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Why Chatbots for CRM Matter for Your Business

Whether you order a pizza, taxi, or ask for a consultation at a bank via instant messenger, you will probably deal with a chatbot at some point in a day or week, though you may even not notice.

CRM itself is a powerful sales and marketing tool for many business processes automation, but a chatbot can push your business an additional step forward.

Uber, Lyft, PizzaHut, Sephora, the WallStreet Journal, and many more brands have already built chatbots into their software to increase sales, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction.

How can chatbots enhance the productivity of your interaction with CRM? Let’s take a closer look at this question through the angle of CRM challenges that sales managers deal with most often.

 

  1. Valuable Data Loss

 

Salespeople no longer sit in their offices in front of desktop computers. They have all necessary data on their smartphones and can convert leads and close deals on the go. However, such mobility has engendered the problem of data loss.

Image by Pixabay

Reasons:

  • Small screens on mobile devices are uncomfortable for entering data.
  • Sales reps can forget to add something if they fill in CRM once returning to the office at the end of the day.

How can chatbots help?

Because of the small screen sizes of mobile devices and a shortage of time, it may not always be easy to enter information into the CRM. You have to log in, switch among tabs to fill in all the necessary data, zoom in and out on the screen to enter into the fields, remember to save your work, etc. It may take a lot of time and effort and, besides, some CRM workflows are really not explicit and require additional thinking, especially if the system is large and bloated. Instead of these mundane tasks, you would rather pitch one more prospect.

Integration of a chatbot into your CRM can help to solve this issue. The greatest benefit of using a chatbot for CRM is that you have only a single message field to type in as you would do in your messenger. Chatbots can continuously go through the necessary workflows, asking you questions and recording your answers in the appropriate system areas seamlessly.

How it works, in practice:

The chatbot is integrated with your CRM and messenger to synchronize information between them. There can also be other enterprise systems connected to this chain (email services, social media, ERP, HRMS, CMS, WMS, etc.).

Let’s imagine that you have just had a call with your Lead and need to make some notes about this conversation. For this purpose, all you need to do is open your messenger (Telegram, Kik, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or other) and initiate a dialogue with a bot agent.

Passing through the predefined inquiry workflow, you interactively add all valuable information about the meeting.  

Image by Justbots

In one single dialogue, you can create a new Lead, Contact, Case, Opportunity, Follow-Up Task, and other entities, without the necessity of logging into the CRM. All data is recorded to the CRM via API, automatically filling in the right fields.

For example,

Chatbot Question User Input CRM Record
“Add new Lead?” “John Doe” A new Lead is created
“Any new Opportunity?” “Premium Car Insurance” A new Opportunity is created
“What are the Results of the meeting?” “Need to send our quotes” A Note is added
“Any follow-ups?” “next Monday at 9” A Follow-Up Task is created
“Please provide a Subject for this follow-up” “Check in with John” A Description of the Task is added

 

and so on…

 

Here is Justbots example of how it may look in your CRM after a dialogue:

  1. Missing Opportunities

Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects. They spend 21% of their day writing emails, 17% entering data, another 17% prospecting and researching leads, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls.

Image by Pixabay

Presentations, pitches, negotiations, meetings, calls, emails, chats, progress tracking, closing, data analysis and more. This is just part of the list that makes up a sales manager’s daily routine. Nevertheless, none of these tasks can be ignored.

“…more than 75 percent of the 2,000 deals I’ve landed over the years have come from sending follow-up emails.” – says Jason Zook, Founder, IWearYourShirt.com

Having a large number of deals and myriad of tasks on each of them, it is easy to get lost and miss an important event. That’s why setting reminders for follow-up emails, meetings, calls, and deadlines is very important for every salesperson.

Reasons:

  • Difficult to manage data coming from many sources like emails, calls, social media, and messengers, so sales managers can forget meetings and miss deadlines.
  • Difficult to track changes on the deal’s progress.

How can chatbots help?

A CRM chatbot will organize all tasks and follow-up on all scheduled activities, so that you can manage your time even more effectively.

How it works, in practice:

Follow-ups and compliance with deadlines are meaningful for successful deal closings. Chatbots can hint at what steps to do next: they’ll remind you that Mr.Doe is waiting for your call on Friday at 9am, or that you should send a contract to Mrs. Jones to close that deal before Monday, etc.

Besides the reminder function, you will also be notified of the latest updates on your Leads, Prospects, Campaigns, and more. Chatbots can analyze such meaningful aspects like potential revenue or deal closing deadlines to advise which deals one should focus on first.

