What exactly is a chat bot?
Imagine a world where a machine could do your job for you. Wouldn’t it be great if we could automate the conversion of leads, customer care, handling site traffic, taking orders at a restaurant etc.? It would surely mean a lot of cost cutting, reduction of manual work as well as the time taken. For example, in a customer service center, a single person can hardly manage at most 3-4 clients simultaneously. And even if they had more clients, it would be really hard to solve every client’s queries. But given the power of a machine, you could easily manage a great amount of clients simultaneously.
You may be wondering as to how to achieve this. Given the current boom in technologies such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, chatbots have become a really useful part of online services. Many companies/firms provide APIs to create a chat bot as per the user’s requirements. But more on that later. Let’s start with the basics.
Any software or a program that can perform a task on its own is known as a bot. A bot functioning on a chat application can be classified as a chatbot. Simply put, a chatbot is a program or an application that can have a conversation with a human user.
How many variants?
Chatbots come in various types depending on their behavior. The three main categories are as follows:
- Scripted: These chat bots are made for a single purpose hence they can only reply based on a few topics that they have been trained on. An example is an E-commerce shopping bot which can only ask users about their preferences and show a curated list of appropriate choices based on the user input. It won’t know an appropriate reply if you ask it how the weather is.
- Intelligent: These bots can handle just about everything that you throw at them including getting the weather or adding an item to your shopping list. These bots are trained using NLP and NLU and hence they are able to respond almost as similar to a human being. AI allows these type of bots to operate with very little knowledge as well and also to continuously improve over time. It is said that these bots will be able to manage all other bots in the future.
- Application: Above mentioned bots can also be incorporated with a GUI which will allow for more data to be visible to the users at a time. Views such as carousel, videos or images allow these bots to be more understandable to the user.
What does building a bot take?
In order to decide as to what your chatbot might include, you need to first decide the technology stack you shall be using. A lot of it depends on the platform that you’ll be using for the chatbot as the amount of users engaged with your firm on that platform matters as lot. If you’re simply implementing a chat bot on your own website, it might as well won’t require an already built platform but you’ll have to design the UI and UX yourself.
NLP (Natural Language Processing) is a vital part of chatbot, but its inclusion depends on the type of bot you’re implementing. Consider a bot which would just be showing a curated list of products to the users based on the user input. Flowcharts are a much better option for this as compared to NLP.
Supervised learning or human intervention is required at times when a chatbot cannot accurately respond to a user’s query. Supervised learning improves the bot’s accuracy to detect an intent and also improve user experience for the chats thereafter.
Language support is vital for your chatbot if you expect users from different countries or speaking languages other than English. Providing support for other languages drastically increases your reach.
The many uses of chatbots include:
- As shown in the survey results, it can clearly be seen that chat applications have surpassed respective social media platforms marginally. That is, users use chat platforms more than their social media platform counterparts.
- Moreover, chatbots provide 24 x 7 efficient customer support. This matters a lot when a firm aims for customer retention.
- A chatbot is more effective when it comes to cost. This is because bots running on NLP require a lot of time to build as well as train. A simple chatbot uses the conversational interface of the platform it is being built on. Also, they’re built using web technologies which are rather easier to implement as compared to AI.
- These conversational interfaces provide information progressively to the user rather than dumping a lot of information in one go. Such a feature has proved to be more helpful when a user needs to decide what they need.
- Chatbots can also track purchase patterns executed by different users. These patterns can be incredibly helpful when it comes to marketing and suggesting different products to a user.
- They can persuade users or remind them to check their cart in case they decided they didn’t want to purchase the product. Persuasion and user engagement would later on lead to a successful lead generation.
- They reduce the work of humans by handling a large amount of customers in one go and automate repetitive work.
- A chatbot can act as a personal assistant providing valuable insights as well as information right at the user’s fingertips.
Try a few yourself
Chatbots are far from giving a complete human-like response but they’re improving constantly based on more and more successful interactions. Eventually, the bots shall teach themselves to handle complex requests as well as queries. We’ve linked a few online chat bots which you can try using Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram or WeChat.
You can also find a lot of new chatbots while visiting a company’s Facebook page. Many firms now use chatbots to handle their social media interactions.