A chatbot is, simply, a conversational user interface designed to help a user with a specific task. The most common use cases for Chatbots are:
- An internal knowledge base e.g. this could be a help desk instant messaging service
- A customer facing Chatbot to support and promote services
In all instances these services are designed to respond in seconds and are available 24/7.
Chatbots have made huge strides forward within the last 12 months. Gartner even predicts “By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.”
As an internal toolkit it can act as the front end for a data source, like a weather service or your product FAQs, or provide the interface for a complete application. So you can use a chatbot to answer a question like "what's the weather's going to be like tomorrow in Bangor?" or tell it: "I need to book a hotel room in Edinburgh next month."
The conversation with the chatbot can be text or voice-based, and you should be able to talk to any chatbot from within your existing messaging app, such as Facebook Messenger, or through a smart speaker like Google Home, without needing to launch a separate app.
Of course, chatbots aren't new, but they've become one of the hot marketing topics in 2017 for two reasons:
- advances in areas such as natural language processing and machine learning (or artificial intelligence) mean we can now talk to chatbots like we're talking to another person, because chatbots can now:
- understand an idea or request expressed in different ways
- ask for clarification – do you want the weather in Bangor, Gwynedd or Bangor, Maine?
- Be contextually awareness - If it already know you are in a certain location it provide location specific results
- ask you for confirmation before they take an action – do you really do want to book that hotel room on those dates?
- people are now spending more time on messaging apps than social networks – and not spending much time using other apps: the majority of people spend most of their time in just three apps. If you want engage with customers, you need to build a presence where they are. Today, that means getting to them through messaging apps – using chatbots – rather than your social media presence and custom apps.
Although the technology behind chatbots is developing rapidly, they certainly aren't merely a technology fad but can offer an impressive ROI. Just Eat, for example, is reporting a 266% higher conversion rate for its Facebook messenger chatbot compared with other social media activity, and a 13.5% increase in retention. They can also help you reduce the cost and time involved in answering routine questions, increase the time your staff can spend on more complex queries, and improve customer satisfaction by providing a faster service that's available around the clock.