Reprinted with permission from StoragePug.
It’s natural for self-storage operators to continually look for ways to improve their level of service. So, how would you feel if you could enhance the customer experience while reducing your individual workload?
Chatbots are an increasingly common tool used to improve the online user experience without increasing the burden on facility staff. Let’s look at the benefits of integrating a chatbot into your website and how to decide if it’s the right tool for your operation.
What’s a Chatbot?
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to what a chatbot is and does. First, it isn’t live chat. You don’t have an agent sitting in front of their computer waiting to respond to incoming messages. Instead, a chatbot uses software powered by artificial intelligence (AI) or pre-defined rules to provide a certain level of automation to the customer-service experience.
The goal here isn’t to replace human interaction. As a supplemental tool, a chatbot helps handle bottom-level customer-service needs that can be a drain on self-storage managers and resources. It’s effective, too. As of this year, more than 1.4 billion people have used a chatbot, with roughly 60% likely to have interacted with one recently.
According to chatbotslife.com, a website dedicated to this technology, there are three main types of chatbots. The right one for your self-storage business may depend on a wide range of factors. Let’s examine each.
Rule-based chatbots. These are simple bots that read a query and respond based on a set of pre-defined rules. Usually, they just look for keywords in the user’s text and offer up the solutions business operator has associated with specific phrases. For example, a user might ask, “Do you have any storage units available?” The bot reads “storage units” and “available,” and in response, provides a link to your rates page for the user to see what’s offered to rent!
AI-powered chatbots. These are a little more complex. They have some pre-defined rules, but they’re a little bit better at reading the intent of the user’s query rather than relying purely on keywords.
Intellectually independent chatbots. These utilize full-on machine learning to handle customer interaction. Not only can they read the intent of queries, they refine their understanding by learning from past customer interactions over time.
Will It Help You?
It’s no secret that you should make it as easy as possible for prospects to find information on your website and communicate with your self-storage business. The decision of whether to incorporate one into your website largely depends on your operation and the way it uses technology to interact with customers. Only you can decide how much value it could add to your bottom line, but here are some general questions that might help you decide:
- How much time do you and your team spend answering customer questions?
- Do you ever get complaints from customers about being difficult to contact?
- Do you have multiple automated/unattended facilities running on a hub-and-spoke model?
If your site manager often has a lot of extra time on their hands, you probably aren’t in dire need of an AI assistant to help with customer service. On the other hand, if freeing up your team from rudimentary customer-service issues would improve productivity elsewhere or allow them to apply greater attention on more complicated customer situations, then a chatbot just may be right for you.
What Are the Benefits?
If you’re still on the fence about whether to use a chatbot after considering your team’s workload and tenants’ needs, consider these additional advantages the technology provides:
- Allows for limited 24/7 customer service
- Saves you time and money
- Provides a seamless, contactless service
- Eliminates the need for phone-based IVR (interactive voice response) systems
For self-storage operators, the ability to automate time-consuming tasks and allow customers to interact with you 24 hours per day are probably the greatest benefits. If a prospect has questions about your facility after office hours and doesn’t get a response until the next business day, it’s very possible you’ve already lost them to a competitor. Even better, some industry software providers allow you to integrate your chatbot or set it up to interact with customers via text.
A chatbot won’t be the right solution for every self-storage business, but it’s important to consider the technology and its potential benefits. If you believe an AI assistant would add value, look for a solution that integrates with your self-storage management software or can be customized to help you manage your facilities and service customers more effectively.
Robert Priester is a content writer at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. He enjoys creative problem-solving and writing content that’s informative and interesting. For more information, call 865.240.0295.