Chatbots: The Past, Present and Future

Chatbots currently are one of the most popular AI technologies in the enterprise world.

Bots are being deployed for different functions of an organization – be it engaging customers, training employees, driving sales, providing IT Helpdesk or HR support, generating leads etc. These intelligent machines provide instant service, round the clock – you don’t need to keep your customers/employees waiting 24 hours for the next support agent to come online. 80% of businesses want chatbots by 2020.

However, bots weren’t equipped for intelligent and smart conversations when they were first invented. Chatbots have undergone several advancements in the past few years. The history of chatbots is intriguing, and so is the future. Let’s walk through all that chatbots were back in time, are today, and can be in the future.

The History of Bots: Where and how it all began

The word chatbot comes simply translates to conversation enabled by bots. As such, there are two components to this word – chat, which means conversation, and bot, which refers to the ‘computational’ element.

ELIZA, a 1964 computer program was one of the earliest examples of chatbots taking shape. Utilizing Natural Language Processing – something that allows computers to understand human language, ELIZA was able to recognize keywords and key phrases (inputs) and respond using pre-written scripts.

Soon after, an ‘intelligent’ version of ELIZA followed. This one was smarter in the sense that if ELIZA could understand inputs from a real person – PARRY could impersonate a real person! Invented by Psychiatrist Kenneth Colby, PARRY was indeed able to impersonate a patient with schizophrenia.

More inventions kept taking place to one-up older, outdated bots. And, the world soon transitioned into times when chatter bots could be openly used by masses. The first and most popular of these humanoids is A.L.I.C.E (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) or Alice. It was the most powerful NLP chatbot of its time and was awarded the Loebner Prize three times!

Interesting fact:  If you’ve watched the academy-award winning movie ‘Her’, it would be interesting to know that A.L.I.C.E was the inspiration for the movie.

The Present State of Chatbots: Where we are today 

Bots were now being deployed by businesses across various industries, all over the world. With the advancements in AI and machine learning, bots have become more intelligent are able to conduct meaningful and personalized conversations. Now, bots could adapt and learn based on the interactions they had with people. They could now process tons of data, rapidly retrieve information, process information, and give the right output/answer in no time.

In a consumer world, chatbot adoption increased because of an increase in the usage of messaging platforms. Consumers now rely on a chatbot for connecting and interacting with their favorite brand, troubleshooting basic issues, purchasing products that have been highly personalized based on their interests and likes, and keeping up to date with the latest deals and discounts on their favorite products!

According to Business Insider, by 2017, messaging apps have ousted social media platforms. You can check the following chart to get the stats and figures on global monthly active users.

Chatbots in today’s enterprise 

Organizations today are using chatbots for a variety of use cases and the usage varies from industry to industry and function to function. And the benefits chatbots offer are plenty including enhancing customer experience, improving employee productivity, automating mundane tasks, reducing costs and simplifying business workflows.

Enterprises are now leveraging chatbot builder platforms to effectively build, deploy, manage and train AI chatbots.

Let’s dig into some detailed chatbot use cases in the present day scenario.

Chatbots for Customer Service

Customer service is the most popular use case of enterprise chatbots today. Businesses across industries are using customer service chatbots as the first line of support to reduce costs, improve customer experience, and increase agent productivity. Capabilities like 24/7 availability, multilingual support, instant responses, agent handover have made chatbots the most desired AI technologies in customer service.

Chatbots for IT helpdesk

A number of enterprises are implementing IT helpdesk chatbots to accelerate response time, improve support staff productivity, automating IT workflows, and to deliver service related information on-demand.

Deploying chatbots can help alleviate your IT help desk challenges by making the whole process less labor-intensive, less complicated, highly interactive, and less costly.

With a chatbot at your disposal to answer basic queries raised by your employees in real-time, your IT help desk staff can focus on more complex and key tasks, thereby increasing your support efficiency!

Read More: How Can AI Bots Increase IT Helpdesk Support Efficiency?

Chatbots for Business Intelligence

Data is the oil of the 21st century! Many companies today are integrating AI chatbots into their existing BI systems like PowerBI, Oracle, SAP BI etc. to help decision-makers get super quick access all the information and reports  they need, in no time.

Simply ask your bot “What is my predicted sales for December 2019” and the bot will generate an accurate response after analyzing tons of data instantly. That too in a format that you prefer (image, graphs, pie charts, etc.)!

Learn More: Business Intelligence Bots, Power BI Bots

Chatbots for HR

HR is one of the most popular functions for which chatbots are deployed. HR chatbots simplify and automate workflows throughout the employee life-cycle. Employees can use bots to ask simple or complex HR queries, perform tasks like applying for leaves or giving an appraisal etc. Whether it’s talent management or onboarding or employee engagement or off boarding, chatbots have successfully reduced HR costs in all stages of the employee life-cycle and streamlined the entire process.

Learn more: How Chatbots are Revolutionizing The HR Department

Statistics on Adoption of Chatbots

  • Chatbots are expected to cut business costs by $8 billion by 2022 – Juniper Research
  • Furthermore, by 2021, conversational AI-first will be adopted by the majority of enterprise IT – Gartner.
  • By 2021, 50% of enterprises will be spending higher on chatbot creation than on mobile app development. – Gartner

For more such insights and statistics on the state of chatbot adoption, read through this blog post.

The Future of Chatbots: Where we are headed 

As the chatbot technology continues to mature, the future of bots is becoming interesting. Here are a few important trends to watch for:

  • Chatbot-RPA integration: Enterprises are taking customer and employee experiences to the next level by combining the power of automation from RPA and cognitive intelligence from chatbots. RPA helps chatbots access legacy enterprise systems which lack modern APIs. Bots can trigger RPA robots to perform complex actions without routing to a human agent – increasing productivity.
  • Voice Bots: Gartner predicts that, by 2023, 25 percent of employee interactions with applications will be via voice, up from under 3 percent in 2019. In the future, chatbots will no longer be just text-based interfaces. As AI-powered speech-to-text and text-to-speech hosted services improve, voice bots will be used for a variety of enterprise applications including conversational BI, IT helpdesk, scheduling meetings etc.
  • Chatbots will be more human: As key chatbot components like NLP, Machine Learning, sentiment analysis, contextual and language understanding etc. become more advanced, chatbots will be able to conduct much more complex conversations – just like a human does.

There might be soon a time when your bot will be reminding you of your sales meeting scheduled for the day. There’ll soon be times when a smart speaker will take your order at a restaurant. Bots speaking to bots can become the reality of the future. What next? We can only wonder.

If you’d like to learn more about enterprise chatbots please feel free to get in touch with one of our chatbot consultants for a quick consultation!  You might also be interested in checking out our enterprise chatbot builder platform – BotCore.

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