What is a Chatbot and How to Use It for Your Business?
Bijgewerkt: 27 nov 2019
The evolution of artificial intelligence is now in full swing and chatbots are only a faint splash on a huge wave of progress. Today the number of users of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and their analogs is skyrocketing, Facebook Messenger alone has more than 1.2 billion monthly users. With the spread of messengers, virtual chatterbots that imitate human conversations for solving various tasks are becoming increasingly in demand. Chinese WeChat bots can already set medical appointments, call a taxi, send money to friends, check in for a flight and many many other.
Online chatbots save time and efforts by automating customer support. Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human. However, the opportunites provided by chatbot systems go far beyond giving responses to customers’ inquiries. They are also used for other business tasks, like collecting information about users, helping to organize meetings and reducing overhead costs. There is no wonder that size of the chatbot market is growing exponentially.
Of course, it is not so simple to create an interactive agent that the user will really trust. That’s why IM bots have not replaced all the couriers, doctors and the author of these lines. In this article, instead of talking about the future of chatbots, we will give you a short excursion into the topic of chatbots, how they work, how they can be employed and how difficult it is to create one yourself.
What is chatbot and what is it for?
According to Oxford Dictionaries, a chatbot is
“A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.”
It is an assistant that communicates with us through text messages, a virtual companion that integrates into websites, applications or instant messengers and helps entrepreneurs to get closer to customers. Such a bot is an automated system of communication with users.
Why does a business need chatbots? There are reasons for that like getting rid of routine tasks and simultaneous processing of multiple requests from users. Besides, a tremendous speed of processing users’ requests with chatbots helps gaining customers’ loyalty.
Consumers also benefit from chatbots and they are getting increasingly interested in this technology. A study presented at the 4th International Conference on Internet Science in November, 2017 identified reasons why people choose to interact with chatbots. According to this research, the main factors that motivate people to use chatbots are:
Productivity. Chatbots provide the assistance or access to information quickly and efficiently.
Entertainment. Chatbots amuse people by giving them funny tips, they also help killing time when users have nothing to do.
Social and relational factors. Chatbots fuel conversions and enhance social experiences. Chatting with bots also helps to avoid lonliness, gives a chance to talk without being judged and improves conversational skills.
Curiosity. The novelty of chatbots sparks curiosity. People want to explore their abilities and to try something new.
As for types of chatbots
Depending on how the specific bots were programmed, we can divide them into two large groups: working according to pre-prepared commands (simple chatbot) and trained (smart or advanced chatbot).
Simple chatbots work based on pre-written keywords that they understand. Each of these commands must be written by the developer separately using regular expressions or other forms of string analysis. If the user has asked a question without using a single keyword, the robot can not understand it and, as a rule, responds with messages like “sorry, I did not understand”.
Smart chatbots rely on artificial intelligence when they communicate with users. Instead of pre-prepared answers, the robot responds with adequate suggestions on the topic. In addition, all the words said by the customers are recorded for later processing. However, the Forrester report “The State of Chatbots” points out that artificial intelligence is not a magic and is not yet ready to produce marvelous experiences for users on its own. On the contrary, it requires a huge work:
“Chat developers and designers are the gardeners: they have to tend to the chatbots and coach their growth through continuous, yet gentle, correction. these designers must also beg, coerce, and incent customers to put up with subpar experiences during the process: the learning is really slow.”
The most popular chatbot
There are various search engines for bots, such as Chatbottle, Botlist and Thereisabotforthat, for example, helping developers to inform users about the launch of new talkbots. These sites also provide a ranking of bots by various parameters: the number of votes, user statistics, platforms, categories (travel, productivity, social interaction, e-commerce, entertainment, news, etc.). They feature more than three and a half thousand bots for Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype and Kik.
Through the chatbot search engines, you can find an interesting application in each category, e.g. the best chatbot for Facebook Messenger is Poncho. It sends you personal weather forecasts with jokes or funny memes and, thus, looks more like a meteorologist friend than a soulless weather reporting service.
What can chatbots do?
“I think chatbots are the future of engagement between a fan and a brand or celebrity.” ~ Christina Milian
Both startups and savvy companies are now incorporating interactive agents into their daily operations, communication with customers and sales processes. Chatbots can help to:
Improve customer service. It is the best option for those who don’t want their customers to: Wait for operator’s answer — “Stay on the line, your call is very important to us” is always annoying, isn’t it?Search for an answer in the FAQ — as a rule users don’t have time for scrolling dozens of pages with instructions.
Streamline the shopping process. It only takes to write what you want to the chatbot and the bot will send the information to the sales department. You don’t need to repeat several times “I need the same, but with metal buttons”. Besides, the chatbot remembers your preferences and uses this information when you return.
Personalize communication. A chatbot answers the specific questions of visitors instead of displaying a long list of information. The more attention a customer gets the greater his desire to buy something.
Improve a response rate. About 90% of questions sent from Facebook business pages remain unanswered. Chatbot responds to 100% of messages and converts more visitors into buyers.
Automate repetitive tasks. Most customers want to get answers on the same questions — When do you work? What is your location? Do you make deliveries? In order not to write the same answers every time, make a chatbot. It reduces your employees’ workload.