  1. Poor Understanding of a Customer

Image by Pixabay

Sales managers need a real-time, 360-degree view of their customers so that, when preparing for a meeting or call, they know all about the client. They will win the client’s trust more easily and close the deal faster if they are able to impress him/her with an understanding of their client’s pain points and interests.

Customer retention is one of the most important KPIs for any company and it directly comes from how well you know your clients. Timely reminders of contract prolongation, personalized offers, or just saying “Happy Birthday!” can make your clients happier.

Unfortunately, this may be quite a challenge to find out and organize scattered pieces of data to get the full picture of the client and his needs.

Reasons:

  • Data may be scattered across different sources (like client’s profile, social media, chats, emails).
  • Not enough time for thorough research before each meeting.

 

How can chatbots help?

The reasons to adopt chatbots for CRM are that they can be integrated with social media, email, messenger, inner enterprise databases and apps like ERP and CRM via API. As a result, this incorporation allows it to retrieve necessary data from multiple sources: user profiles, activities on websites, purchase history, transaction history, asked questions, preferences, complaints, etc. All this data, gathered by chatbots, allows the company to get a 360° view of a customer, identify trends and analyze the gaps that a human would not be able to see.

 

How it works, in practice:

Firstly, this can be used for improving the services, taking decisions for changing the marketing campaign, becoming more responsive to customer sentiments and, as a result, staying more competitive with others.

 

Secondly, armed with this knowledge, the sales rep can propose more precise matching of the product or service to the client’s needs, winning his/her trust and closing the deal faster.

 

  1. Time-Consuming Routine Activities

Image by Pixabay

Call-centers are overloaded with incoming calls and requests, most of which repeat from client to client. Answering questions about services, giving recommendations, directing people to the appropriate content, receiving orders, and many other activities can be automated, instead of hiring more employees or sacrificing conversions.

Reasons:

  • Managers spend a lot of time for answering repetitive questions.
  • People hate waiting for answers to their calls or chat requests and go to those who will serve them first.

How can chatbots help?

Connecting your website chatbot to the CRM, you can automatically gather all necessary client information such as name, age, payment data that will be recorded without additional manual efforts. This allows for a significant savings in time when it comes to entering data into the CRM manually.

How it works, in practice:

Use chatbots for business to take away a part of the routine tasks of your employees by automating some processes with chatbots.

For example, RozeExpress, an online flower shop, did just that. By installing Telegram integrated with a chatbot to all company couriers’ smartphones, they reduced delivery management overhead. The courier types in the bot chat information about delivery, bot logs the info in the CRM, changes the status of the order in the system and sends SMS messages to the client. Such a scheme allows savings of up to 40 min of customer service operator work daily.

Chatbots brought a great relief to conversational commerce. Many banks and financial companies use chatbots to answer clients general questions. As an example, Mastercard uses a Facebook Messenger bot to help their clients get information on their account transactions (e.g., “How much did I spend on restaurants in November?”). A user does not need to login into banking apps and navigate through the screens to see necessary information before logging out. This allows for an improved user experience.

What Is the Price of Chatbot for CRM Development?

Depending on the complexity of your projects, time frames, and budget, you can create a chatbot either with the help of a bot builder or go for a custom-tailored solution from scratch. If we talk about a chatbot for CRM, you should focus on custom development, as here we deal with robust business logic, security, user permissions, and unique functionalities.

In general, it is considered that building a chatbot is easier and cheaper than creating a mobile application. The reasons are:

  • No sophisticated UI design is needed, as chatbot uses a messenger UI. All functionalities are combined in a single interface and when, if anything, is changed or added, it doesn’t require app updating.
  • Messengers are free, flexible for changes, well-optimized, and chatbot-friendly.
  • No need to code for multiple mobile platforms.
  • There are ready bot platforms that let developers build, host, test, and deploy chatbots.

