Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades but only recently have we seen AI start to get infused in the business world. There are many ways machines are getting smarter and reacting to customer’s needs. One of those ways is chatbots.

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are digital assistants that pop up and answer customer questions in lieu of a person at a business. If you’ve ever visited a Facebook page or website and had the messenger app or window appear asking if you need help, you’ve likely encountered one of these chatbots.

Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular. Emarketer estimates that by 2019, more than 25% of the world’s population will use these mobile messaging apps. And Ray Kurzwell, a well-known inventor, estimates that by 2029, it will be hard to distinguish between chatbots and humans. That’s according to an infographic that showcases how the usage of chatbots have gone wild in recent years.

So, the question becomes, are chatbots for you? It sure sounds like it given how prevalent they are in today’s business world, but let’s break down the pros and cons.

Pro: You Can Finally Take a Worry-Free Day Off

Small business owners suffer at the hands of worry while out of town. A study by Funding Circle found that 70% of business owners work on major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, even when they plan to take the whole day off. With chatbots, you can alleviate some of that worry knowing that your customers are getting basic questions answered, such as your opening hours, products available for purchase, or other frequently asked questions.

Pro: You Can Decrease Acquisition Costs and Increase Retention Rates

One of the biggest costs to small businesses is marketing. Once you have your customers through the door you want to keep them in the door and loyal to your business. Chatbots help you do that by being present for your customers around the clock, and by anticipating your customer’s needs, answering questions at the perfect time to make or retain a sale.

Con: You Lack Humanity

Until Kurzwell’s estimation that chatbots and humans will be indistinguishable comes true, chatbots will clearly look and feel like machines. Although they’re helpful, they still lack the empathetic touch humans have. It’s this emotional intelligence that can make or break a sale, so it’s important to still bring a person into the mix for the exchanges where empathy is necessary.

Are Chatbots Right for You?

The answer is, yes but in limited areas for now. Chatbots today are advanced enough to be beneficial to your small business but they shouldn’t take the place of your entire customer service team.

Image: Stock Unlimited