According to Business Insider, 67 percent of consumer respondents to a recent survey conducted by LivePerson said they had used chatbots to augment their customer service departments. The magazine further reported that 80 percent of decision-makers polled in a Oracle survey said they plan to implement chatbot technology by the year 2020, with 42% of those saying that chatbot technology will become a part of their sales and marketing efforts.
Chatbots can also act as standalone applications, like Instalocate (real- time flight status chatbot), Meekan (time management and scheduling collaboration), and Gymbot (health and fitness tracking) just to name a few. And, of course, chatbots are no longer limited to just text, with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa prime examples of chatbots that actually chat.
Chatbots vs. Rules Chatbots
Artificial intelligence is rapidly evolving, and chatbots are evolving with it. While the original, rules-based bots are fine for simpler tasks, they are dependent on the rules, or instructions, that are built into them. There is no room for context or lack of precision. Therefore, if the consumer wants to order a pizza but doesn’t want the standard assortment of toppings, the rules-based bot may not be able to understand the order.
AI chatbots are not dependent on rules, but rather on interpreting what the customer wants. (In this case, the bot might ask, “Are you sure you want anchovies on your vegetarian pizza?” just as a human would.) This simplistic example makes the salient point: rules-based chatbots don’t attempt to think or interpret, while bots that incorporate artificial intelligence do.
While logic would dictate that the more sophisticated technology would win out, some surveys have shown that rules-based chatbots are still the more popular choice. They can be deployed faster, are cheaper to build and are often more than adequate for the task at hand, while an AI bot could be “overkill.”
One factor driving chatbot expansion is the increasing prevalence of messaging. Adding chatbots to messaging platforms is seen as a way to make the customer experience easier and faster. Instead of a google search, the consumer would simply use a tool like Facebook messenger to text or voice message their questions about a product, such as “Will my universal remote control work with this toaster oven?”
Manufacturers could utilize chatbots built on a messaging platform (like Facebook messenger) instead of developing proprietary mobile apps. On the consumer side, the need to download and keep track of dozens of mobile apps would be eliminated.
Is There a Do-it-Yourself Chatbot?
There are several third-party solutions that make it possible for companies to build their own chatbots. And, the process keeps getting easier and easier. So easy, in fact, that some solutions make it possible to build AI-based chatbots without writing any code. A trip to a solution vendor website is all you need to get started. Step-by-step graphical tools guide you through the process of building and integrating your chatbot into the messaging application of your choice.
Companies can also build chatbots on top of other platforms, like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, building exactly what they need on the bigger companies’ already developed and tested core technology.
Growth to Continue
When a new technology gains acceptance from the public, the use of that technology burgeons. ATMs, self-service gas pumps and self checkout aisles in supermarkets are some of the technologies that took time to gain widespread acceptance, but once they did, their growth was exponential.
Chatbots are likely to follow the same path, especially with chatbot technology continuing to reach new standards of quality and functionality. For businesses, the chatbot evolution promises to revolutionize the way companies interact with their customers. For consumers, chatbots hold the potential to make monotonous, routine tasks (like paying bills) easier and less stressful. While probably not a candidate to replace the dog, someday the chatbot may very well become man’s second-best friend.