Factors that may influence development price and time:

  1. The scope of the project. The more robust interactions, the more time and higher price of development. Ask yourself the following question to understand the necessities:
    1. What is your bot supposed to do? Depending on business logic, it can go through the predefined conversational algorithm of questioning to collect data, take up the burden of answering FAQs, analyze data from multiple sources, or complete more sophisticated tasks.
    2. Are you going to collect payments through a chatbot?
    3. Does it need to integrate with third-parties and other enterprise systems?
    4. Should it recognize text only, or voice and gestures as well?
    5. What level of human speech understanding and AI does it need?
  1. Security. Depending on the industry and tasks that you want to automate with a chatbot, different levels of system protection and user permission rules can be used. For example, if your CRM deals with Finance, Healthcare or other sensitive information spheres, the security of the data transfer should be the highest priority, and, therefore, chatbot development can be more expansive.
  2. Bot infrastructure. Your bot may live either on a bot platform or your own custom infrastructure that allows taking overall control. On the one hand, creating a bot on the chatbot platform is easier, as all development tools and frameworks are provided, but, as a rule, such platforms are open source and this puts security in question. Another pair of shoes is a proprietary infrastructure where all rights for data and code belong to you and there are more guarantees of compliance with security measures.
  3. Adding AI to your bot. This may lift your system to a higher level if a bot can learn human language from every interaction and provide more complex and intelligent analytics. But, this is more complicated and time-consuming from the development point of view.

How to Apply This to Your Business

As stated in the Business Insider report, 80% of businesses plan to incorporate chatbots into their systems by 2020.

Integrating a chatbot with your CRM and other enterprise systems allows for automation of many routine tasks like:

  • answering customer questions
  • setting reminders for deadlines and important events
  • scheduling meetings among multiple participants
  • filling data into the CRM without the necessity to log in
  • analyzing omnichannel information
  • creating a 360-degree customer view

And many more functions that will allow you to increase the efficiency of your business.

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Technical

The Trump Administration Plans to Privatize the ISS

Many of my regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of outer space. I am inspired by it and believe it is ultimately the destiny of humans to be an interplanetary species. We’ve already been to the Moon, but most of our manned missions have been to the International Space Station and back for a while now. Recent documents have suggested that the Trump administration is considering making the International Space Station (ISS) a private entity.

The International Space Station was not meant to be a private endeavor

An internal NASA document acquired by The Washington Post suggests that the Trump administration hopes to end public funding of the ISS after 2024. However, the document goes further, explaining that the intention is not to let the ISS deorbit (read: re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in a spectacular fireball) like other space stations (such as SkyLab) have in the past. Instead, the laboratory in low Earth orbit may become privately held after the United States stops public funding.

I take a few issues with this:

We have sunk truly massive amounts of money – over $100 billion in US tax dollars – into the International Space Station. This does not even account for the contributions made by the other nations that share the burden of the ISS’ operation and maintenance. It is not dilapidated and has potentially decades of future service ahead of it beyond 2024, and no company will pay $100 billion for it. A net loss for the US government is a net loss for every taxpayer.

As mentioned in passing above, this plan does not seem to appreciate the other nations that also maintain, contribute to, and occupy the International Space Station. Currently, three nations have astronauts (or cosmonauts) on board. It is far from a solely US held entity.

Another problem I have is that if the ISS were turned over to solely private entities, the science done there would become for profit, not for the common good. Furthermore, it could potentially become proprietary. While I am in favor of eBits and the market itself, some things are better left public and for the good of humanity as a whole.

I would not mind privatization if it meant we were creating a better and more modern station. I realize it is older and could use an update, but the current plan has no solid roadmap regarding what the public will get next. It seems like this plan sinks already sunken costs and then adds insult to injury by not providing any indication as to what the future holds.

The United States and the world deserve to have part of their science and research done without profits in mind.

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Technical

The Electrum Personal Server Will Give Users the Full Node Security They Need

The Electrum Personal Server promises a resource-efficient, secure and private way to use bitcoin with hardware and software wallets, connected to full nodes. Developed by open-source programmer Christian Belcher, best known for his contributions to JoinMarket, the Electrum Personal Server directly addresses vulnerabilities with the popular Electrum Bitcoin wallet, while sparing users the significant resource usage of an Electrum server.

According to Belcher, connecting Electrum with the Electrum Personal Server is the most resource-efficient, secure and private way to use a hardware or software wallet connected to a full node. It is important for all users to connect their wallets to full nodes for the Bitcoin network to maintain long-term security, he maintains.

“If bitcoin is digital gold, then a full node wallet is your own personal goldsmith who checks for you that received payments are genuine,” explained Belcher in correspondence with eBits.Co.

Full Nodes vs. Thin Clients Refresher

In the Bitcoin blockchain, full nodes are programs that validate transactions and blocks on the network. Full nodes assist the network by accepting transactions and blocks from other full nodes, validating them and sharing them with other full nodes. Essentially, full nodes are the referees of the Bitcoin blockchain –– they check to see that chains are following the rules of the network and ignore chains who break them. As an example, Belcher noted that “[transactions] printing infinite money would be rejected by [full nodes] as if they never existed.” In this way, Bitcoin can ensure that no more than 21 million coins are ever minted.

