Chatbots have quickly become one of the most popular technologies for marketing and customer service.

Companies across industries are making use of these intelligent bots for their versatility and beneficial capabilities. The majority of us have interacted with chatbots in one form or another. Though you may not realize it, those friendly assistants popping up on your favorite retail site to recommend the perfect dress or answer your questions about shipping are not company employees, but intelligent bots.

We will surely see increased interactions with chatbots in our daily lives as the technology continues to improve, so being knowledgeable of their capabilities is certainly worthwhile. Whether you’re thinking of developing your own chatbot, or are just curious about the “brain” on the other side of your messaging app, we’ll break it all down for you in this chatbot crash course.  

 

So, what’s a chatbot?

In short, a chatbot is a service, powered by rule-based systems or artificial intelligence, which is designed to interact with you in an automated way via a chat interface. A chatbot can operate in one of two ways, depending on how it’s programmed and for what purpose.

  1. Chatbots that operate by rules

These sort of chatbots are programmed for a specific reason and are only capable of responding to very specific commands. The intelligence of these chatbots is only as strong as their initial programming, and their functionality is limited to specific purposes.

  1. Chatbots that operate by machine learning

By utilizing artificial intelligence, these chatbots can understand more complex language and can react to a much wider range of commands. Programmed with machine learning, their functionality and intelligence will grow as it has more conversations with more people.

 

What kind of chatbot should I use?

The type of chatbot you implement will depend on the role you need it to fill.

  • Rule-based chatbots are cheaper and faster to implement, and will work well for simple question-and-answer work.
  • AI-based chatbots much more labor intensive and are developed to simulate human intelligence. They’re a better long-term choice for serving a multitude of functions.

 

Why should I get a bot?

Consumers now expect brands to interact with them on a personal level without sacrificing efficiency.

Businesses must adapt to changing consumer preferences while simultaneously managing the large volume of inquiries that flow in from multiple sites and apps that can be accessed on a multitude of device form factors. Chatbots have proven to be the most accessible and functional way to leverage improvements in artificial intelligence technology to effectively serve customers. As app-based brands like Uber, Lyft, and GrubHub grow in popularity, consumer culture increasingly demands easy-access service. Chatbots meet this demand by providing more individualized, rapid, and effective customer experiences without the need for additional personnel.

As artificial intelligence continues to develop, the future for AI-based chatbots continues to look brighter. AI pioneer Mark Hurd believes that 90 percent of all enterprise applications will feature AI capabilities by 2020. From eCommerce sites to event apps and beyond, the work of business to consumer (B2C) communication is undergoing a monumental change.

Offering your consumers convenient and efficient service is essential if you want to remain competitive in business.

A major component of chatbots’ value comes from their ability to automate conversions and transactions throughout an organization. By automating conversations that would otherwise require employee oversight, chatbots can allow businesses to focus their employees’ efforts on more profitable tasks. Automation also improves customer satisfaction. There’s nothing worse than calling a company’s help line and being put on hold for thirty minutes, or trying to send an email to customer service only to receive a bounce-back notice. 

66 percent of people would rather talk to brands on messaging platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp than communicate through any other medium. – According to a global study conducted by Twilio

A chatbot’s ability to process enormous amounts of data with artificial intelligence can allow businesses to understand their users on a deeper level, offering real insight into customer preferences through 24/7 availability.

If you’ve ever done any online shopping in the middle of the night, you know the frustration of encountering a site issue when the company’s helpline only operates from 9-5. By using chatbots to offer support at all hours of the day, businesses can keep their customers happier while collecting better data on shoppers’ activities. Chatbots can record conversations, trends, and other metrics while monitoring interactions, and can adjust their processes and responses as the data demands. There’s a lot that can be be learned about customers’ interests and company shortcomings from their most frequently searched words and their most commonly asked questions.

Chatbot technology is surprisingly low maintenance when you consider all the benefits they offer businesses and consumers.

Not only can companies save money by eliminating mundane tasks, they also find that the cost of maintaining chatbots once they’re built is relatively low. Depending on the functionalities and platforms used, chatbots can be an attainable tool for small and big businesses alike.

A recent study found that 80 percent of businesses want to use chatbots by 2020, which means that this technology will surely continue to expand. There’s immense potential in chatbots for adding value to customer service, saving money for businesses, and much more. We hope this crash course helped to keep you informed and motivates you to keep up with the technology progressions to come!

 

This is a guest post by Maddie Davis, co-founder of Enlightened-Digital and tech-obsessed female from the Big Apple. She lives by building and redesigning websites, running marathons and reading anything and everything on the NYT Best Sellers list.