Chatbots can talk to your customers for you. In this lies their ability to handle various aspects of customer relations, substituting a number of employees with a single bot.
In this article, we look at the essence of chatbots: how and where they work, which industries can benefit from them, and where they’ve already been successful.
There are two types of chatbots — those built into messengers (Slack, Telegram, Discord, Kik, etc.) and standalone applications. We advise building a chatbot in a messenger first because there are a lot of people using them already, so your service will be able to receive the recognition it deserves. Just look at these statistics from April 2018 showing the number of monthly messenger users.
In the top positions are, of course, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, with 1.5 and 1.3 billion monthly users respectively. In third position is the Chinese messenger WeChat, which has an average of 1 billion users a month. QQ Mobile, Skype, Viber, Snapchat, LINE, and Telegram constitute the rest of the list, each having fewer than 1 billion monthly users — yet still substantial audiences.
To choose the perfect platform for your bot, research the most popular messengers in your area. Alternatively, you could go for a multi-platform chatbot, supporting a number of messenger applications at once.
There are two main ways in which a chatbot can be built — with and without machine learning.
Chatbots that use machine learning are chatbots that can learn and become better over time. The technology here isn’t half as complicated as you might think, even though it does appear quite sci-fi at first glance.
What’s particular about machine learning-powered chatbots is that they can understand natural speech. Unlike their scripted counterparts (which we’re going to discuss in just a bit), machine-intelligent chatbots can understand questions and commands the way real people phrase them, as opposed to only understanding a set of predefined commands.
This is beneficial if you’re looking to offer a human-like experience.
Let’s look at Mitsuku, for example:
Source: Mitsuku on KiK
Mitsuku is a three-time winner of the Loebner Prize (the chatbot equivalent of the Turing test). Created by Steve Worswick from Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML), the bot is available on Facebook Messenger, KiK, Telegram, Skype, and Twitch, featuring also an original web version and an Android application (currently in beta).
Mitsuku isn’t an assistant who performs tasks to make your life more comfortable. She’s a friend, a partner in conversation, and an interesting way to spend your time. Mitsuku can tell jokes, ask questions about religion and philosophy, and answer whatever questions you might have for her (if they aren’t “Can you do this for me?”).
Scripted chatbots tend to be a business’s go-to choice. They specialize in responding to specific commands and answering specifically phrased questions.
A scripted chatbot has a set of questions it can respond to with a corresponding set of answers. This means each conversation can only follow a number of defined paths. It’s often the case that users don’t even type anything in, instead selecting from a list of questions and commands that the bot understands.
The H&M bot on KiK is a great example of a scripted chatbot. When you first log in, it asks a series of questions to understand your style preferences. Then it offers three options:
Source: H&M bot on KiK
The chatbot is limited in what it can say and do. But if you think about it, users won’t come to the H&M bot for life advice or to discuss their favorite novel. They want to look at clothes, check out new items, put together some outfits, and then come to the store in person to purchase the stuff they’ve already seen and liked.
The H&M bot does what it’s supposed to: it involves people into the H&M brand, creates an element of interactive communication, and effectively upsells customers.
Depending on what task you want a chatbot to complete, you’ll find different results. There are, however, some universal benefits that a chatbot can bring to any business regardless of its primary focus.
There are many ways in which the e-commerce industry has benefited from chatbot technology. When your goal is to sell products and services, the ability to communicate directly with customers is crucial.
We’ve already mentioned the H&M chatbot, but you may have heard about other examples from Sephora, eBay, 1–800-Flowers, and other companies. These chatbots have managed to substantially increase company revenues over a short period of time. Not only that, but there are many other ways that chatbots can help e-commerce businesses:
Chatbots can do a great deal for the travel, hospitality and tourism industries. They offer 24/7 access to data, allowing customers to book trips and rooms instantly and on the go. And using chatbots is cheaper for businesses, too! Employees don’t need to answer calls and repeat the same stuff over and over; customers can just text their requirements to a chatbot.
Chatbots are already working for Marriott, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Wynn Las Vegas, and Waylo. With chatbot technology, companies can benefit in many ways:
When it comes to healthcare, nothing substitutes a real professional. However, there are some cases in which chatbot technology could be a real lifesaver by promoting healthy living and helping patients figure out a number of important questions. Chatbots could guide users through emergencies, giving them step-by-step CPR instructions or explaining how to help someone with diabetes, and perform many other tasks:
Read more: How to Build an Effective Medical Mobile App
Imagine describing your perfect pizza in a text message and then having it appear on your doorstep. This is exactly the sort of feature a chatbot can provide for on-demand services. Just look at how Pizza Hut did it with their Facebook Messenger and Twitter chatbot.
Source: Pizza Hut bot on Facebook Messenger
Pizza Hut’s technology allows customers to place orders with a single touch of a finger. It can answer frequently asked questions and present information about the latest promotions. Because the bot is so easy to access and doesn’t need to be installed separately, users don’t feel any pressure talking to it, which results in higher retention rates and easier ordering.
A great number of global banks have already integrated chatbots with their services: American Express, PayPal, Bank of America, Mastercard, Visa, and others. You might have used some of their financial assistants yourself — such as Eno, HiCharlie, or Trim. Among the features that financial facilities could implement with chatbots are:
Last but not least, we come to customer service — the area where chatbots have probably done the most good. It’s just so convenient to have a digital assistant that can answer customer questions in as much detail as necessary. Chatbot-based customer service can be applied to any industry, accomplishing two main tasks:
Do you feel inspired by the numerous benefits of chatbot technology? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact our sales representatives to start discussing your product today.
You’re also welcome to look through our SteelKiwi projects page to learn about the awesome products we’ve created so far.