A Concise Guide to Chatbots

Do you use the internet? Do you use websites with customer support live chat?

If you answered yes to any of the questions I asked above, then chances are you have the first-hand experience of interacting with a chatbot. With digital interaction reaching new heights, chatbots have become quite the new buzz. And over the time chatbots have evolved too. When chatbots were conceived, they sounded entirely robotic, but today with the advancements in machine learning, these chatbots have improved in analysing the legions of data provided to them. They almost feel human when talking to.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot or chatter robot by definition is nothing but a computer programme designed to simulate a conversation with human users, over the Internet. Chatbots interact with customers either through a web-based application or a stand-alone app. It has opened up new avenues of customer engagement which are cost effective as well as time efficient.

How do chatbots function?

NLP or Natural Language Processing is what makes it possible for us to use chatbots. It is the core technology used in these chatbots. Popularly NLP is also the same technology that is used behind voice recognition systems like Apple’s Siri, Google Now or Microsoft’s Cortana.

Chatbots process every piece of information provided by the user. This information is then broken down with the help of a complex series of algorithms which interpret and identify what the user input was. After understanding what the user means or wants, a suitable reply is formulated depending on the data contributed. Nowadays, some chatbots offer such a legitimate conversational experience that you might be confused to believe that it’s an actual agent instead of a bot.

Samples of chatbots

  • Customer service bots
  • Banking & Trading bots
  • Sales & Marketing bots
  • E-commerce bots
  • Food bots
  • Newsbots
  • Weather bots
  • HR & Operations bots

Types of Chatbots

Chatbots can be subdivided into three types essentially, Scripted, Intelligent and Application chatbots.

In scripted chatbots, there are a set of predetermined paths which can be taken depending on how it has been designed. While interacting with this kind of chatbot, the user has to select from certain precise options to determine which way the conversation would go.

Intelligent Chatbots, on the other hand, are built with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. This allows the bots to be more flexible in terms of the information being provided by the user. AI also improves these chatbots the more they are in use. It absorbs the responses of users and grows accordingly.

Application chatbots can comprise of Scripted as well as Intelligent bots with a graphical user interface. This kind of interface makes interaction easier for users.

Uses of Chatbots

Chatbots can be designed for any platform and any industry. Hence any use case you think of can be improved with chatbots. Some of the examples are:

  • A chatbot that answers customer service questions.
  • A chatbot that helps customers make purchases on an e-commerce platform.
  • A chatbot used for asking questions to customers in a marketing campaign.
  • A chatbot used by restaurants for ordering food from home.
  • A chatbot used by restaurants for placing orders on the table.
  • A chatbot offering promotions to a user in a retail store.

The Future of Chatbots

The biggest challenge that lies ahead for chatbots is to be able to converse like an actual human being. This process can be improved with the help of extensively collected data which is fed to the chatbot for constant upgrades. By using such data, chatbots can imitate human communication.

Only time can tell if we can tap into the full potential of a chatbot or not!

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