A chatbot is a computer program which can converse via textual or auditory methods. Often regarded as the “darling of the media”, chatbots (or bots) are currently one of the most popular AI technologies. There are also rule-based bots which don’t have AI incorporated in them. However, their relevance is fast decreasing in today’s disruptive world.
Chatbots are the “apps” of voice and messaging platforms that define how users and customers converse with your digital business services and data
Usually built with a Chatbot Platform or Frameworks, bots are deployed on messaging apps or virtual assistants to converse with end-users.
The advancements in Artificial Intelligence and its related components like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) led to the creation of highly intelligent bots with smarter responses in a natural language tone.
In order to understand chatbots, we first need to delve into Artificial Intelligence and how it gave rise to the intelligent Chatbots of today. It all began with Alan Turing asking a simple question in an article titled ‘Computer Machinery and Intelligence’ in 1950. In this article, Turing theorized on whether or not computer systems could think. He also outlined the Turing Test, a method to measure whether one was speaking to a human or to a computer programme. We can note this as being one of the first theories on the capability of AI technology.
Years later in 1965, Joseph Weizenbaum created ELIZA at MIT’s AI laboratory. ELIZA was capable of simulating human conversation by matching user prompts with scripted responses. This innovation paved the way for PARRY, an AI chatbot developed in 1972 by Kenneth Colby. PARRY could simulate the thinking patterns of a person. When psychiatrists were made to interact with PARRY, only 48 percent were able to identify the difference between PARRY and a real person. Ever since then we have seen many variations of AI-powered chatbots which have only gotten more and more sophisticated over time.
With the advancements in AI, 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. There are two primary entities of AI that power a chatbot – Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.
Machine learning is an application of AI, and a scientific study of algorithms and statistical models that provides computer systems the ability to learn and perform a specific task without explicitly trained to do so. With machine learning, systems rely on patterns and inference to learn automatically. With the help of machine learning, chatbots can use historic interactions and the built-in instructions during training, to continuously learn and better themselves.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a component of AI, and is the ability of a computer program to understand human or natural language, as it is spoken/written. NLP helps a bot understand the semantics of the language being used and logically respond using natural language, consistent with the user’s query.
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.
Learn More: Chatbots: The Past, Present, And Future
Unlike a typical application’s or website’s traditional Graphic User Interface (GUI), the Conversational User Interface (CUI) of a chatbot simplifies business workflows, tasks and much more. Before understanding how chatbots drive value, it’s imperative to understand what chatbots can do.
Chatbots provide users with an easy way to access data or generate reports and facilitate better decision making for both your customers and employees.
Just like a mobile app, chatbots have the capability to deliver personalized notifications and alerts to customers and employees directly from your enterprise systems. This serves to ensure that your business users are kept updated about various changes and news in the organization. and also engage to get more details by asking questions in natural language.
Here are a few examples of how notifications and alerts can help across a variety of organizations and departments:
There are a variety of repetitive tasks that have to be performed across organizations for a variety of reasons. These routine tasks can be time-consuming and hamper productivity. A chatbot can easily be introduced to address these tasks and complete them without glitches.
These tasks can involve collecting, modifying, posting information in systems or making form-based data entries that employees and customers need to perform repetitively.
Chatbots also eliminate the need to switch across multiple applications, go through various mundane procedures or depend on personnel to get tasks done. Users can get all their simple, yet repetitive tasks are done, simply by “conversing” with the chatbot via their actively used organization wide messaging app.
Most websites are equipped with chatbots that proactively ask visitors questions that enable them to provide a personalized experience and help the user reach exactly the information or page they are looking for.
This same functionality also applies within businesses – from the most simple FAQs to more complex questions, chatbots can be designed to address a wide range of queries from employees across the organization.
Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) enable bots to understand the query and the intent and therefore, provide highly accurate answers.
Well-designed chatbots can also quickly adapt to the office jargon, offering users the most relevant and informed answers to their queries.
The knowledge base of the bot is central to its functioning. It supports the following functions:
When we say there can’t be a bot platform without broadcasting, we mean it. Through broadcasting, the admin of a chatbot can easily send a notification to all the users regarding any important event. This feature of a chatbot platform has gained significance during noteworthy events such as the People’s Choice Awards, World Surf League etc., in which users were kept informed and updated about future events.
Based on the particular need and situation, the bot should have the ability to initiate a tailored conversation with the user.
An efficient bot would have features such as
If the bot gives a standard response with limited phrases, the user may be discouraged from continuing the conversation. An efficient chatbot should have a high range of variable vocabulary and understand familiar user phrases. Chatbots should also be ingested with business/domain specific vocabulary for seamless adoption
Sentiment analysis empowers chatbots with the ability to understand the emotions and mood of the user by analyzing their text or voice input. This helps chatbots to drive the conversation wisely and deliver appropriate responses.
Bots need to be monitored and regulated. They need to be equipped with:
Chatbots can be used at different stages of an employee’s life cycle – right from recruitment and onboarding to engaging the employee and fostering retention, in order to optimize the whole process.