While full nodes are the most secure, they are are also more resource-intensive. A full node takes up around 156 GB of disk space (a number which is growing by more than 50 GB per year), can take days to sync when used for the first time, requires significant amount of bandwidth each month, and takes up CPU power validating all transactions and blocks on the network.

Thin clients (also known as lightweight clients), however, do not download the entire Bitcoin blockchain. Instead, they only download a copy of all the headers for the blocks in the blockchain. Thin clients are able to achieve increased efficiency and speed by receiving notifications when a transaction affects their wallet specifically. But this does mean that thin clients must tell a third party which addresses belong to them, which is bad for privacy. Additionally, thin clients trade full validation and security for efficiency, placing their trust in full nodes to verify that rules are being followed on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Electrum

Since 2011, the Electrum wallet –– a light client –– has been among the community favorites. It features a pleasant user interface, hardware wallet connectivity, “forgiving” seed recovery phrases, cold storage solutions, decentralized servers to prevent downtimes, and multi-sig permissions. However, similar to other thin clients, the Electrum wallet’s lightweight connection with the Bitcoin blockchain comes at the cost of privacy, validity and scalability.

By default, the Electrum wallet sends all its bitcoin addresses to an Electrum server, which sends back a user’s history and balance. According to Belcher, “This means that the Electrum server knows all the user’s bitcoin addresses and could spy on them, essentially seeing everything a user does.” Users should note that anytime their bitcoin addresses are stored on a thin-client server, their transactions can be monitored.

Like other thin clients, if Electrum servers do not properly verify the rules of the Bitcoin blockchain, wallets can be deceived. For example, a compromised Electrum server could lead the Electrum wallet to accept a fake transaction for USD $1000 worth of bitcoin that would not have been validated by a full node.

Electrum servers also store records of every address ever used on the Bitcoin network, which, as user-base increases, poses a hindrance to scalability.

In the Electrum ecosystem, the only way for a user to avoid these vulnerabilities inherent to the Electrum thin client is to run their own Electrum server and connect it to their wallet. This fix is more resource-intensive than running a Bitcoin full node; it requires the unpruned Bitcoin blockchain, the full transaction index and extra address index. Electrum Servers are also more RAM and CPU intensive than full nodes, and are not made to be turned on and off efficiently.

Electrum Personal Server Solution

The Electrum Personal Server provides bitcoin users with increased efficiency, security and privacy. In this implementation of the Electrum server protocol, users seeking a full node connection can interact with all traditional Electrum wallet features while running a Bitcoin full node, instead of downloading an Electrum server.

Efficiency

From an efficiency perspective, connecting an Electrum wallet to a full node allows users to take advantage of resource-saving Bitcoin Core features such as pruning, disabled txindex and blocksonly. These features are not available to an Electrum server.

Users also benefit from the traditional Electrum wallet user experience/user interface and functionality such as hardware wallet integration, offline signing, recovery phrases and multi-signature wallets.

Security and Privacy

Because users are connected to a full node, they aren’t prone to any of the aforementioned privacy and security threats posed to thin clients.

There is a caveat –– users lose the popular “instant-on” feature of the Electrum wallet when using a full node such as the Electrum Personal Server. The full node must synchronize first, before displaying a wallet’s bitcoin balance. Depending on connection speeds and time since last connectivity, this process could take a few minutes or hours.

For users seeking to connect their wallet to an Electrum Personal Server, the process is fairly straightforward. According to Belcher’s blog post, users must:

  1. Download the alpha version;
  2. Configure the Electrum Personal server with their master public key. Those addresses are then imported into Bitcoin Core as watch-only;
  3. Rescan the wallet if it contains historical transactions. There is no need to rescan, however, if a new, empty wallet is created.

Why Should the Average Bitcoin User Care?

Belcher outlined that since the inception of the Bitcoin network, the basic security model has relied on most of the economy using full node wallets, not thin clients that are vulnerable to manipulation. This way, legitimate Bitcoin transactions are always accurately verified, nefarious transactions are always rejected, and the hard limit of 21 million bitcoins (which are really just bits and bytes) is enforced.

Belcher believes that “bitcoin is dead in the long term” if most of the Bitcoin economy does not use full node wallets.

