The Ultimate Guide to Chatbots in 2018/2019

The Ultimate Guide to Chatbots in 2018/2019

In this ultimate guide, there are many possible definitions about what chatbots are. This is because there are so many various use cases for bots and these influence what people perceive a chatbot to be.

What Is ChatBots

Chatbots represent a great opportunity for businesses to reach customers where they already are, mostly in the messaging apps.

Chatbots allow businesses to deliver services in a highly personalized manner where the message, operations, and human support can be combined in one experience.

Generally speaking, a bot is any software that performs an automated task. Online chatbots save time and efforts by automating customer support.

In one word a chatbot is an online software that can have a conversation with a human. For example, a user could ask the chatbots a question or give it an instruction and the bot could respond or perform an action as appropriate.

Categories of Chatbots

To understand the nature of chatbot conversations it is important to understand that there are three types of chatbots.

Scripted chatbots

These are chatbots whose behaviour is determined by rules. Conversations with this type of chatbot can only follow predetermined paths.

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At each step in the conversation, the user will need to pick from explicit options to determine the next step in the conversation.

How the options are presented to the user at each step in the conversation, i.e. whether they need a text, voice or touch response will depend on the features of the chat platform and how the bot is programmed that the user is on and the design of the bot.

Intelligent Chatbots

Intelligent chatbots are chatbots that are built with artificial intelligence techniques.

Artificial intelligence Chatbots

Artificial intelligence allows them to be more flexible in terms of the user input they can accept.

They can accept free-form input in the form of text or voice statements (but of course they are not limited to other forms of input if that makes sense).

AI also allows them to improve the more that they are used. It should be noted however that although AI works very well in very limited knowledge domains, or for one-off instructions, the actual intelligence of the bot is limited.

It is extremely difficult to get a bot to “understand” context or ambiguity or to have a useful memory that influences the conversation.

Application Chatbots

As mentioned, both scripted and intelligent chatbots can have graphical user interfaces. Application bots is therefore not a separate category of bots.

The fact that the bots can be interacted with using a graphical user interface is an important concept for chatbot developers.

If a user can do the job they need to do more efficiently via a graphical interface then the bot needs to show a graphical interface at that point in the conversation.

Types of Chatbots

Depending on how the specific bots were programmed, we can divide them into two types:

working according to pre-prepared commands (simple chatbot) and trained (smart or advanced chatbot).

Simple Chatbots

Simple chatbots work based on pre-written keywords that they understand. Each of these commands must be written by the developer separately using regular expressions or other forms of string analysis.

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If the user has asked a question without using a single keyword, the robot can not understand it and, as a rule, responds with messages like “sorry, I did not understand”.

Smart Chatbots

Smart chatbots rely on artificial intelligence when they communicate with users. Instead of pre-prepared answers, the robot responds with adequate suggestions on the topic.

In addition, all the words said by the customers are recorded for later processing. However, the state of chatbot points out that artificial intelligence is not magic and is not yet ready to produce marvelous experiences for users on its own. It requires a huge work to build.

Chat developers and designers are the gardeners: they have to tend to the chatbots and coach their growth through continuous, yet gentle, correction. these designers must also beg, coerce, and incent customers to put up with subpar experiences during the process: the learning is really slow.

Which Platforms can Chatbots work

Chatbots work within an online chat platforms such a Facebook Messenger, Slack, etc. Each chat platform has its own features.

These features determine the possible ways in which the chatbot can interact with the user or the group or team, however, the actual behaviour of the chatbot is determined by the bot itself.

For example, an SMS bot can only show text and attach multi-media widgets in some cases.

An email bot has the same limitations. A Facebook Messenger or Telegram Bot can interact with the user using a variety of graphical widgets.

A Facebook Messenger, Kik or Telegram bot can also give the user access to web views, i.e. essentially allowing unlimited flexibility in terms of the user interface that can be offered to the user.

Uses of Chatbots

Chatbots can be used in many different ways. It is actually possible to come up with a chatbot use case for every single business or industry, in the same way that every business or industry can use a website or app.

