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Chatbot on Phone

Advancements in Chatbots for Business

AI and machine learning at your service

When we are online, there is an expectation of customer service, to answer questions or assist with transactions, no matter what time of day it is. And chatbots, those little boxes that pop up to help us, are getting more human-like. The various functions they can handle and their value to business is growing rapidly.

You probably already interact with chatbots more than you realize. Booking tickets and selecting a seat; checking out of a hotel room; renting a car; completing a lead generation form when searching for real estate; using mobile banking; messaging for a ride with an app such as Uber; ordering products; or describing a problem and finding solutions in a support window online are just a few common examples.

How chatbots have developed
Chatbots use artificial intelligence systems to interact via messaging, text or speech, and have evolved beyond answering simple questions. Now, chatbots can better mimic human conversation using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, or NLP.

Rather than translating a sentence word for word, this technology allows the automated communication system to look at whole phrases or sentences the user types or speaks and identify the underlying intent. The bot then delivers a response that matches that intent.

Popularity of the technology
Business Insider predicts that 80 percent of organizations with an online presence will have a chatbot in 2020. There are three key areas where chatbots assist business:

+ Pushing out marketing messages
+ Handling financial functions like accepting and processing payments
+ Providing automated customer service

The customer service component is by far the largest growing, revenue generating segment. Here’s why.

All businesses need to adapt to customer’s needs over time, and chatbots provide an efficient, contemporary solution to assist customers. Data gathered by Invesp reveals chatbots can save businesses 30% in customer service costs because 80% of routine questions can be answered by artificial intelligence.

On the consumer side, chatbots have a high level of adoption because they provide an instant response, and people don’t want to wait on hold on the telephone or for a return email.

Person chatting with a chatbot on their cell phone

Selecting a chatbot vendor
While there is a rapidly growing pool of AI companies producing chatbots platforms and other tools, you do not have to be a megacorporation to incorporate the technology into your website. The choices fall into three broad groups:

+ Self-service solutions with GUI
A person with just basic technical knowledge can build a bot in minutes using a simple Graphical User Interface (GUI) by dragging and dropping components. This is not be sophisticated by any means, but will be able to answer questions with routine answers.

+ Self-service solutions with an API, SDK or library
These solutions use pre-built reference materials that your bot can then apply Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities to better understand customer questions and provide more accurate answers. The time frame and complexity to build depends on what you want the bot to be capable of.

+ End-to-end solutions
In this option, you decide what you need the bot to do and hire a vendor to build it start to finish. This is usually a quick process. Prices vary on your specifications and the vendor chosen. Clients usually have access to a control panel to tweak or customize the bot after it is built.

Garbage in, garbage out
Two important factors to consider in developing chatbots for a business is the quality and thoroughness of artificial intelligence incorporated into the design, and the amount and quality of data the bot has access to.

If a user’s request goes beyond the bot’s AI design capability, such as asking a complicated multi-part question, the functionality could waiver. Failsafes can be designed in so that if the chatbot cannot answer, the user is routed to another customer service option, such as a human.

All bots use data, and the quality of that data is critical. How machine learning is modeled and developed has a great impact on how the bot interprets the data.

Native bots
Most bot building services are third-party companies that create technology for other businesses to deploy on a platform. Native bots are built by the platform itself, such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri or Facebook Messenger.

Companies like Microsoft have been developing native chatbot technologies for years. Microsoft released a service that allowed different firms to develop their own chatbots. The healthcare market jumped on the opportunity, reducing administrative tasks and related costs. Business Insider Intelligence predicts “up to 73% of healthcare admin tasks could be automated by AI.”

The trend is now increasing among other major companies. LinkedIn, Starbucks and eBay are some prime examples, developing their own native chatbots.

Chatbot trends and growth
AI has advanced to be more human-like through perception and cognition in recent years. Although voice recognition has a bit to go, you can hear the leaps forward major platforms have made with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.

Machine learning advancements have a lot to do with advanced bot functionality. Machines can predict what type of ad users will click on or decide which trades to make on Wall Street.

However, businesses should keep an eye on the prize. The most successful chatbots are those that are able to have conversations that are most like a human agent, either written or spoken, and also accurately address customer requests.

As more businesses and consumers use chatbots, the more demand will exist for better development, thus making it easier for companies to implement them within their business. Juniper research claims the adoption of chatbots could save the healthcare, banking, and retail sectors $11 billion annually by 2023.

Prediction summary
As consumers continue to push for 24/7 customer service and other convenient online business functions, chatbot platforms will grow and develop right along with the demand.

Already, the entire ecosystem for chatbot development is expanding. We are just at the beginning phases of AI technology for bots, so expect structure and design to continue to improve while competition drives costs down. Intelligent chatbots will become the standard in online customer service, and other functions, across all types and sizes of business.

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