Love them or hate them, chatbots are here to stay. Chatbots have become extraordinarily popular in recent years largely due to dramatic advancements in machine learning and other underlying technologies such as natural language processing. Today’s chatbots are smarter, more responsive, and more useful, and we’re likely to see even more of them in the coming years.
Chatbots, also known as “conversational agents,” are software applications that mimic written or spoken human speech for the purposes of simulating a conversation or interaction with a user. There are two primary ways chatbots are offered to visitors; via web-based or standalone applications. Primarily used in customer support, they have the potential for use in many service sectors.
Anyone can make their very own chatbot for use in Facebook Messenger, and there are many platforms that offer the ability to create rudimentary chatbots using simple drag-and-drop interfaces.
Natural Language Processing or NLP, lies at the heart of the chatbot revolution. It is the same technology that forms the basis of the voice recognition systems used by virtual assistants such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Chatbots process the text presented to them by the user (a process known as “parsing”), before responding according to a complex series of algorithms that interprets and identifies what the user said, infers what they mean and/or want, and determine a series of appropriate responses based on this information.
This is where most applications of NLP struggle, and not just chatbots. Any system or application that relies upon a machine’s ability to parse human speech is likely to struggle with the complexities inherent in elements of speech such as metaphors and similes. Defining the chatbots purpose and application goals will determine what training method is used .Despite these considerable limitations, chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated, responsive, and more “human.”
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence research fosters improvements in engagement and accuracy in responses. Integration with 3rd party APIs such as FaceBook Messenger and Slack can increases interaction and qualify leads, drive sales or improve customer service levels.
There are several subscription Chatbot platforms that can be integrated with a website or web application to facilitate customer acquisition and interaction that will aid in customer retention through the engagement experience. A proprietary application can also be built. Different levels of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can be utilized on either platform to parse information accurately and scale across an enterprise.
In addition to improving customer support and service, driving sales leads, and customer retention; chatbots are also being used as a communication interface with dementia patients, as sales funnel channel, discount offer hub, as a liaison to get customers to return abandoned carts and complete a purchase, as language learning partners, and many other uses. As accuracy improves, expect to see chatbots and other AI tools implemented not only on the internet, but across all human-machine interactions.