It is fair to say that technology has had an impact on our everyday lives. Whether for personal or professional use, we seem to use new technologies every day to communicate with our friends and co-workers, shop for groceries and get things done at work.
New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things and others have gained popularity and momentum in the last couple of years as more and more people have access to the internet, mobile devices and applications. Among these technologies are chatbots.
Having been around since the late 1960s, chatbots are in no way a new technology. However, the growing interest in everything AI related and the increasing popularity and use of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have paved the way for chatbots to be available to the masses. Three years after the chatbot craze of 2016, a few questions remain about the nature and types of chatbots, their use within businesses and whether they are worth the investment.
Let us start by defining chatbots.
What is a chatbot and how do you use it for your business?
Every definition of chatbots available on the internet follows more or less the same pattern: what exactly is a chatbot, who is it for and how is it used?
- What is a chatbot? Investopedia’s definition of chatbots consider them as a computer program and an AI feature capable of simulating human conversations through voice and text commands or both. Chatbots can be integrated into messaging apps, websites and operating systems.
- Who is it for? The ability of chatbots to engage in human-like conversations with users has made them the solution of choice for companies to eliminate routine operations and repetitive requests and improve customer experience. Chatbots are available for different fields and operations like customer support, sales and marketing, banking, food delivery and more.
- How is it used? Regardless of the type of chatbot (basic or smart), the usage is more or less the same. A user asks a question and the chatbot or virtual assistant tries to provide the most useful answer. In the case of basic chatbots, the answers are already predefined for specific keywords. For example, if a user types ‘blue shoes’ and the chatbot is programmed to recognise that keyword, it will answer by providing a list of blue shoes. If that is not the case, it will display a generic answer like ‘I did not understand your question’. In contrast, smart chatbots are based on AI, which makes them able to record and learn from past conversations to provide accurate recommendations and answers.
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Four ways to use chatbots
From Apple’s Siri to the most basic Facebook Messenger chatbot, this technology has captured the attention of both tech companies and consumers. Widely adopted and embraced by consumers a couple of years ago, chatbots are being used for almost everything. Users can order pizza, check the latest news, make transactions and even find love.
With chatbots going mainstream, businesses have been trying to find a way to integrate the technology into their systems. Business ChatOps like Slack and virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa for Business are prime examples of the growing presence and use of bots and virtual assistants within businesses.
Use cases for chatbots
- Facilitating access to information
The time spent by employees searching for and locating information is one of the most recurrent problems facing businesses today. A chatbot fully integrated with different sources of information like document libraries, wikis, FAQs and websites allows users to find answers to their questions in a timely manner. All they have to do is ask their question and the chatbot will trawl the database to provide the right answer.
- Customer support and help desk
Customer support and help desk are the customer-facing portal of any business. End users have been relying on traditional communication tools to get in touch with support teams, such as phones, emails and face-to-face contact. However, chatbots provide businesses with the opportunity to streamline this process by handling the initial point of contact, eliminating repetitive requests and freeing the workforce to concentrate on more important tasks. Being programmed to answer FAQs and handle simple requests, chatbots can significantly reduce waiting time as they provide answers instantly, 24/7.
- Scheduling meetings and conferences
Chatbots and virtual assistants can be used to simplify daily activities. Controlling conferencing systems and scheduling meeting rooms are made easy with virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa for Business and others. The capacity of such bots to recognise human voice and to integrate with multiple systems like video conferencing and office suites makes them a powerful tool to facilitate day-to-day tasks.
- Enhancing the recruitment process
Another area where chatbots can be leveraged is human resources (HR). With a variety of time-consuming and repetitive tasks like screening CVs, performing background checks and scheduling interviews, HR staff are overloaded. Chatbots can free HR staff from this workload and allow them to focus on more important and strategic tasks.
Chatbots are also ideal to facilitate the onboarding process. A variety of information, from company policies to team roles and training material, can all be accessed from an integrated chatbot.
Chatbots took the world by storm a couple of years ago. Although the momentum has now slowed, chatbots are still around and new use cases continue to emerge thanks to the persistent interest of big tech giants like Microsoft and Google. Advancements in technologies like AI will only increase the potential of chatbots. So, is implementing a chatbot a good idea? The answer is yes.