The Beginner’s Guide to Chatbots
It’s 2018 and we’re finally a step closer to realising the world that the Jetsons promised us back in the 80s. No, we’re not talking about flying cars. But we are talking about robots that communicate intelligently with us, or more specifically, chatbots.
What are Chatbots?
Most of us have already communicated with a chatbot, even if we haven’t always realised it. Chatbots are programs that have been designed to receive and send messages in a natural way, to “speak” with customers 24/7, without the need for any human supervision. I
n fact, if you’ve visited a website and been greeted by a message box that asks how it can help you, that’s probably a chatbot.
The Early Days
A few years ago, in the earlier days of chatbots, it was standard practice for businesses to integrate chatbots into their websites to give visitors the impression that they were speaking to a real person.
This was done largely because most people weren’t yet comfortable with speaking to artificial intelligence (AI), and would have avoided talking to a robot, in favour of picking up the phone or sending a support email – both of which would result in a much slower response time, since they would need to wait for a human to pick up their call or respond to their email.
And though chatbot technology wasn’t quite as advanced as it is today, chatbots were good enough to answer visitors’ most commonly asked questions, which resulted in visitors believing they were talking to real humans.
The issue of course, was when visitors would ask unexpected questions, or ask questions in unexpected ways. When the chatbot was unable to answer, visitors would assume the human at the other end wasn’t doing a good job, or be confused as to why they weren’t being understood.
Now, the average person is a lot more receptive towards AI. In fact, many people are fascinated by robots and their possibilities. Perhaps rather ironically, as chatbot technology has advanced, more businesses have been using and labelling their chatbots as exactly that – chatbots, or an artificial intelligence that’s built into the website, specifically to assist website visitors.
Businesses are even naming these bots after their business or services, with names such as Wikipedia Bot, Cleverbot, Banking Bot, Event Bot and others. And this has been a plus for everyone.
Firstly, today’s more intelligent chatbots can answer more questions than their predecessors – while answering more accurately.
Also, as visitors know they’re talking to chatbots, they begin to tailor their chat messages so the bots can easily understand them – being specific, clear, and to-the-point with their requests.
Businesses can still program their bots to respond with natural language, although they no longer have to. Instead, providing short, effective replies that visitors will appreciate.
And if a bot doesn’t have a suitable answer for the visitor, it can always invite the visitor to contact a human support staff. This gives visitors the best of both worlds – the ability to get answers to common questions, quickly, while having more complex questions replied by a person (a little later).
Where are Chatbots Used?
Today, chatbots are used in various industries. From e-commerce stores to banking site, events portals, telecommunications, education, and just about any business that would like to give their prospects and customers the ability to get replies to their questions, quickly. (Without having to read a 20-page FAQ sheet.)
For events and meetings, a chatbot integrated into your website or event app can save your team hundreds (or even thousands) of hours of time that would otherwise have been spent on customer service calls, emails and messages.