’re warm and before the conversation goes dead (or the person gets distracted by that cat video in their other tab).
- Speak like a human! Be somewhat casual. Relate to the person on the other end of the chat. People appreciate knowing when its not just a bot, and they are talking to a real person.
- Just like anywhere on the internet, you will get unnecessarily rude people (aka trolls). Don’t be afraid to use your bot’s blocking functionality (if it has one)
Chatbots: The next frontier in caring for customers and leads
Don’t let all the hype make you too skeptical. No, artificial intelligence-powered programs aren't complete game-changers (yet), and no, they're not going to automate your techs or salespeople out of a job. But they are extremely promising and useful tools that can help you automate time-consuming menial and repetitive tasks so that you've got more time to engage with the right leads quickly and effectively.
Gartner has already predicted that, by 2021, 85% of customer interactions will happen without help from human agents. By reading this guide you're already one step ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition. Now consider taking the next step by trying out a chatbot for yourself.
For more tips on powering up your MSP website + more tactics for generating leads at a time when in-person events are off the table, check out some of our other favorite digital marketing guides that we’ve created for MSPs:
- 19 MSP Lead Generation Ideas That Don’t Require Being In-Person
- Building the Right MSP Website: How to Get More Visitors and Leads
- The Ultimate Guide to Local SEO for MSPs