The following are some examples of chatbot applications out of infinite possibilities:

  • A takeaway restaurant allowing customers to order from a chatbot, either in the store or at home.
  • A sit-down restaurant allowing customers to order food from their table using a chatbot.
  • A retail store offering promotions for customers in the shopping mall via the chatbot.
  • A marketing campaign that asks customers questions or allows them to play a game using a chatbot.
  • A chatbot that helps customers make e-commerce purchases.
  • A chatbot that answers customer services questions and provides help with different tasks.
  • A chatbot that monitors employees or customer’s satisfaction
  • A chatbot that allows customers to book flights and receive relevant information when they are in the airport.

Examples of Chatbots

Buying shoes aren’t the only thing chatbots can be used for.

Here are a couple of other examples:

  • Weather bot: Get the weather whenever you ask.
  • Grocery bot: Help me pick out and order groceries for the week.
  • Newsbot: Ask it to tell you whenever something interesting happens.
  • Life advice bot: I’ll tell it my problems and it helps me think of solutions.
  • Personal finance bot: It helps me manage my money better.
  • Scheduling bot: Get me a meeting with someone on the Messenger team at Facebook.
  • A bot that’s your friend: In China, there is a bot called Xiaoice, built by Microsoft, that over 20 million people talk to.

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How Chatbots Work

There are types of chatbots, one functions based on a set of rules, and the other more advanced version uses machine learning.

What does this mean?

Chatbot that functions based on rules:

This bot is very very limited. It can only respond to very specific commands. If you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t know what you mean. This bot is only as smart as it is programmed to be.

Chatbot that functions using machine learning:

This bot has an artificial brain (AI). You don’t have to be ridiculously specific when you are talking to it. It understands language, not just commands.

This bot continuously gets smarter as it learns from conversations it has with people. Bots have the illusion of simplicity on the front end but there are many hurdles to overcome to create a great experience.

So much work to be done.

Analytics, flow optimization, keeping up with ever-changing platforms that have no standard. For deeper integrations and real commerce like Assist powers, you have error checking, integrations to APIs, routing, and escalation to live human support, understanding NLP, no back buttons, no home button, etc etc.

Bots are created with a purpose. A store will likely want to create a bot that helps you purchase something, where someone like Comcast might create a bot that can answer customer support questions.

Chatbot that functions using User request analysis:

this is the first task that a chatbot performs. It analyzes the user’s request to identify the user intent and to extract relevant entities.

How a Chatbot Works: Example of user request analysis.

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The ability to identify the user’s intent and extract data and relevant entities contained in the user’s request is the first condition and the most relevant step at the core of a chatbot:

If you are not able to correctly understand the user’s request, you won’t be able to provide the correct answer.

Chatbot that functions using Returning response:

once the user’s intent has been identified, the chatbot must provide the most appropriate response for the user’s request.

The answer may be:

  • a generic and predefined text
  • a text retrieved from a knowledge base that contains different answers
  • a contextualized piece of information based on data the user has provided
  • data stored in enterprise systems
  • the result of an action that the chatbot performed by interacting with one or more backend application
  • a disambiguating question that helps the chatbot to correctly understand the user’s request

Why chatbots are important

Chatbot applications streamline interactions between people and services, enhancing customer experience. At the same time, they offer companies new opportunities to improve the customer’s engagement process and operational efficiency by reducing the typical cost of customer service.

To be successful, a chatbot solution should be able to effectively perform both of these tasks.

Human support plays a key role here: Regardless of the kind of approach and the platform, human intervention is crucial in configuring, training and optimizing the chatbot system.

What can chatbots do?