Given the large volume of applications that Human Resources teams tend to receive, keeping all candidates updated in a timely manner is a burdensome task. In all practicality, most HR personnel barely have the time and bandwidth to update rejected applicants especially when they are occupied with sourcing the right ones. Due to this, a majority of the candidates never hear back from their prospective recruiters, lowering the quality of the applicant’s experience.
This creates an opportunity for chatbots to manage and accomplish such repetitive, and time-heavy tasks.
Recruitment chatbots can perform the following functions in the recruitment process:
While these are some of the more specific tasks a chatbot can perform with regards to the recruitment processes, use of recruitment chatbots can also lead to several benefits for the company. The most crucial one being significantly lower costs and time involved in hiring, since a large part of the process will be automated and will lead to higher productivity and efficiency.
Deploying AI-powered chatbots can help in reducing the workload of recruiters. Given the complex current hiring scenarios where simultaneous engagement with several candidates is required, automated chatbots ensure seamless candidate experience. With the help of chatbots, you can:
In a recent survey by Allegis it was noted that:
- 58% of candidates were comfortable interacting with AI and recruitment chatbots in the early stages of the application process.
- About 66% of candidates were comfortable with AI and chatbots taking care of interview scheduling and peripheral activity.
Since on-boarding involves performing several smaller activities in a shorter span, automating the same using chatbots can help streamline the whole process. Some of the crucial chatbot use cases during onboarding can be –
Employee training and development is a key process in the HR lifecycle. It involves providing the employees with specific knowledge and skills to boost their productivity and efficiency.
Chatbots can be used to conduct tests and quizzes to track progress of employees.
Employees often run through the long-cycle of time consuming training sessions and coaching mechanisms. A chatbot that is made available 24×7 allows employees to get trained in an agile mode and round the clock, adding flexibility to their work life. Employees can consume these conversational training modules, in the form of mini-questionnaires and tests.
Training bots also take care of administrative aspects like sending reminders and fixing coach appointments.
By use of chatbots, employees can also track their learning and development goals and remain on par with the company’s goals and objectives.
Effective employee engagement is perhaps the most dynamic application for a HR bot. By providing a seamless employee digital experience, companies can increase employee retention.
Chatbots offer a solution by providing self-service options to employees. Chatbots enable employees to ask natural language questions such as, “How many holiday days have I got left?”, “What are the company policies on applying for time off?” and other FAQs to the chatbot. This helps them get all the information they need right at their fingertips, without having to wait for the HR team to get back on their queries.
Chatbots act as the first line of HR support for your employees and thereby increase your team productivity. This also reduces your cost-per-contact significantly since the bot takes care of all the repetitive, basic and simple issues.
When an employee quits a firm or submits his resignation, there are several HR related formalities that follow.
Since these tasks are part of a time and effort consuming yet pre-fixed, routine process, these can easily be taken up by an AI-powered HR bot. An HR bot can streamline the process by creating forms, all collated in one place, additionally, the process flow can be created such that the subsequent step becomes active only when the step before it is completed. This can help put an end to incomplete documentation and human error.
Apart from the formalities, a bot can offer easy query resolution to do with any key aspect such as leave balance, taxes, benefits, duration of notice period, etc. As for the last step – the exit interview, having an HR bot conduct the same can ensure an honest and unbiased outcome.
Not only will the employees be more candid and honest with a virtual chatbot, but the interview responses can be collated and help analyse retention and other HR challenges in the organisation. Therefore, an HR bot can easily undertake the step-by-step process with minimal supervision and help render off-boarding as an effective and smooth-running process.
Apart from just HR functions, chatbots are capable of resolving first-level IT issues as well. Just like the HR department, the IT helpdesk is often inundated with routine questions. AI chatbots act as the first line of help desk agents by answering all the basic FAQs. As soon as a request is raised, IT chatbots help the user do basic troubleshooting and in most cases fix the issue and thereby reduce the employee downtime.
If the issue isn’t resolved or the user isn’t satisfied with the outcome, bots provide the option to connect with a support agent – thereby leaving the more complex queries to human agents. Employees can stay updated on the progress of their tickets by asking the chatbots natural language questions.
This leads to faster resolution times, improved incident management, improved security, better handling of outages and ensuring that employees are kept informed with steady and timely alerts.
If the issue remains unresolved or the user is not completely satisfied with the outcome, bots offer the option to connect with a support agent – thereby leaving the more complex queries to human associates.
Employees can then stay updated on the progress of their tickets by inquiring with chatbots using natural language questions. This leads to faster resolution times, streamlined incident management, better security, improved handling of issues and ensuring that employees are kept informed with steady and timely outage alerts.
Chatbots can integrate with data warehouses and CRM, BI and LOB Systems to perform tasks such as creating new leads, updating lead status, getting visual reports in multimedia formats, updating CRM records etc.
Chatbots can gather data about potential customers that equips marketers with essential information to design their products and advertising strategies. They can be integrated with various social media channels and used to reach out to customers of various demographics.
Learn More: 4 Ways Marketing Teams Can Use Chatbots
Employees can use the company’s intranet chatbot to perform simple actions such as checking on internal company updates, accessing documents, applying for leaves etc.
