The journey so far
A Chatbot, bot, IM bot or Artificial Conversational Entity, is a computer program empowered by AI, designed and written to converse with humans and offer assistance through NLP. In simpler words, it is a virtual assistant that you can talk to or chat with to get information and perform simple tasks just the way you would do with a human. They might appear to be a recent phenomenon, but chatbots date back to as early as the 1960s, ELIZA (1966) and PARRY (1972). The idea of chatbots has since then been further enhanced and refined, fuelled by years of research and scientific advancements. Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon) and Cortana (Microsoft) are their latest and more advanced counterparts created to enhance user experience and enable seamless interactions using digital devices.
The changing face of digital engagement
We have been hearing and reading about Chatbots and AI (Artifical Intelligence) transforming the way customers interact with businesses, and how it is all going to change in the near future. Well, the near future doesn’t seem to be too distant, and in fact, it is already here.
Humans would soon be conversing with machines or bots and depending on them for at least micro-tasks such as gathering information, addressing queries, raising requests and other tasks that until recently were handled by humans themselves. This will not only elimate human intervention to a large extent, but also let people focus on more strategic and analytical roles than mundane tasks. It will change the way customers and employees interact with organizations.
Businesses, today, can look at chatbots to leverage their existing manpower and optimize efforts. Chatbots, in a B-to-E (Business to Employee) model, could be used to address an employee’s queries, share information and documents, and could be equipped enough to perform micro-tasks such as booking a conference room, sending meeting invites, or setting up an international conference call. This could add a lot of time to your day to deal with core business responsibilities and requirements. When it comes to a B-to-C model (Business to Customer), their applications are endless.
There are several businesses that have already enabled their customer facing departments with chatbots that not only interact with customers, but also self-learn with every interaction and keep on enhancing their level of service.
The future of intelligent bots
Realising its potential and leveraging the ocean of user data, Facebook has offered its messenger platform to developers since April 2016, so that businesses could use a ready, familiar and customer-friendly environment to build chatbots for themselves. It also later went on to add functionalities such as built-in Natural Language Processing (NLP), in-chat payment and also the Handover Protocol.
NLP is the code that enables bots to comprehend human languages. One of the most exciting features that the Handover Protocol has, is that it lets customer service executives and chatbots interact and work in the same conversation with a customer. This adds a level of ease to the services offered; an option for easy escalation or requesting human intervention when the chatbot is unable to address a particular request from a customer.
All these innovations and technological breakthroughs have enabled chatbots to lay the foundation of automation in the customer-care domain. There have always been automated services that would help you with your requirements, but with AI-enabled intelligent bots, we are looking at a whole new level of possibilities. Leveraging your past data and the information on the subject, chatbots can not only suggest you good places to visit in a particular city at this time of the day and a good restaurant to dine at, but also suggest you what you should order, taking into account your likes and preferences. This wasn’t possible with automated legacy systems.
Chatbots and AI have turned data into a fuel that will now drive customer experience. With the universe of chatbots reshaping at such a breath-taking pace, it only seems too certain a possibility that by 2020, we would have more conversations with chatbots than with our spouse (Gartner Survey).
The author is COO, Clover Infotech.
Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).