What is a chatbot?

Chatbots, as the name suggests, are computer programs built to simulate human conversations— whether that is on a website, a messaging app or a virtual assistant. With today’s customers expecting immediacy and personalization in their interactions with brands, the addition of chatbots as a communication channel has become critical to business growth.

In its simplest form, chatbots can be programmed to answer specific, frequently asked questions, offering an easy way to engage with visitors. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence (AI) - powered chatbots can learn from user behavior and previous agent interactions to predict visitor behavior and offer relevant information. Using chatbots can help automate interactions and offer instant accessibility across sales, marketing, and customer service functions. 

What is a chatbot?

Everything you need to know about chatbots.

The features you should be looking for in a chatbot.

The very first chatbot, ELIZA, made in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum, was built as a therapy robot, to offer scripted responses to therapy-related questions. It was linear and structured and didn’t understand intent.  Chatbots have come a long way since then. 

Today, there are several chatbot software available in the marketplace, built for many reasons. When deciding to buy a chatbot, look for the features that boost your workflows, including :

Omni-channel

Having a chatbot on your website is not enough. People are engaging more on messaging apps than on social media, and this means your business needs to engage with your audience where they prefer to communicate. Check whether the chatbot integrates with messaging services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

No code

Chatbots can seem complex and technical, but the reality is, you don’t need an army of developers to create chatbots or write code. Find a chatbot provider who can help with managing chat conversations across platforms and has a customizable chat widget. This way, all you have to do is integrate it with your website and train it to answer your most common questions. 

Affordable

Chatbots themselves are cost-saving channels for businesses, so they shouldn’t be expensive to implement either. Look for a chatbot that covers the basic features that your business will require. If all you need is a rule-based chatbot, you don’t need to invest in purchasing or building an AI chatbot.

Teachable

Your AI chatbots will also need to be trained before they can interact with customers, so you need to find one that allows you to do this with ease. Unless you require it to perform highly complicated functions, find a chatbot that doesn’t require too much technical expertise. The more complicated the functionality, the more time you will need to spend writing code to train your chatbot. 

Artificial Intelligence

Not all chatbots are AI-enabled, but those with AI are more likely to give precise answers. They can understand the intention of the customer and learn to have better conversational flows to customer queries. Not only can they trigger actions, they also know when to handover the chat to a team member. Both these features offer uninterrupted communication flows between the business and the customer.

Sentiment Analysis

Find a chatbot that can analyze human intention. Chatbots should know when to interact with the customers and whether their intent is positive, negative or neutral. Customers prefer quick conversations with bots, but at times will want to talk to an agent. Your chatbot must be able to detect nuances and proceed.

Chatbots aren't killer robots, and other myths we've busted.

Myth 1
Chatbots are just for marketing teams

Depending on the journeys you create, chatbots can lend a strong hand to your marketing team, sales agents, product teams and customer support.

Myth 2
Chatbots are only for websites

Although we are most familiar with chatbots on web pages, they also integrate with messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and other business messaging apps.

Myth 3
Chatbots will replace humans

They are pre-programmed by a set of queries, so while the tone and feel maybe as a person they cannot have complex conversations on topics they don't know.

 

Myth 4
Chatbots are complicated to set-up

Contrary to popular belief, chatbots are fairly easy to deploy. You don’t need to have the technical knowledge or coding experience.

Myth 5
Chatbots are only meant to deflect

Chatbots are not just reactive in nature, they are a great way for all customer-facing teams to proactively engage with visitors.

Not all chatbots have artificial intelligence. But, yours should.

The purpose of a chatbot is to improve the productivity of customer-facing teams and reduce the workload caused by live chat. This can be achieved through training an AI-enabled chatbot to spot patterns, language intent and identify the most appropriate response without human involvement. 


If this sounds technical, let’s take a step back and see how a chatbot processes a conversation.

Step 1: Train for relevant topics

When the chatbot is being set up, you can teach it topics you think your customers will ask about. For example, if a common customer query is, “On what days is the clinic open?”, you can program the chatbot to understand this question and similar rephrased questions like: “Will the clinic be open on the weekends?” or “When is the clinic closed?”. This helps the bot address the same concern, in whichever phrasing is used by the customer, and offer the relevant information.

Step 2: Learn from Multi-channels

The chatbot learns from emails, chats and your knowledge base to understand intent every time a visitor asks a question. From the example above, if the visitor asks, “Is the clinic open on Sundays?” the chatbot will recognize the intent, based on the information available in its database, and provide the appropriate response. 

Step 3: Predict the next step

Once the chatbot knows what the customer’s goal is, it’ll prompt them into taking the next step. In the above case, it can then ask them, “Do you wish to book an appointment on Sunday?”. This way, it nudges the visitor to take action. By offering a CTA, the chatbot not only personalizes the attention given to the visitor, it will also collect the necessary details needed to book an appointment without any agent intervening.

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