Gartner predicts that by 2018, 20 percent of business content will be authored by machines. This figure is set to continue to rise as chatbots become increasingly useful and the users increasingly accepting.

The main attention on chatbots up until now has been on how they can answer and respond to incoming requests, be they for customer service, entertainment, or other uses. But this is just half of the story. There is a huge benefit in using chatbots to initiate or continue customer engagement, not just react to it. You can schedule a comment or conversation with a user through your chatbot to provide continued engagement when they have already been communicating with you.

Whether you want to contact someone a matter of minutes, hours, or weeks after an initial conversation, you can schedule the bot to reach out to the user to encourage specific behavior.

The key to these outbound comments or conversations is that they have to be relevant and meaningful for the customer. Users are increasingly aware of their power with brands and are no longer willing to be bombarded with useless messages. To ensure this doesn’t happen for its users, Facebook specifically prevents you from sending ongoing messages unless they fit specific criteria.

The beauty of using a chatbot to initiate engagement is that you can ensure the message is relevant, using data you have already collected about the user and their previous conversations. For example, you can tailor messages around prior purchases, location, and purchasing preferences.

There are thousands of use cases for this type of outbound engagement. For example, with scheduled comments you could:

  • Add a reminder in a conversation to make sure that someone has not forgotten about items in their online shopping basket (if they haven’t checked out).
  • Alert them to the fact that the particular deal they are looking at will expire within a few minutes.
  • Offer assistance with more purchasing or browsing if they have stopped talking.

Perhaps you are running a health assistant bot and want to schedule a daily conversation to remind a user to log the exercise they took the previous day, or maybe to remind them to take their medication. How about scheduling a conversation with a user who has just booked a flight through your chatbot, offering them a taxi service or a hotel room or a restaurant suggestion exactly when it’s relevant — be that one week before they depart or exactly as their flight lands. This kind of customization enables increased customer engagement, loyalty, and, hopefully, lifetime value.

Imagine the benefits to both the customer and the business that could be gained from selling a user a product through a chatbot, handling everything from taking payment and arranging delivery to re-engaging them in conversation just before the warranty runs out to remind them to renew. The chatbot can act as their personal liaison with your company, which boosts their impression of being a valued customer.

Customer engagement and satisfaction can often mean the difference between choosing one business over another, regardless of the quality of the product. Implementing chatbot technology across your engagement strategy enables you to offer personalized customer service without increasing your overhead and without expensive business process re-engineering or building specific software. The ability to initiate conversations as well as respond could be the differentiator between you and your competitors.

Don’t use chatbots to just react to your customers; demonstrate you know them, and initiate conversations instead!