Our three-week journey into the world of AI and conversational marketing is about to culminate as we dive deep into the subject of chatbots. You have the basics. You are versed into the basic concepts of AI and you’ve already gotten schooled into why conversational marketing is being so hotly embraced by marketers. What’s left is to look at the chatbot as the natural marriage of form and function, and why it’s going to become a cornerstone of digital marketing in the years to come.
Chatbots – A (Improvised) Dictionary Definition
To understand what a chatbot is, you have to break down its name to its base components. There is chat (conversing with another person) and bot (software programmed to perform an automated task). Combine them together and you get software that’s been designed with the explicit purpose to talk with a real person – answer questions, follow instructions, and perform tasks.
What Are We Getting Wrong about Chatbots?
As discussed above, chatbots talk with customers, but the general public is sometimes misled about the actual capabilities of AI. This gives rise to two prominent misconceptions:
- Chatbots can only communicate via voice or text. On the contrary, great efforts are put into developing communication based on graphical interfaces or graphical widgets. Successes that come to mind include Kik and WeChat!
- Chatbots replace a human agent. Chatbots cannot replace the human employee (at least not at this stage), because natural language processing is not at the level to imbue AI with the full, complex understanding of human language and all the context that goes into holding a simple conversation. Right now, what we have is a tool that’s able to perform some easy tasks when a human agent is not available.
CONVERSATIONS – The DNA of All Chatbots
Given that we have already touched upon the importance of conversational marketing as the basis for chatbots, it’s not a revelation to learn that conversation is the optimal goal and purpose here. Chatbots function as an approximate facsimile of the human agent, all in an effort to service your customers at any time. Although not better at grasping the nuances of human communication, they are able to:
- Provide 24/7 coverage on your website;
- Respond in seconds to any inquiry, and in general, do so with extreme accuracy;
- Assist the human agent in drawing up additional information.
Is There Only One Kind of Chatbot?
In the 21st century, if you don’t have options, you’re not taking something to its fullest potential. Therefore, chatbots come themselves into three broad categories.
SCRIPTED: This the starting point in chatbot technology, because the code is limited and the end consumer has an involved role. Conversations here are limited to several mapped-out tracks, hence why they’re referred to as scripted. At every stage of the conversation, the human component in the conversation has to pick an option and guide the conversation.
INTELLIGENT: One step above scripted chatbots, these chatbots have a freer conversation style. Their programming allows the use of free form input (typing or speaking freely without having to adhere to a restrictive script). Here is where the AI starts coming close to mimicking human speech and their very nature is to absorb information and experience from every interaction to improve in every subsequent conversation. Keep in mind, however, that this works in a limited topic, aka how to get car insurance.
APPLICATION: This is a more nebulous category as both scripted and intelligent chatbots fall in it purely on the basis that chatbots can function thanks to graphical user interfaces. It’s what easily allows a chatbot to be integrated into the design of your site to fulfills its function or to be pushed into separate applications that can be installed!
The Future is Chatbots
Right now, chatbots are crude, clumsy and not quite what we imagine. Customers know when it’s not a person on the other end of the screen, but the technology is on the bullet train towards better, more seamless performance. Not a day goes by when some new advancement in natural language processing (a fundamental aspect of a chatbot’s AI) is not introduced. This will close the divide between human and AI communication to enable chatbots to perform more complex tasks and gain further independence in dealing with customers without a human agent’s assistance.
Not to mention attitude towards chatbots has been steadily improving as more companies embrace the tool to reduce net losses from missed opportunities, because the office was left unmanned. You might as well join the movement, while it’s still gaining traction!