He hopes that the Electrum Personal Server can serve as a framework for other lightweight Bitcoin wallets to connect to full nodes run by users, rather than (centralized) servers. For instance, a Samourai Wallet or Breadwallet can utilize a script similar to the Electrum Personal Server to connect to a full node.

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Technical

Cornell IC3 Researchers Propose Solution to Bitcoin’s Multisig “Paralysis” Problem

Owning cryptocurrency comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest of those challenges is managing the private keys that enable you to spend funds. Lose your private keys, and your money is gone.

In a business environment, a common way to manage funds owned by multiple people is via what’s called a multisignature (multisig) address, a type of smart contract requiring two or more parties to sign off on a transaction to move the funds. 

This can be problematic, however. Let’s say you have a three-of-three multisig that requires you and two business partners to sign off on a transaction. If one person dies, disappears or becomes incapacitated, those assets become frozen — a risk some might feel uncomfortable with when dealing with tens of thousands of dollars or more.   

One way to ameliorate that risk might be to opt for a two-of-three multisig, where only two instead of all three individuals need to sign off on a transaction. But that’s not a complete solution either. Two players could conspire against the other one and run off with the money.

What now? If your funds are on the Ethereum blockchain, you could write a smart contract that would allow you to free the funds if one person in your trio disappeared.

However, Bitcoin with its limited scripting language makes things more difficult. “This seems like an unsolvable problem if you think about the traditional tools,” said Ari Juels, a professor at Cornell Tech and co-director of the Cornell Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3).

Paralysis Proofs

In a paper titled “Paralysis Proofs: How to Prevent Your Bitcoin from Vanishing,” researchers Fan Zhang, Phil Daian, Iddo Bentov and Ari Juels from the IC3 outline how to deal with what happens when a party is unable, or unwilling, to sign off on a multisig transaction in Bitcoin. The solution involves a combination of blockchain technology and trusted hardware — Intel SGX, in this case.   

Trusted hardware allows you to run code inside a protected enclave. Even a computer’s own operating system is unable to access data inside an enclave, so if your computer were to be hacked, the code in the enclave would remain secure.

IC3’s solution proposes replacing a trusted third party, such as a lawyer or a bank, who would put money in an escrow, with a trusted hardware solution that retains control of a master key to the funds.  

If one of the three people in the contract dies, the other two initiate a “paralysis proof.” That proof is based on a challenge sent to the missing third person. If the missing person responds to the challenge, the money stays put. If the missing person does not respond, the trusted hardware releases the funds to the remaining two players.  

Trusted hardware is only part of the solution, however. If the third person were to try and respond to the challenge request with an indication she is still alive, conceivably, the other players could intercept that message. To ensure that does not happen, the second half of IC3’s solution involves sending the message via the blockchain, which provides a tamper-proof and censorship-resistant medium.    

“By combining these two [methods], we can achieve the exact properties we’re after,” Juels explained to eBits.Co. “We can enable trusted hardware to determine whether or not somebody is alive, and there is no way to prevent a relevant message from getting transmitted if it is coming through the blockchain.”   

How It Works

Put simply, this is how to achieve a paralysis proof as outlined by the IC3 researchers:

  • Two players suspect a third is dead, so they post a challenge on the blockchain. The challenge consists of a tiny “dust” UTXO that the third person must spend within a certain period of time, say 24 hours, to prove she is alive.
  • The two players also get a “seize” transaction they may post to the blockchain later to collect the funds, if the third person does not respond to the challenge.
  • If the third person sends back a response by spending the UTXO, the game is over; the two others are not able to take control of the funds.  
  • Alternatively, if the third person does not return an “alive” signal by spending the UTXO before the time-out, then the two others can use the “seize” transaction to take control of the funds.  

This not the only use case for a paralysis-proof system. Juels thinks the solution would work well in any situation that called for a controlled access to private keys that could not otherwise be maintained on a blockchain. “It is actually a very general scheme you could use for lots of other purposes,” he said.   

For instance, a paralysis-proof system could be used as a dead man’s switch for control over the release (or decryption) of leaked information or a journalist’s raw materials. It could also be used in numerous ways to control daily spending limits from a common pool of money or as a conditioned expenditure based on an outside event (as reported by an oracle), like a student getting good grades or a salesperson meeting a sales quota.   

“Basically, you can a rich set of conditions around the expenditure of money using the fact that a trusted hardware kind of acts like a trusted third party,” said Juels.

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