Chatbots can help to:

  • Improve customer service: It is the best option for those who don’t want their customers to:
  • Wait for operator’s answer : “Stay on the line, your call is very important to us” is always annoying, isn’t it?
  • Search for an answer in the FAQ :  as rule users don’t have time for scrolling dozens of pages with instructions.
  • Streamline the shopping process: It only takes to write what you want to the chatbot and the bot will send the information to the sales department.
  • You don’t need to repeat several times: “I need the same, but with metal buttons”. Besides, the chatbot remembers your preferences and uses this information when you return.
  • Personalize communication: A chatbot answers the specific questions of visitors instead of displaying a long list of information. The more attention a customer gets the greater his desire to buy something.
  • Improve a response rate: About 90% of questions sent from Facebook business pages remain unanswered. Chatbot responds to 100% of messages and converts more visitors into buyers.
  • Automate repetitive tasks: Most customers want to get answers to the same questions  eg. When do you work? What is your location? Do you make deliveries? In order not to write the same answers every time, make a chatbot. It reduces your employees’ workload.

How to build a chatbot

If we managed to inspire you to create your own chatbot, here are some tips to help you get started.

There are 4 main stages:

  1. Define the goals: What should your chatbot do? Clearly, indicate the list of functions your chatbot needs to perform.
  2. Choose a channel to interact with your customers: Be where your clients prefer to communicate   your website, mobile app, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or other messaging platforms.
  3. Choose the way of creation: There are two of them: using readymade chatbot software or building a custom bot from scratch.
  4. Create, customize and launch: Describe the algorithm of its actions, develop a database of answers and test the work of the chatbot. Double check everything before showing your creation to potential customers.

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Forms of Building Chatbots

There are 2 approaches to building chatbots:

How To Build a Chatbot From Scratch

If you are not a programmer yourself, you will need to hire a software development or company to build a chatbot from scratch for you, because it requires work with code, manual integration with messengers and customization.

Among the advantages of this approach are:

  • full compliance with your needs,
  • control over data the bot receives,
  • the possibility to make corrections easily,
  • best for customer-facing chatbots.

This method may require significant financial and time investments.

Using chatbot builder platforms

You can create a chatbot with the help of services providing all the necessary features and integrations. It can be a good choice for an in-house chatbot serving your team.

This option is associated with some disadvantages, including the limited configuration and the dependence on the service.

Some popular platforms for building chatbots are:

  • Motion.ai
  • Converse.ai
  • QnA Maker
  • Octane AI
  • IBM Watson
  • Botsify
  • Chatfuel
  • Pandorabots
  • Microsoft Bot Framework
  • Wit.ai
  • Semantic Machines
  • Pypestream
  • FlowXO
  • Engati
  • Beep Boop,
  • ChattyPeople,
  • Botsify,
  • Smooch.io

The challenge in creating chatbots

The main challenge is in teaching a chatbot to understand the language of your customers.

In every business, customers express themselves differently and each group of a target audience speaks its own way.

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The language is influenced by advertising campaigns on the market, the political situation in the country, releases of new services and products from Google, Apple and Pepsi among others.

The way people speak depends on their city, mood, weather and moon phase. An important role in the communication of the business with customers may have the release of the film Star Wars, for example.

That’s why training a chatbot to understand correctly everything the user types requires a lot of efforts.

How To Meet People Interested In Chatbots

Chatbots have been around for decades, but because of the recent advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is a big opportunity for people to create bots that are better, faster, and stronger.

If you’re reading this, you probably fall into one of these categories:

  • You want to learn how to build a chatbot.
  • You are currently building a chatbot or you have already built one.
  • You want to build a chatbot but you need someone else to help you.
  • You are researching chatbots to see if you and your team should build one.
  • You are an investor potentially interested in investing in chatbot startups.

How Chatbots Can Improve Your Business

As a business owner Chatbots can take some work off your shoulders and make your operation more efficient while also saving time. Chatbot can substitute for humans thereby saving money that should have been used to hire employees.

Chatbots can also be integrated into popular messengers like the facebook messenger where users can easily find you online.

What to do After Reading On the ultimate guide to chatbots in 2018/2019

Many business owners are just beginning to understand what benefits chatbots can bring to their businesses. This chatbot technology is still in an early stage, its capabilities continue increasing and the best online chatbots have yet to be created.

Invest in building a chatbot for your business and be at the forefront of innovation!

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About the Author: Afolabi Achiever

Software Engineer and WordPress, Blogging and SEO Expert https://dtechi.com