What is a chatbot?

Chatbots are an increasingly popular technology being used by a variety of businesses across the world. In fact, Gartner has predicted that over 50% of medium to large enterprises will be using chatbots by 2020.

Business Insider estimates around 3 million people use messaging applications, such as Kik, Slack, and Facebook Messenger. These messaging platforms have been a key factor in the spread of chatbots, giving them the ability to reach a huge part of the online population.

This wide reach, paired with the popularity of the chatbot and current advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, have led to a growing interest in chatbots and how they work, both by the general public and other businesses.

So, are you keen to find out more about this developing phenomenon? Our cloud constants are! Here's our take on what a chatbot actually is, what it can do, and how it works.headway-5QgIuuBxKwM-unsplash-1030x687

What is a Chatbot?

Chatbots are, in simple terms, computer programs designed to stimulate conversations with people and respond to inquiries and statements. Generally, they fall into two categories.

  1. The first is simple. It uses pre-programmed commands and requests written by developers and responds to keywords from the user. This type can be less effective to some, as it only responds to these keywords. It isn’t capable of developing the more it is used.
  2. The second type is more complex and often uses artificial intelligence. It doesn’t use pre-prepared answers but is instead trained to respond to questions with relevant suggestions in a conversational tone.

Chatbots that use artificial intelligence are able to learn from previous interactions and improve those in the future. Their sophistication can vary depending on the software used to create them, and the data accessible to them. 


How is a Chatbot Trained?

Before anyone builds a chatbot, they need to decide on their goals and desired functions. Then, they need to decide where their chatbot will be launched. Some people prefer messaging platforms like those we looked at earlier, but others prefer them on their own websites and applications.

Chatbots can be built using two main methods - either with pre-made software or completely from scratch. Choosing the best software for your chatbot can depend on the needs of your business.

Training chatbots can be the biggest challenge in the creation process

After all, it needs to learn the language of your consumers, who can each speak differently depending on a huge number of things. Many chatbots are trained using analysis from past information, which is why many current chatbots record conversations.

Chatbots are provided with a huge number of conversation logs to understand what answers will match various question types.

Some chatbots use pattern matches to find relevant answers. Some use Natural Language Understanding algorithms, which has no historical conversation backdrop to use but finds relevant answers using context.

Other chatbots use Natural Language Processing. These chatbots turn customer text into structured data to choose relevant answers.

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What can Chatbots do?

Learning the abilities of chatbots can help finalise the decision to bring one into your company, and can help us understand further how they work.

The vast majority of chatbots are designed to improve customer service. They do this by providing assistance and information quickly, personalising communication to a single customer, and improving response rates.

Chatbots can answer questions from customers, give suggestions and streamline processes like online shopping by placing orders and giving regular updates on deliveries. Some chatbots, as we’ve seen, are more sophisticated than others. For instance, an Indian chatbot called Nikibot can order takeaway deliveries for people and book their taxis.

In the UK, a chatbot called Do Not Pay assists people who are looking to file complaints against parking tickets they’ve received, and Babylon Health’s chatbot actually offers medical advice.

As you can see, there's a lot of potential for chatbots to help with a variety of customer experiences. If you're not sure where to start, a cloud consultancy can help. We undertake discovery workshops to explore how cloud-based technology like chatbots can help you solve your business challenges.


Do people actually like using Chatbots?

It might shock you to know that a number of studies have shown people prefer chatbots over humans or applications for certain tasks.

Chatbots can give answers faster than phoning up companies. They can allow people to avoid long, annoying holds. Plus, chatbots can provide answers that are specific and relevant to your question, which is a lot faster than searching through a whole page of text or FAQs. As well as this because a chatbot isn’t dependent on a person. It is only limited by the power of the cloud application that drives it. This means there is almost no limit on the number of conversations that can happen at once. You never have to wait to speak to a chatbot.

On a more personal level, some people prefer chatbots as they can feel less intimidating than speaking to a real person, especially if your query seems a little silly.

This productivity is the main reason people use chatbots. However, other factors like entertainment, social factors, and general curiosity also play a part, especially for programs like Cleverbot, which is simply there for conversation and general interaction.

Is a chatbot right for your employees?

If you’re still wondering whether introducing a chatbot is right for your business, a final thought should be on your employees.

Rather than stealing jobs from people, chatbots can automate repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to concentrate on more complex, important work. Not only are chatbots saving time for customers, but also for the people you work with!

Chatbots are growing in popularity for customers and businesses. They can be used to improve customer service, streamline processes, automate tasks, but also to help products and services reach a larger number of people than before.

It makes sense that so many businesses are starting to take advantage of this phenomenon. Is it something you can see helping your own organisation? Whether you want to find out more about what chatbots can do, or you’re interested in finding the right software to build your own, we're here to help. New call-to-action