If you think that contact forms are slowly disappearing from websites across the Internet, you’re not alone. If it also seems as though increasing numbers of websites now have fully integrated chatbots, you are correct there too.

Why is this happening?

Many web design professionals think that marketing is moving firmly in the direction of increased chatbot engagement, but is this really the case? Let’s take a look, starting by answering this frequently asked question...

What exactly are chatbots?

Artificial intelligence has made significant gains in recent years and chatbots really are just the tip of the enormous iceberg in this area.

communication conversation phone 1877537 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a chatbot is defined as being:

“A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.”

OK, so now we've cleared that up, let's think about why a business might benefit from chatbots.

Artificial assistants that have the capability to deliver information via text responses can be seamlessly integrated into websites to help businesses to forge closer and more meaningful relationships with their customers.

But what does this look like in practice? To answer that, let’s explore…

The pros of chatbots

Innovative technologies can provide an array of impressive benefits to a variety of different businesses. If this type of technology appeals to you, let’s look at some of the primary advantages these smart solutions could offer your business.

- Chatbots enhance customer service

As they are always available, chatbots can provide immediate access to information and valuable assistance to customers, regardless as to the time of day. Chatbots don’t need holidays, weekends or sick days, and whenever a customer chooses to engage with a chatbot, they know that the response will be instant as there is no need for a human to locate the appropriate answer before replying.

And this can help because...

- Chatbots enhance customer satisfaction

When visitors enjoy efficient service and satisfactory answers to their questions, spurred by the feeling that you are a trustworthy and knowledgeable business, they will be encouraged to return to your website again and spend more on your products or services when they do visit.

- Chatbots can be entertaining

From delivering amusing tips to entertaining users as a way to pass the time, chatbots can enhance key engagement metrics and encourage your visitors to explore pages on your website that they might have overlooked otherwise.

- Chatbots fuel conversation

Engaging with chatbots can inspire visitors to make further contact and send more comprehensive enquiries directly to a member of your team. If your chatbot has enough answers to pique the interest of your visitors, you might just be helping your business to secure valuable additional leads for your sales team to convert further down the line.

- Chatbots inspire curiosity

Chatbots are still somewhat of a novelty and many customers actively want to explore the extent of the abilities of the technology with which they are engaging. All positive engagement is a good thing and if chatbots deliver a great experience, your visitors are likely going to want to see what the rest of your website has to offer.

So, that covers some of the good things that chatbots are capable of. But surely there are some negatives too?

The cons of chatbots

As with virtually everything that has ever existed, there are some downsides that might even potentially outweigh the positives in some cases. So, let’s take a closer look at a few of the cons of chatbots.

Starting with perhaps the biggest challenge…

- Chatbots can only provide limited responses

Although artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day, the quality of the exchanges customers can have with chatbots is not yet on the same level as a conversation they can have with a human. Ultimately this means that, as things stand at the moment, some visitors simply won’t receive all the answers they are looking for.

And this can lead to…

- Chatbots can cause frustration

As chatbots function using a limited database of information, they cannot improvise. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes conversations can quickly become cyclical if they don’t have appropriate answers or cannot comprehend precisely what is being asked of them. The nuances of human conversation are immense and this is sometimes lost on chatbots.

- Advanced chatbots are an investment

Some chatbots are smarter than others and, as you might expect, those with more advanced problem-solving capabilities will require more of an investment than their more basic counterparts. Creating and integrating artificial intelligence is a costly process, particularly as this field is in a consistent state of advancement and innovation.

- Chatbots aren’t suitable for all businesses

The fact of the matter is that some businesses are far too complex and intricate for chatbots to be a practical option. Why? Well, attempting to program chatbots with a myriad of answers to potential questions or scenarios would require a vast investment and the time commitment involved would simply be unrealistic.

In terms of lead capturing, it is doubtful whether chatbots are a more effective way to capture important contact information from your visitors than traditional contact forms. So, let's now turn our attention in this direction.

online form2

The pros of contact forms

It wasn’t long ago that you would struggle to find a website without a highly visible and well-promoted contact form. So, let’s take a moment to explore why they were such a popular option for so long.

- Contact forms can be an effective way to screen potential customers/clients

A person who is willing to invest time filling in a contact form is demonstrating that they are interested in engaging in further dialogue with your team. This means that contact forms can be effectively employed to identify where you should be investing your efforts to secure those all-important conversions.

- Contact forms can reduce email spam

Displaying your email address directly on your website can very quickly result in swathes of spam mail hitting your inbox every day. Although we cannot say that this won’t happen with a contact form, it will certainly help to prevent sending a tidal wave of spam your way that you will have to address at some point.

- Analytics data from contact forms can be extremely illuminating

Since metrics can tell you a lot about how well your website is performing, understanding how many visitors view your contact form versus how many end up filling it out can be particularly valuable.

Once again though, it's not all plain sailing.

The cons of contact forms

Although contact forms have historically been one of the most effective methods for capturing leads, there has been a great deal of debate over their effectiveness for some time.

- Contact forms can appear impersonal

Although contact forms are undeniably practical in many ways, it will always be the case that some customers or clients will interpret them as being a touch corporate or impersonal. Displaying your contact information separately on your website can go some way to mitigate this but equally, sharing too many points of contact can sometimes be overwhelming and even off-putting, even to those who are eager to engage with your business.

- Contact forms might not display correctly across all browsers and devices

Contact forms can be somewhat fiddly to fill in, particularly on smaller mobile devices. As mobile browsing continues to increase, this is becoming more of an issue. Mobile browsers want their online experience to be simple and seamless, so integrating a direct ‘call us’ button or email hyperlink can be much more appealing to certain users.

Are chatbots ‘better’ than contact forms?

At this stage, it would be irresponsible to declare either chatbots or contact forms to be inherently better than the other.

Why? Well, it’s complicated and there are a variety of mitigating factors to consider.

It is true that chatbots can certainly be viable replacements for simple contact forms, such as those that simply ask for a name and contact number or email address for a member of the sales team to follow up on, however, there are many situations in which traditional contact forms are a much more sensible option.

In short, chatbots should:

- Always be used in appropriate places and at appropriate times
- Have a clear purpose
- Only be used to replace basic contact forms

If your approach to chatbots ticks all of those boxes, they might be the ideal option for you. After all, when integrated smartly, chatbots can help to make the process of collecting valuable information feel more like a conversation for your visitors, which will always feel more personal, engaging and intuitive than spending time filling out a lengthy form that can feel detached and soulless.

In an age of personalisation and connection, anything you can do to present a welcoming, friendly and intuitive experience to your audience should be viewed as a seriously smart business move.

If you are looking at ways to engage your customers online, ensuring that you are delivering a great user experience should be your first priority. Contact us today about a UX audit if you want help identifying what changes to make on your site that will have the most impact on revenue.

Blog Index