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Is that a chatbot in your pocket or are you happy to AI me?

Nov 01
Is that a chatbot in your pocket or are you happy to AI me?
Chatbots are the latest funky and fun thing to hit the world of web. Well they’ve been around a while in a few forms, but let’s just say they are finally getting the accolades they deserve.

These are not to be confused with our favourite loveable talking robots such as Dexter from Perfect Match or the Robot from Lost in Space. Oh, how we wish for some flailing arm action! Chat bots can really make your life a lot simpler in a few areas.

So, let’s look at chatbots and what they are, what the difference is with AI and understand alternatives such as Facebook’s version

What are chatbots?

Chatbots aren’t that new. They’ve been chattering away since the 1960s. What is new however is our love affair with them. Call it exhaustion when it comes to downloading programs and apps. Call it fatigue with running through convoluted customer service processes. You can even attribute the rise of the current wave of chatbots to our desire for answers now and the speed in which we want to be educated, answered and assisted.

Whatever the case, chatbots are the alternative, light and interactive way for your customers to gain access to the information they need.

The main aim of a chatbot is to disseminate information and answer basic queries, customer service enquiries and commonly asked for help situations in real time.

There are essentially two types of chatbot:

Rule based chatbots – these bad boys follow something akin to the old Choose your own Adventure books from when we were kids. They determine the help you need by using a set of rules couples with a decision flow diagram to serve you information.

Common examples are “Text BURGER for today’s lunchtime discount code”. They will look for that trigger word BURGER and respond to that. The context isn’t there, only the keyword response. So, if you’re asking, “What’s the lunch time special today?” or extend that query to “Can I get that as gluten free?” the chatbot probably won’t get what you mean.   

As the name suggests, the rule based chatbot has pre-defined options and triggering keywords that help it deliver you content based on rules. Think of it as old programming language. IF burger, GOTO send message.

Artificial intelligence chatbots- now here are the chatbots that make headlines for being hijacked and saying naughty things about feminism and Hitler. The AI chatbot learns with each passing query. They are designed to soak in questions and language to broaden their understanding of topics and queries. The aim is to deliver responses based on context.

These guys run on a nifty thing called Natural Language Processing or NLP (not to be confused with the NLP often sold in the coaching world as some silver bullet to communication with humans). NLP is about interpreting responses and learning from each interaction to build a comprehensive library of choices. It learns from what it is asked and develops accordingly.

The AI chatbot starts with the same sort of roadmaps of answers and decisions as the rule based chatbot, but does more with the interactions it receives. This is brilliant, but again, has limitations.

For an AI chatbot to work, it needs to learn from interaction. So, there have been cases where the chatbot can be derailed by the input given, such as the Hitler example linked above. The other issue is that because it relies on interaction with people to build a greater understanding, it takes time for a bot to learn. It’s involved work and an ongoing process. This increases cost when developing the chatbot as well.

This makes it better with age but limited in the launch phase and subsequent early period. If you need faster answers delivered and/or deal in repetitive content, rule based chatbots are a better alternative.  

Why would you choose an AI chatbot?

AI chatbots are your long term strategy. AI chatbots are fascinating because they mirror us. They create and develop, learn and grow. They also have that ability to pick up things that a strict guidelines follower like the rule based chatbot may not.

For example, they can account for emotions, popular vernacular, internet language, open and closed questions, semantics and normalisation of spelling and grammar errors.

If you plan to roll out new features and develop a stronger platform of customer service, an AI chatbot can learn with your processes. It can also give you back the information people are asking for through its growth and be a direct guide to what your consumers want. And deliver that back to them without simply throwing its hands up in the air in confusion like a rule based bot.

A classic example of the power of AI is Google search. Voice search is all about relaxing the rules and normalising. It means updates have become more conversational and less about shoe-horning keywords in wherever they can fit. You can use a multitude of phrases to explain the same concept and the search bots are able to follow along.

Imagine the power that level of thinking could give your business.  Oh, momma! 

How a chatbot can help your business

Chatbots have been hailed as the new app. They give the flexibility and problem-solving strength an app can bring with the personal touch of customer service added in.

Here are some of the ways chatbots can help your business:
  • Answering and categorising commonly asked queries
  • Delivering information in response to those queries without human intervention from a database of responses
  • Sales bots can upsell and promote the latest stock as well as give comprehensive recommendations based on individual preference data given within the interaction
  • The novelty factor of using an AI chatbot can bring people closer to your brand to test its ability
  • Using profile information to further tailor the experience for recommendations based on what the chatbot has learned through previous interactions or the rules given
  • Funnelling queries that require human input to the direct department straight off the bat with qualified information
This may sound like basic customer service. But chatbots have already enabled customers to:
  • Design their new spring wardrobe and select items for purchasing with fashion site
  • Order custom pizzas, coffees and all kinds of food orders without error
  • Avoid long queues with Telcos and ISPs when there are technical faults on networks by receiving troubleshooting information and details related to the restoration of service
  • Receive product suggestions on everything from books to holidays based on budget, information given, crowdsourced knowledge, the latest trends and profiling info
  • Get relief during all kinds of customer emergencies and/or without the tired voice of a customer service representative sick of doing the same new customer drill
  • Track orders, flights and any other kind of arrival based query
  • Gain standard information such as weather reports, taxation and legal advice, info related to booking appointments and schedule a meeting
  • Send through their symptoms in medical situations and receive rudimentary healthcare information- and to kickstart health queries by providing an alternative to answering the doctor’s probing personal questions face to face
  • Find a compatible date for the evening, amuse themselves and as a news curator based on personal preferences
They also allow businesses to:
  • Cut down on repetitive information delivery. This leaves your sales force and customer service team fresh and ready for other kinds of queries
  • Minimise delays with information delivery to scoop up more of the “now!” style consumer interactions
  • Give customers the alternative to human contact. Yep, some people don’t want to talk to people
  • Learn from the queries and interactions to truly understand your customers and how they interact with products and services
  • Expand your coverage network for assistance and sales support to remote parts of the country
  • Supply a unique and special service that feels ever so personalised
  • Automate to save time, money and brain space
  • Create a consistent level of information and customer service delivery
From delivering information on your website through to Facebook pages with chatbot capabilities, you can program a concierge that delivers information and allays fears when your customers need it the most.

Curious about chatbots and other fantastic innovations? Let’s connect and find the right solution for you.

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

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