June 11, 2018Posted by Hifyre Admin
Let’s start with the basics. What is a chatbot? Simply put, a chatbot is a computer program intended to take the place of a human in a conversation. There are many industries in which chatbots are useful. They have taken off in the healthcare space, with bots that remind you to take your medications, ask about your symptoms, book your doctors appointments for you, and some that are even venturing into the more basic functionalities within the therapeutic and counselling space. These types of tasks are ones that are simple enough functions that a computer can be programmed to understand and process the tasks.
So how do chatbots work?
Although on the surface chatbots seem simple, the underlying technology is actually pretty robust. To be able to handle conversations that are useful to humans, chatbots make use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. As with any other kind of machine learning, this requires large datasets that train the algorithm how to respond to input from the user. In the case of chatbots there are multiple ways to approach user input and by proxy, understanding that user input. One of the simplest ways to solve the input-understanding problem is by limiting the user input to options. Take TechCrunch’s chatbot for example. The bot “converses” with you, but only gives you a few clickable options so there is no misunderstanding in the human interaction with the bot.
This is the least personal version of a chatbot. It is obvious to the user that they are not actually conversing with a human. Depending on the intended functionality and the information they are gaining, this may not matter to the end user.
The alternative to the above example is to allow user input in text or via speech-to-text. Both of these options require that the chatbot is capable of parsing the language, and understanding the meaning behind it. This is computationally a difficult problem because the computer must analyze the input, decipher what the user wants or is asking, and then provide the proper response or action.
So why should I have one for my business?
In recent years, businesses of all sizes have started to implement chatbots and digital assistants as a part of their customer service pipeline. There are many reasons to pursue incorporating a chatbot for your business. The first and most obvious is that your customers will have consistent access to answers about your business and services. As a customer, I would like to be able to find answers to my questions when I need them, not just during normal business hours. By employing a chatbot, businesses guarantee that there will be access to information at any time.
Deploying a chatbot for your business saves you money. Chatbots, especially those that are capable of more than just a simple menu of options, essentially replaces basic customer service representative (CSR) tasks. This is a great option for startups that don’t have the budget to hire a team of CSRs.
Better yet, chatbots are a direct method of data collection from your customer base. By deploying a chatbot, your customers interact with an interface that is capable of storing and coalescing data on their interests, needs, and feedback.
Yet another advantage to creating a chatbot for your business is the ability to address accessibility concerns. For example, if you have customers that are hard of hearing, they will not be calling your CSRs over the phone. But if there is a chat function to interact with the information they are in search of, they are still able to access your business or service. Another accessibility concern is language barriers. Chatbots provide a simple solution to providing your customers with a variety of language options, whereas trying to find CSRs that are capable of this is much more difficult.
So, how do I go about getting a chatbot for my business?
Depending on your technical abilities, you may want to outsource building a chatbot for your business. Digital product studios like ours are well versed in the technologies, the strategies, and the process for getting a chatbot up and running for your business. The biggest advantage to hiring a digital product studio to help you get your chatbot off the ground is experience. Since your chatbot is meant to fill in for or replace your CSRs, you want to make sure it is well built and has a great user interface to leave your customers with a great experience. The worst thing you could do for your business is deploy a chatbot that frustrates or confuses your customer. So why leave it to chance?
If you do have the technical experience, or developers on your team — there are many tools out there to help you build your chatbot.
Alright, so my chatbot is up and running — now what?
Now comes the data collection. Just last year, Google and Amazon both announced tools that allow your chatbot to collect, aggregate, and analyze the data from your chatbot for you.
These analytics tools do more than just tell you how many people used your interface. It can get into the details of how much time they spent interacting, what types of questions they had, what kind of information they spent the most time and effort looking for, the calls to action they responded to, and so much more.
These analytics allow you to gage your customer’s user experience. How they intend to interact with your product or service. What they are interested in learning. What they need help with. What their understanding of finding that information looks like.
All of this information will help you better help your customer.
This all sounds great. Are there any downsides?
As artificial intelligence technology advances, chatbots get better and better. Chatbots are not yet a 100% replacement for a human CSR, however the technology is rapidly getting there. As chatbots stand today, both the customer and the business benefit, so there really are no downsides.
What are you waiting for?
O’Reilly Bots Podcast: https://www.oreilly.com/ideas/topics/oreilly-bots-podcast
Chatbots Magazine: https://chatbotsmagazine.com/
How chatbots are about to change communication: https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurencebradford/2017/07/24/how-chatbots-are-about-to-change-communication/#2af36df94aa8
Chatbots aren’t failing us, our expectations for them are: https://venturebeat.com/2018/03/08/chatbots-arent-failing-us-our-expectations-for-them-are/
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