Learn More: Chatbots For SharePoint Intranet
Chatbots can be integrated with Power BI, SAP Business Objects, Oracle or any other BI tool, as well as CRM and LOB systems or data warehouses, in order to simplify data consumption.
Learn More: Business Intelligence Bots
Some of the chatbot use cases for banking begin with personalized banking with an aim to improve customer satisfaction and engagement. Banks have enabled their customers to interact with chatbots to clarify banking queries. They can access and ask for account balance, bank statements, transfer funds, create a deposit, saving and investment advice, and so on.
CPG and retail companies are increasingly using chatbots to transform customer experience. Chatbots fix the long product discover journey for a consumer by allowing consumers to access product information and make a purchase on-the-go using mobile devices. They can assist sales personnel by seamlessly integrating with CRM, BI and LOB systems at the background and provide accurate sales data and real-time alerts.
Chatbots in the insurance industry are being used to enhance the customer experience. Top insurance companies including Liberty Mutual Insurance, Lincoln Financial Group and Allstate Business Insurance are using chatbots to handle routine customer questions, address minor insurance related challenges, provide quotes, automate the claim process, and reduce call center costs.
Learn More: Chatbots For Insurance Industry
Legal jargon is a complex language of its own and piles up every day, across multiple document structures. Analyzing these documents and accessing the relevant ones is a time-consuming process for humans. Chatbots reduce the time to analyze with use of artificial intelligence and exponential power to process natural language. With machine learning, chatbots have been trained to be legal advisors for mundane and redundant customer queries.
Learn More: Legal Industry Bots
Chatbots are changing the face of education right from personalizing education, helping people learn new languages, spaced interval learning, student feedback, professor assessment, essay scoring, acquaint students with school culture and for administrative formalities.
Learn More: Chatbots for Educational Institutions
When implementing chatbots in your organization, here are a few factors to consider to plan your implementation better and achieve maximum business value from your chatbots:
According to Orbis Research, the Global Chatbot Market is to grow at a CAGR of 34.75% during the period 2019-2024.
As the chatbot technology continues to mature, the future of bots is becoming interesting. Here are a few important trends to watch for:
As chatbots are increasingly being used to perform a greater range of tasks, they will need back office bots that can quickly find information and complete transactions on behalf of users. Integrating front-office chatbots with legacy systems is achieved with the help of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
There can be times when a chatbot needs to hand off the conversation to a human being to handle issues that are complex. The bot should recognize the situations when it needs to hand off and provide the user with a clear, smooth transition.
One of the simplest and an effective method of initiating a handoff from is provide a user-driven menu. The bot can be programmed to provide the user with a menu of predefined options after every message.
When the chatbot senses that the user is trying to reach for a human assistance, it can simply provide the user with an option of chatting with a human agent. The user can then select the option if the chatbot seems incapable of solving the problem.
Another scenario in which handoff becomes imperative is in the case of escalations. The chatbot should effectively inform the user that the interaction is being transferred so as to address their concerns better. It also should always provide users an option to talk to a live agent.
Learn More: Human Handoff In Service Desk Bots
A ComScore study forecasts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based.
Although in the current scenario text-based chatbots are ruling the roost, the application of voice technology is gaining momentum. Since most people prefer talking as opposed to typing, it is no wonder that organizations are increasingly implementing voice bots for both customers and employees. At the moment, voice bots are a good fit when it comes to handling simple, linear tasks and queries. However, at the rate at which voice technology is evolving, with applications in smart devices such as speakers, TVs, watches etc., voice bots may very well be what the future looks like for AI chatbots.
A large amount of data is captured from chatbots. Data analytics employs new approaches like DataOps to leverage data that is captured through chatbots. This data can be analyzed and integrated with the other sources of internal and external data for better marketing and customer service.
Organizations are significantly utilizing Chatbots to automate their internal business processes, productivity, boost revenue and enhance the customer experience.
Juniper Research forecasts that chatbot conversations will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion per annum by 2022.
The conversational interface of chatbots simplify everyday workflows for employees and eliminates the hassle of switching multiple apps. Chatbots act as a single point of contact to get tasks done and access information. The use cases of chatbots are diverse and emerging across functions and industries. Enterprise leaders should have a powerful bot strategy to make the most of this technology.
BotCore is an enterprise-grade bot builder platform using which enterprises can create, build, train, deploy and manage chatbots for their organization. BotCore is fully deployable on both on-premise and cloud environments.
BotCore is an accelerator that enables you to launch customized, AI-powered conversational bots in your organization. With the help of “Cognitive Abstraction”, it can leverage any AI service available today and will scale for future services.
BotCore today powers chatbots at several large enterprises and Fortune 100 companies.
If you are planning to adopt a chatbot in your organization, Acuvate’s bot workshops like the Build-A-Bot program helps you get a subject matter expert opinion to plan your bot journey.
The workshop helps identify specific use cases within your enterprise and evaluate different technologies. Acuvate provides a 1 day bot strategy workshop within your company premises for both business and IT leaders.