Your buyer’s guide to choosing the right chat(bot) platform

The way people communicate in life, let alone in business, has transformed significantly over the years.

The modern buyer is accustomed to the real-time, instant communication that the WhatsApps, Slacks, and Facebook Messengers of the world deliver — and they expect the same always-on communication in their B2B buying journey. 

This transformation gave birth to what we know today as chatbots, conversational marketing, live chat, etc, and they enable marketers to be more customer-centric in their design of the buyer journey. While chat platforms are now at the front end of adoption, you’ll notice the countless options available, and choosing the right solution for your company is no easy feat.

To help make your evaluation simple, we have broken down this guide into the following sections to help you ask the right qualifying questions and choose the best chatbot for your company:

  • Section 1: Identify Your Use Cases
  • Section 2: Pricing Models
  • Section 3: Platform Integrations
  • Section 4: Natural Language & AI Ability
  • Section 5: Audience Building & Personalization
  • Section 6: A/B Testing
  • Section 7: Team Adoption
  • Section 8: Chat Routing
  • Section 9: Analytics & Reporting
  • Section 10: Balancing Human-First With Automation

Section 1: Identify Your Use Cases

The most important question for you to consider before embarking on this journey is: Why do I need a chatbot? 

Chatbots are not a one-size-fits-all solution, therefore you should understand the primary purpose that a chatbot would serve, and the specific value it offers your business. 

Here are a few different use cases: 

Section 2: Pricing Models

Your budget is a key factor that can affect which chat platform you choose. Pricing models vary between vendors, and it is important to look at what they are offering and how they are offering it to you. Is the pricing model based on the number of user seats or is it based on the number of website visitors and/or number of accounts under management? Sometimes what may seem like a low or fair pricing plan can increase dramatically based on the package and the small add-ons that accumulate with use. 

Here are some features you should consider:

  • Integration capabilities with CRMs
  • Integration with your Marketing Automation Platform
  • Chat Routing
  • Unlimited Users
  • Data Enrichment Capabilities
  • Visitor Intelligence / IP Resolution
  • Form Integration
  • Proactive Sales Notifications
  • Analytics

Section 3: Integrations

To yield the best results out of a chat platform, it is critical to have the right integrations in place. Your marketing tools should integrate seamlessly with your existing workflows in order to keep real-time data flowing into your CRM. Without the right integrations, platform adoption won’t be easy. 

Additionally, you should make sure that your platform has a two-way integration and flow of data. Can you use your MAP and CRM data for targeting, audience building, and qualifying website visitors? Can you push the data from your chat system to your existing workflows in your MAP/CRM?

Systems that talk to each other, work better together. And that’s good for accurate reporting, pipeline predictions, and overall performance.

Section 4: Natural Language & AI Ability

To get the optimal outcome from your chatbots, consider the natural language and AI ability of the platforms. Do you want a fully deterministic system that works on rules or do you want a system that handles free-form text?

 The underlying idea is that the AI technology available today hasn’t reached a position to be useful by itself for generic use cases. But, matters aside, it is critical to understand the extent of the platform’s AI abilities as this will impact several other factors. For example, if you want advanced ML/A, the platform should be an enterprise conversational platform. Not only will this require a lot of time and effort to train the system, but implementation will also consume significant time and money.

Section 5: Audience Building & Personalization

Personalization is what marketers strive, and often struggle, to do at scale.

An easy first step can be website personalization that leverages chatbots. Your chat platform can help you build personalized conversations based on where prospects are in the buyer journey.

Questions to consider for chatbot personalization:

  • Does the platform allow you to build audiences easily in order to segment your website visitors?
  • Can the platform personalize the interaction based on account firmographics, behavior pattern, location, etc?
  • Can the platform help sales start conversations by providing the most recent account engagement?
  • Can you personalize conversation starters based on search keywords, UTM parameters, and referral sources?

Section 6: A/B Testing

With any customer-facing technology, you need to constantly test the platform and see what works and doesn’t work for your business needs. In this case, you need to experiment with various chat greetings and conversation starters on your chatbots to see what is actually driving engagement. Doing so allows you to understand what resonates with your prospects immediately, and how the chatbot can help in providing solutions for what’s top-of-mind. 

Section 7: Team Adoption

As a marketer, and even for your sales counterparts, you’ll need to consider how often you can go into another tool to make configurations. It’s necessary to choose a platform that isn’t time-consuming and can be maintained easily.

Is the platform a “set it and forget it” one that will require minimal effort from your end? Or is it one that needs your ongoing attention every two to three days for upkeep and configuration?

Ideally, the best chatbot systems will prompt your attention when needed so that your team can go in and make the changes when required, rather than waste valuable time trying to figure out where you went wrong.

Section 8: Chat Routing

A large volume of leads means ensuring the right ones are targeted, assigned, and followed up with. With chat routing features, you can route the right leads to the right sales rep in real-time. This not only saves time filtering and qualifying each lead on your site, but also increases your speed to response time.

Here are a few questions to consider asking when thinking about chat routing:

  • Do you need to route based on account owner, region, segment, or round robin to a team of BDRs? 
  • Can you support fallback options when a sales rep isn’t reached?
  • Will leads be assigned to the right people in a timely manner?
  • Are the leads routed to a bot and then a live agent or can they access a live agent immediately?
  • Is it a seamless experience for both the visitor and the sales rep when maintaining a conversation?

Section 9: Analytics & Reporting

In order to truly influence sales opportunities through chat, you need to understand how well it’s performing. Analytics and reporting capabilities give you a direct insight into the type of conversations that convert faster, when prospects engage with chat, and how quickly these turn into revenue. 

You can then leverage these insights into building an even more powerful, revenue-generating chat experience. 

Section 10: Balancing Human-First With Automation

The right balance of personal interaction with automation can convert your target accounts into your dream customers. With chatbots, it is important to find this balance so that website visitors can express their pain points and find instant solutions. 

When you choose the right chatbot for your company, you want to choose one that will automate the initial responses and notify a sales rep as soon as the lead initiates interest in learning more. 

Or better yet, if the website visitor is a hot prospect, it should connect them directly to a sales rep instead.

Chatbot automation is beneficial when there is a large influx of visitors on your site and your sales reps are struggling to reach out to each one, or outside of office hours when an agent is not available. Automation is only beneficial early in the conversation—it helps to filter and route leads to the appropriate sales reps. But what happens when they need to speak to a sales rep and are faced only with scripted options? This is when human-first has an upper hand as agents and visitors can communicate in real-time to reach immediate solutions.

Chat(bots) for the ultimate customer experience

Consumers have the power in today’s market, and they expect seamless online experiences and near-perfect customer service. When implemented correctly, a chatbot can provide all of that and more. And what’s more, chatbots provide your business with actionable records of customer pain points, allowing you to address their needs better in the future.