Last updated on March 11, 2019
So if you keep hearing the term chatbot being banded around, you might be wanting to find out more. Chatbots are going to be a key piece of automation over the next years. So understanding what they are and how chatbots work, will help you see how they can fit into your business planning for the next 12 months.
A quick reminder of what chatbots are
A chatbot is an automated system or a robot that imitates human conversations through voice commands , text chats or both.
Essentially, it’ s a virtual conversation in which one party is an online talking robot that can carry out a defined task or give automated replies to users.
It is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that operates within defined set of rules and parameters . A bot can provide many functions and can be hosted on websites , messaging platforms or apps.
So how do chatbots work?
A chatbot works in much the same way as a human manning a help desk. When a customer opens a chat dialogue to ask for assistance, the bot is the medium responding.
So, if a customer typed the question ‘What time does your store open tomorrow morning’, using the information available, the chatbot would immediately respond in the same way as a human would. ‘Our store opens at 9am tomorrow morning and closes at 5pm’
Have you ever asked Siri or Alexa for a weather update in your area? This is also a chatbot and, using your location, a response can be given, in natural, conversational replies.
What is going on behind a chatbot front end?
To answer this question we must understand that there are two types of chatbot.
As we mentioned above, all chatbots are a form of AI, and all of them are supported by complex programming. However they fall into two categories.
The way they are split depends on whether the dominant feature is hardcoded questions/answer or the AI.
Bots that function on structured questions and answers are less complex and bots that function on machine learning harness the full power of AI. From the front end they both look similar and as a user, you may not be able to distinguish the difference.
Scripted and structured
A chatbot working on hardcoded questions/answers has a smaller knowledge base and skill set, and can only provide the correct output to specific instructions.
This means our questions must fit with the programming they have been given. Using our weather bot as an example once more, the question ‘Will it rain tomorrow’ could be answered easily. However if the programming is not there, the question ‘Will I need a brolly tomorrow’ may cause the chatbot to respond with a ‘I am sorry, I didn’t understand the question’ type response.
This bot can only be as smart as the programming it has been given.
If you can only interact with the chatbot via buttons or a given menu or struggle being understood, you might be talking to one with structured questions and answers.
Scripted bots are often used on Messenger platforms. Mostly for marketing purposes as users don’t necessarily need to interact a lot with the bot. They are great to send newsletters or daily content pieces, generate leads, engage users, do surveys etc.
NLP Based Chatbots
If you are looking into implementing a customer service bot for your business, this type of chatbot is the right one.
They can understand language meaning the commands you give do not need to be so specific.
An AI chatbot will figure out that umbrellas and brollys refer to rain, and therefore a deviation from the standard question will not phase them.
The part that makes them understand language, is the natural language processing (NLP). NLP is part of machine learning and artificial intelligence. We don’t want to go into too much technical detail here, but basically NLP consists of three concepts : intent, entity and utterance.
Intents and entities help structure the AI agent, while utterance allows to train and improve it. Essentially, machine learning bots get cleverer the more they are interacted with.
Obviously the amount of work behind the scenes is much greater.
Chatbots are certainly not something to be feared, but rather something we should embrace for enhancing our user experience for various processes .
Onlim develops customized chatbots & voice assistants for customer service, marketing & sales. To find out more about our solution click here and if you are interested, arrange a free online demo.
Would you like to find out more about how you can use chatbots for your business? Check out these articles: