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Chatbots And The Role Of AI

Chatbots are all the rage nowadays. In today’s consumer-centric online market, chatbots are performing various roles. It can be consumer interaction geared towards problem-solving and addressing customer requests in a variety of industries; or providing a smooth online shopping experience to a smartphone user; and even performing as a virtual home-assistant in home-automation duties within a modern household. Several noteworthy publications like the Washington Post have even hailed 2017 as the “Year of the Bot.”

What is a chatbot and how does it link to AI?

As the name suggests, a chatbot is simply a robot assistant that you can engage with in a conversation to get what you need to get done. The conversation can take place via text messaging or voice commands. However, the important thing to understand is that what makes a software or machine communicate with a human being to perform simple to complex tasks is ‘artificial intelligence’ technology, or AI.

So, AI can enable you to interact with a chatbot by using a chat interface, and avail services ranging from everyday practical tasks to entertainment. Examples of chatbots include weather bots that inform and forecast about your local weather, news bots that you can keep you up-to-date about news related to your profession, and other service-related bots like personal finance bots, etc. These bots are found in many popular chat platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack, etc.

What is all the fuss about?

So why have chatbots become so popular in the consumer market? In recent surveys, it has been discovered that human interaction with chatbots is greater than with social media apps. According to Peter Rojas, partner at Betaworks, a seed stage venture capital company, “People are now spending more time in messaging apps than in social media and that is a huge turning point. Messaging apps are the platforms of the future and bots will be how their users access all sorts of services.”

Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst observes “90% of our time on mobile is spent on email and messaging platforms. I would love to back teams that build stuff for places where the consumers hang out!”

This huge rise in the popularity of chatbots can be traced to April 2016, when Facebook announced that it was providing tools for developers to create new, unique chatbot functions inside Facebook Messenger. The move saw a marriage between bots and AI to provide the consumer a variety of services to avail, while chatting with friends at the same time. Facebook wanted Messenger to provide a platform for its users to be able to interact with businesses and benefit from easy, hassle-free consumer experiences that are perhaps shaping the future of customer communication with computers. Since then, various other companies such as Telegram, Kik, Microsoft and others designed their own bot platforms.

Uses and benefits

It is quite evident that chatbots are popular in the consumer market and CX (customer experience) arena due to several reasons, some of which are the following:

  • Ability to tirelessly deliver 24/7 customer support
  • Helping to provide a personalized experience to consumers, by feeding customer data to human agents that enables them to better gauge a client’s needs and requirements in real-time.
  • Building a human-like relationship with customers that can promote brand loyalty, for e.g. sending birthday greetings to clients.

Chatbots have been especially prominent as business tools in the field of e-commerce. They have successfully duplicated a live, in-store shopping experience online, on your PC, laptop or smartphone. Chatbots have been seen to significantly influence and boost online purchases, increase customer-bases, provide a smoother shopping experience and foster genuine brand loyalty. They are functional in the fields of digital commerce, banking, finance and also serve to provide companies with customer lead-generation and research data. Chatbots have also been instrumental in boosting company performance, by reducing a company’s salary and benefit costs for e.g. or boosting back-office productivity.

The Role of AI

At the core of AI’s effectiveness is machine-learning and natural-language processing (or NLP). While machine-learning can be utilized to build several types of chatbot algorithms, NLP acts as a sensor to detect patterns in human conversation and even mimic it. Combined, these two prominent factors of AI can help a chatbot to be more perceptive of human emotions and behavior in a real-time chat, and hence, be able to provide a superlative customer experience.

But how can AI be fully utilized? The true efficiency of AI is seen to exist in its ability to analyze data and produce effective decisions in real-time. In a global online market, there are countless data sources and platforms that an AI system can utilize, e.g. e-commerce, emails, social media, search functions and more, in order to provide genuine solutions to human requests.

Hence, the better the data management platform (DMP) is, the greater the efficacy of a chatbot’s AI. High quality data results in superior AI functionality, whereas ineffectual data will produce ineffective AI. In addition, a well-functioning AI will form its own data to improve its self-learning capacity. In turn, this self-learnt data is regularly uploaded to the DMP to increase an AI’s machine learning capacity further.

The Bottom Line

Though bots are not replacing human customer agents in the consumer markets anytime soon, they have shown to prove their efficiency greatly. In a nutshell, it can be observed that AI enables chatbots to tirelessly perform customer-service tasks without the interference of human emotion or fatigue. They simply following the direction pointed out by the data.

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