While they’re already common in e-commerce, there are loads of charities using conversational interfaces or virtual assistants as an efficient way to deliver information 24-7. Chatbots are freeing up precious time for charities to carry out core service delivery and fundraising activities that need the human touch.
The growing popularity of chatbots is largely thanks to one major recent trend: The growth of messaging apps.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber are used by more than three billion people every month. This is staggering when you think social networks themselves like Facebook don’t even get those numbers of users.
With their huge popularity, businesses are realising the potential of messaging apps as a major new channel for sales, customer service and marketing. As people are flocking to messaging apps in their droves, it makes sense to use these channels to interact with your customers.
In mid-2016, Facebook opened up Messenger to allow companies (including nonprofits) to program their own chatbots for customer support, e-commerce guidance, content, and interactive experiences. By April 2017, more than 100,000 Facebook Messenger bots had reached over 2 billion Facebook Messenger users.
Often, charities and Nonprofits are swamped with customers service enquiries. Especially smaller scale charities that simply can’t afford to employ large customer service teams to field each and every enquiry. Thus, they are increasingly using chatbots to make interacting with their user base both cheaper and more responsive. Since Chatbots automate responses around-the-clock, Charities can answer questions and queries 24/7 with the aim of freeing up staff to work that required a human touch.
Nonprofits are beginning to use chatbots to increase their ability to interact with supporters at almost no cost. Chatbots are available 24/7 to answer questions and — the hope is — free up staff to do other work. The ability of bots to relieve organisations of administrative tasks is not an incremental improvement. According to one estimate, “more than 30 percent of tasks can be automated through chatbots now.” That is a huge shift in how work is done, and by whom, within organisations.
Here’s how nonprofits are using chatbots:
FAQ: A bot that answers all the FAQs that a Charity or Nonprofit could be asked everyday. The sort of repetitive enquiries that take up a workforce’s valuable time yet rarely add much value. Questions like: “Where are your offices?”, “When is your next fundraising event?” Can all be automatically answered through pre-configured messages from a bot. Furthermore, you can integrate a menagerie of functionalities to a bot:
- Transfer to live agents.
- Chit chat
- Multi-media (e.g Google Maps, Youtube Videos etc…)
Donations: Chatbots have entered the realm of fundraising. There are many charities using chatbots to funnel the user towards making a donation. Giving a user the ability to simply ask “How can I donate?” rather than scrawling through a complex, multi-faceted website clearly gives a charity or nonprofit the edge in this age of goldfish-sized attention spans. Furthermore, a chatbot can integrate with financial transfer softwares provided by the likes of paypal, stripe or apple pay – making donating easier than ever before.
Education: chatbots are often used for education schemes, either by raising awareness for certain causes or in digital knowledge. For example, the charity Mencap, as a part of the ‘Here I Am’ campaign, designed a chatbot to help people discover more about learning disabilities, and more specifically, to help break down stereotypes and any mis-informed assumptions. Chatbots like Mencap’s can provide visual and emotional ways to tell a story to help people understand the real problems your work addresses and overcomes.
Usage Statistics: Chatbots give Charities and Nonprofits the tools to better understand their customers with real-time insights from the valuable data they collate:
- learn who your customers are (demographic, language),
- learn what they want, and
- be smarter with your data.
A good example of this in practice, is The World Food Program initiative to use a chatbot in Nigeria and Haiti to find out about local food prices and food security in their communities.
The-times-are-a-changing. Automation is here to stay, and with it we will see the a radical change in the way organisations operate and interact with the public. The charity sector has typically dragged its feet when it comes to embracing new technology. This is the time to be forward thinking and bold to ensure that the new technologies enhance our work, improve our relationships with supporters and activists, and, most of all, make differences for the better and not for the worse.