Let's strip back the conversation about chatbots, and look once again at the basics, to uncover exactly what a chatbot is, what they can be used for, and answer the common questions surrounding this technology.
It's all about automating the conversation.
The term chatbot is a portmanteau, blending two words - Chat and robot. Chatbots are software-based conversational robots capable of receiving inbound enquiries and responding semi-intelligently to queries.
Chatbots can be deployed on your website, apps, or even social media channels, allowing your customers to have a similar experience across all platforms.
Chatbots exist to receive the incoming contacts that would otherwise need to be handled by staff. By managing much of the incoming communication, the business can redeploy existing staff to deal with the most specialist queries or develop them for other business areas.
Businesses can save money by avoiding the need to hire additional staff as they grow, thanks to the cost-saving implications of better use of the existing team.
The staff themselves are relieved from answering the same common questions repeatedly and can instead concentrate on resolving complaints and other more significant issues.
One of the best benefits of business implementing chatbots is the 24/7 availability for the customer. Combined with facilities on the business website, customers can be directly provided with information or signposted to wherever needed. For example, a customer might decide, late one night, that they would like to book a slot at a restaurant, but first, they want to check the dress code. The customer can talk to the chatbot, obtain information regarding their query, and then direct them to the booking page despite the late hour.
Additionally, because the chatbot can be deployed across multiple platforms, the customer can obtain consistency in the information provided.
Of course, the chatbot cannot resolve every query. When this happens, the bot sends all the data gathered so far to the relevant team to arrange a call-back or any other form of contact.
Live chat and chatbots can, initially, appear to be very similar, but that is not the case. Despite being text-driven, Live Chat still requires human agents available. Live chat is a human agent, and therefore most businesses limit the number of hours per day that this is available. Chatbots, on the other hand, are software. Once set up and deployed, they require no human involvement and work around the clock.
As with phone lines, live chat can become oversubscribed or engaged during peak times. Chatbots do not have this limit.
Chatbot content is designed with conversational flow in mind. Customers can type out their questions however they see fit, and the chatbot can work out what the question or problem is and offer help in an intuitive and smooth way.
The chatbot interface can offer a button driven conversation, entirely free text, or a mix of both. Many users have a preference, and using the software in a manner that suits them best will lead to greater customer satisfaction. It is even possible to offer up media-based answers, like image carousels, ideal for retail businesses where customers may be asking about a range of products.
Naturally, once the customer's needs are determined, the chatbot can deep-link to pages that might be tricky to find independently, especially on content-rich websites.
One of the buzzwords that surround chatbots is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Practical AI Chatbots do not really exist. AI is very useful and is becoming more and more powerful, but like our own intelligence, it learns by making many mistakes until it knows the correct way to handle a problem. While this is fine in lab conditions, it would be a terrible customer experience for the business's first few thousand contacts.
However, there are many sub-divisions to AI. In particular, Machine Learning (ML) does help chatbots learn the patterns and structures of customer enquiries for phrasing outside of normal usage, allowing them to respond more appropriately. The answers themselves are more specifically drawn from the website or programmed in advance to ensure accuracy. Alongside this, Sentiment Recognition will enable chatbots to moderate the tone of their engagement or teach the organisation how their audience is feeling.
There are many big players in the chatbot space, including Google and Microsoft. There are smaller platforms, such as low price alternatives like ChatFuel, and specialist designers like Disruption Works. What are the differences?
For the big platforms, Google's DialogueFlow and Microsofts Azure Bot Service are extremely powerful but can be quite involved and a little costly as they expand their usage and features. So, if you are new to the space or just dabbling, you may find yourself daunted by the options when you open up the blank platform.
Smaller offerings, such as ChatFuel, are handy and offer a per-chat-per-month ongoing fee. Setting up the bot is considerably simpler, but so too is the ability of the chatbots.
Specialist chatbot companies like Disruption Works can work alongside you to design the bot and its conversational flow to ensure the best results, rapidly deployed, to improve your contact ecosystem and satisfy customers. So that you have a chatbot that works really well from day one without too much heavy lifting from day one.
Hopefully this helps with a practical understanding of chatbots today and even though this is a moving space this principles will always stay the same, automate where possible and human where it counts.
As your human workforce costs rise and can be increasingly difficult to keep to capacity, then chatbots and voicebots can be powerful members of the team to take those robotic processes away from intuitive human agents and team members.
If you are interested in having a chatbot developed for your business or have any general queries, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 02030585763, or even pop over to https://www.disruptionworks.co.uk/ and have a chat with Marvin, our cheerful chatbot.
We have our weekly podcast about a variety of subjects including chatbots, how these impact business and some specific challenges or sector stories to help anyone looking to engage with this technology.