Chatbots in the Channel

Mike Moore, Averetek

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, there are several applications that are becoming common due to the low cost and accessibility of AI-based platforms from Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Amazon. Among the many opportunities for sales and marketing, chatbots and virtual assistants are emerging as a way for companies to provide better customer service at a lower cost.

For brands who go to market with and through channel partners, chatbots can be utilized to service your channel partners and their customers and prospects.

Answering Partner Questions

When channel partners are looking to find information, resources, or people to help generate leads, close a deal, or service a customer, a chatbot can provide assistance without forcing the partner to navigate through your partner portal.

Consider the following frequently asked questions:

  • Where can I look up an order?
  • How can I generate sales leads?
  • Where can I get pre-sales support for a technical question?
  • My customer’s renewal is due. Who can quote pricing?

Many of these questions can be answered by your channel managers, but in the time it takes the channel partner to ask the question and wait for a response, a chatbot can provide the specific help your partner requires.

Chatbots are intelligent enough to act as more than just search. For example, if a partner is inquiring about an order, the chatbot can detect the keyword “order” and follow-up by asking for an order number, query the order system, and provide a status in the chatbot window.

If a partner needs to book time with someone on your team, chatbots can handle booking meetings, too.

The biggest benefit to supporting partners with chatbots is speed. Resolving partner questions quickly helps partners serve their customers better which leads to more time for sales. A nice side effect is the loyalty and trust that will develop between you and your partners who feel well supported.

Engaging Prospects on Behalf of Partners

As channel partners use the marketing tools you provide them with to generate awareness, interest, and consideration of your products and their services, the landing pages prospects are directed to often live somewhere other than the channel partners’ websites. If a prospect visits a landing page and has an immediate need for assistance or has a question, there’s a chance that the prospect won’t make an effort to contact the channel partner through whatever details exist on the page. A chatbot can pop-up proactively to engage the prospect. Whether the prospect has a question or simply wants to speak to someone, a chatbot can help collect contact details and even basic qualification details like location, company size, or whatever other information the partners wants.

For an example of a basic lead qualification conversation, see the image here and consider the flow programmed into this bot.

  1. An email address is collected from the prospect. The bot won’t move on to the next step until a valid email is provided.
  2. The chatbot asks for employee count, location, and job title.
  3. Based on the responses, the chatbot routes the prospect to the right salesperson for that territory and customer segment. In this example, a lead with less than 50 employees routes to an web form and a lead with more than 50 employees will go to a live salesperson.

lead qualification chatbot


You can try this HubSpot-based chatbot by visiting Averetek.com and clicking the chat in the bottom right of the screen to test this experience for yourself.

Being responsive and engaged when prospects are actively shopping will lead to improved lead conversion rates and more pipeline.

Engaging Customers on Behalf of Partners

Channel partners are territorial when it comes to servicing customers, but in the cloud era that we live in where many solutions are delivered in an as-a-service model, brands are in a position to provide service and support to the customers of channel partners in a bespoke manner.

Chatbots don’t need the same amount of time a human chat agent requires to look up a customer, figure out which channel partner they work with, alter their chat script to mention the channel partner, and customize the conversation. Humans take too long to do all of this. Chatbots can engage customers in microseconds and in many cases, they can do so with greater accuracy.

If customers want to perform the following tasks, chatbots can quickly provide assistance:

  • Open a support ticket
  • Upgrade from one plan to another
  • Add licenses
  • Get contract details

Since all the chatbot history can be shared in real-time with channel partners, there’s no threat to the partner’s relationship with their customers. The brand is simply acting as an extension of the channel partner’s team.

Getting Started

While a developer can build a simple chatbot in about 10 minutes, most scenarios will require more time and skill to deliver the engagement and usefulness that you and your channel partners require. Many of the big software vendors offer free training to help developers learn their toolkits and build AI-based chatbots. But these are not off-the-shelf experiences yet. In time, the level of technical skill needed to create, script, and deploy chatbots will come down to the point where the average Microsoft Office user will be able to create a chatbot.

Additionally, vendors will provide chatbots integrated as part of their applications like marketing automation platforms (HubSpot is already doing this), Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, social media tools, and channel marketing automation software. Chatbots introduced for specific tools will likely have limits, like only being able to answer questions related to its functions and not being able to answer any question a partner may ask unless other data sources are integrated so the chatbot can be universal in its abilities, but universal chatbots will ultimately emerge.

 

 

Chatbots, Channel Partners

Mike Moore, Averetek

Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek

Mike Moore serves as Averetek's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. Mike has spent twenty-four years in the IT channel as a channel partner and as a channel and field marketer for software companies like Microsoft, GE Healthcare, and Progress Software.

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