The Weekly Enterprise Customer Q&A: Choosing Chatbot Channels, Cloud vs. On-Prem Hosting, Live Chat or Chatbots?

Editor’s note: Over the course of our two-and-half-year quest to build an enterprise grade Bots Platform, we’ve fielded hundreds of questions from developers, businesses, analysts, and reporters about the capabilities and uses of chatbots. The conversations started incredibly basic, like “What is a chatbot?” or “How is it different from an app?” But now, just like chatbot technology itself, the market knowledge is evolving, and we want to let you in on the types of discussions we’re having daily at Hopefully, these bi-weekly blogs will serve as sort of a running chronicle of all things related to chatbot development, and give you a greater glimpse of what to expect when considering bots for your company. You can also watch our webinar “Entering The Conversational Era” here.

1. Is it better to focus on a couple of strategic communication platforms (channels) to deploy a bot or to try and get it in as many as possible?

Communication “channels” come up a lot with customers, and because there are so many varied ways people communicate these days, it can be confusing to focus on where a chatbot might get the best adoption. It may be best to think of channels like any other medium in that the medium itself is secondary to the audience.

Certain channels, like web and mobile SDKs give developers unique opportunities to customize the UI, but generally bots take on the native interface characteristics of the channels in which they live - a bot in Facebook Messenger will interface like Messenger, a bot in SMS will interface like text, so on and so forth. All of that to say, your capabilities will largely remain consistent across channels, so the real key is pick the ones that will best represent your users.

If I’m Coca-Cola, why would I advertise in a B2B trade publication? Conversely, if I’m a B2B logistics company, why would I advertise on TV? You can follow similar logic with chatbots. You don’t want to use them ineffectively, so if your users aren’t utilizing a particular channel, there’s no sense in deploying the bot there. Instead it would be wise to focus on maximizing adoption where your users already are. If you’re a company building a bot for internal employee use, where does most of your work happen? If you’re a company building a bot for retail use, where do most of your sales come from? Think of your audience first, and the channel selection should be fairly intuitive from there.  

Learn more about chatbot channels. 

2. Do chatbots have to run in the cloud?

That’s really a choice each enterprise has to make depending on if the platform they choose can provide both cloud and on-premise hosting. About half of our customers are currently running the entire Bots Platform on-prem. Some are using a hybrid model - taking advantage of the cloud version but are connecting to systems that are on-prem. What this means for potential customers is that if they have old legacy apps they simply can’t get rid of, with an API all the sudden those systems can be “modernized” to be conversational. 

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3. Do we really need a chatbot if we use live chat software?

Yes. Actually it creates more of a business case for your live chat because you don't want to prevent people from self-serving just because they’re comfortable with a chat and it seems like the path of least resistance. We’ve heard from customers who are afraid to roll out agent-manned live chat because they’re already strapped for resources but feel pressure to keep up with expectations to have a chat. Chatbots help alleviate that pressure with live-agent hand-off. If there’s a task a bot can’t tackle, or if a user becomes frustrated, chatbots can transfer a conversation directly to a human, so enterprises can use their support agents more efficiently.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that chatbots are so much more than a conversational tool. Their ability to connect to back-end systems of record, complete a variety of tasks from delivering alerts, pulling reports to executing workflows, and taking actions, and AI capabilities like storing and using data from each conversation in context, elevate chatbots beyond live chat software as a digital solution. Live chat is a great first step towards humanizing digital, but chatbots can take you much further down the road and give users far more autonomy in resolving their needs.

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