Big conversations are the future of chatbots

SeaKnight By SeaKnight, 29th Jan 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1edm9z6p/
Posted in Wikinut>Business>IT & Ecommerce

Now that chatbots have landed, where will they head next? A look at how the technology needs to grow up.

Chatbot growth marches stride by stride with apps

Chatbots have come a long way in a short space of time, already appearing on the front pages and social media sites of many global brands and businesses. But there’s a long way to go for the chatty fellows, as recent tech trends can attest to.


There are around 2.5 million apps on the iOS app store today, after almost 10 years of operation. It took eighteen months for Apple’s store to reach 100,000 apps. While there’s no hard launch date for chatbots in the market, estimates suggest there are well over 200,000 bots in existence helping businesses talk to their customers.

They are starting to appear en masse on Facebook Messenger, with over 100,000 on that platform alone (and that figure is almost a year old). The social media company launched its chabot feature in April 2016, so perhaps two years? From this it is fair to say that apps and chatbots are growing at similar rates.

And, many websites now offer a charming “ding” sound to alert visitors to the presence of a chatbot and they are a growing feature in apps and other communications tools. They are appearing everywhere, not just locked in behind one walled-garden store.

Chat to the future

The likes of research firm Gartner believe that by 2020, chatbots will be responsible for handling some 85% of customer interactions. But while it took a long time for apps to take off for businesses, most companies can see the value and return on investment from using a chatbot.

However, for a growing number, a simple script is insufficient to meet increasingly complex needs. Companies already want chatbots to handle the whole customer experience. For example, a travel agent will find it more efficient if a customer tells the travel chatbot when and where they want to go to.

If the bot can find the most efficient route, budget or package in seconds, purchases and bookings can be made then and there, vastly reducing the amount of time this exchange has taken in the past.

Helping the bots in the process are the likes of natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). These expand the conversation from a basic script, help the service better understand the needs of the customer and can take a more proactive stance. NLP helps by understanding what the user is asking, looking for keywords or stop phrases that can guide the conversation or move it a specific helpful section.

Free-to-use chatbot service SnatchBot has just added an NLP feature to its bot, while the company's CEO has been laying out his company’s vision to The Telegraph about the future of the technology. “If you can chat to someone within Facebook Messenger, say, and answer their queries, sell items, make bookings etc, that is clearly going to be the future.”

AI will show the way

While NLP improves the process, AI, specifically the front-end AI-powered bot favored by customer support centres and agent-focused businesses can rewrite the rule book. With some chatbots already fielding millions of interactions a day, notably in China and India, future AIs can monitor conversations and link common threads together, providing a better service.

That’s especially when a conversation varies outside the normal appointments, bank balance, bus time or other information that bots are used to dealing with. Say a customer is worried about something, the bot can change the tone of the chat on the fly to be neutral. Or, it can be conciliatory if it detects anger from the user. It will also know when to engage human support to take over the chat, so they can provide help or advice outside the bot’s capabilities.

The likes of IBM’s Watson and Google’s API.AI are extending the boundaries of what chatbots are capable of. It is only the needs and confidence of business in the west that we are waiting on to catch up with what a bot can do. At that point, when confidence in the technology is widespread, bots become part of the family. Along with Siri and Alexa, they will help people do whatever it is they need to do when it comes to interacting with every business and service.

That time isn’t very far away, so your business had better get investigating how it can best deploy a chatbot,

Tags

Business, Chatbots, Natural Language Processing

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author avatar SeaKnight
Tech writer focused on how it can change the world, for better or worse

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