Chatbots are having a profound impact on how we go about our day-to-day business. Whether internal HR and support bots or customer-focused bots on commercial web sites, chatbots are becoming more mainstream. They are finally starting to come through on their promise of boosting revenue while cutting costs.
Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning power development frameworks that allow companies of any size to gain the functional and financial benefits of chatbots.
Technology, though, is just one side of the coin — there also is the human side. Without some personality and a kind of “empathy”, chatbots are not engaging and appear too mechanical, resulting in a corresponding drop off in usage.
To be successful, both the technical and human sides of chatbots need to be addressed.
Tech: Leveraging Cloud And Big Data For AI-powered Chatbots
Chatbots are powered by some key technologies that have only recently come to the mainstream. These include:
- “AI-as-a-Service” Infrastructure: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other large tech companies are going all-in when it comes to investing in chatbot infrastructure. Google’s Cloud, Amazon’s Web Services, and Microsoft’s Azure platform all offer highly scalable environments that support bot development while providing a wide-range of easily accessible AI services.
- Better Algorithms: In the field of AI, a wide variety of algorithms break down, analyze, and assign meaning to raw data. The advent of big data, facilitated by cloud computing, has provided machine learning algorithms with the ability to build knowledge over time (i.e., the “learning” part of “machine learning”). The more the chatbots are used, the better they get.
- Natural Language Understanding (NLP): NLP enables computers to understand elements of human language. Using NLP, the chatbot can derive meaning from text or voice inputs. While this technology is just getting going, it is already seeing 60 – 70% success rates in understanding user input and intent. See our article, Chatbots and Natural Language Processing, for more on NLP.
Human: Bots Need Personality
As discussed in our Bot Personalities article, all the machine learning in the world won’t help if the chatbot is unable to effectively interact with customers. As in any conversation, humans react positively to dialog when there is some sense of engagement —any indication, no matter how small, that the conversation partner can understand or relate to what you are saying.
With this in mind, chatbots can be given some degree of personality, using the company’s brand and the chat purpose as guiding determinants. For example, a chatbot that reserves a room at a beach resort will likely be much more informal than a chatbot from a financial institution.
Developers are integrating customer data, analytics, and results from machine learning to further refine conversations and make chatbots seem more human-like.
Companies Are Putting Bots To Good Use
Chatbots are already making an impact on how consumers interact with companies. While nearly every age group is using chatbots, Millennial (26 to 36 years old) are proving to be the most receptive and, in some scenarios, prefer interacting with a chatbot rather than a human.
Companies across a broad spectrum of industries are using chatbots in a variety of ways:
- Human Resources: Intel features a chatbot that allows its employees to ask questions about pay, stock, and benefits. The system currently has over 4,000 responses to different questions. Overstock.com’s chatbot enables its employees to check their schedules, schedule time off, and inform managers about sick days.
Chatbots are also involved with the hiring process: recruiting firm Stella uses its AI-powered chatbot to check candidate qualifications and manages all candidate applications throughout the hiring workflow.
- Travel: The travel industry has quickly latched on to the utility of chatbots. KLM’s chatbot, available via Facebook Messenger, allows travelers to receive flight confirmations, boarding passes, check-in reminders, and flight status updates. Travel company Hipmunk provides recommendations by answering questions posed in plain-English queries, such as the best time to travel between locations or finding non-stop travel routes.
Chatbots Are Here To Stay
The rising use of chatbots among Millennials is just one of the many signs that chatbots are here to stay. The phenomenon will only become more popular as even younger generations — not knowing a world without smartphones — will turn to bots to perform their routine day-to-day tasks.
As the technology advances, chatbots will outgrow the world of “routine tasks” and transition into handling more complex interactions. Chatbots will inevitably become more useful and beneficial, saving us time, money, and effort. However, to gain maximum benefit, designers need to consider both the technological and humanistic sides — and infuse chatbots with some “humanity” and personality in addition to pure functionality.
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See Crow Canyon’s AI Services page for more information on Chatbots and AI use within SharePoint and Office 365.
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