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Tech Explained: Chatbots

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A number of developments have made it easy for almost any business to develop its own chatbots. Find out more about one of the fastest growing tech in our latest Tech Explained.

If you have recently messaged a large or even medium-sized company, you have probably communicated with a chatbot. A chatbot is an application that uses artificial intelligence technology and natural language processing to have conversations. Where businesses previously used call centres to answer customer questions, many are now employing chatbots. Platforms like Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa are all types of chatbots. The user types or asks a question, and the chatbot responds with the right information. Chatbots can learn from their previous ‘conversations’ in order to personalize the interactions. They can also sift through huge amounts of data very quickly to pick out the best solution or advice for a customer.

The rise in chatbot use for everyday business and consumer transactions was made possible by three developments. The first were advancements in artificial intelligence, which made it possible to create chatbots that were much more effective at responding to customer queries. Because AI-enabled chatbots can also learn as they chat, they can adapt their answers to deliver more tailored assistance. At Springwise, we have seen chatbots as varied as recording workplace harassment and fighting parking tickets. Chatbots are even being used to provide financial advice. Erica, a new bot from Bank of America, is designed to help bank customers make payments, check balances and FICO scores, and make financial decisions.

The development of AI-enabled chatbots was followed by the creation of enterprise chatbot platforms. These platforms allow almost anyone to easily create a chatbot. They work in a similar way to website-building platforms like WordPress, and do not require any coding knowledge. Enterprise chatbot platforms also allow users to easily monitor the bots, and to create bots that have specific personas or that are primed with specific office jargon.

The third change was the rise in the use of instant messaging. The number of messaging apps have developed, along with the amount of time users spend messaging. Messaging is less intrusive than calling, and less prone to spam than emails. Many consumers now prefer messaging as their primary form of making customer service requests and of interacting with businesses.

As a result of these developments, businesses are increasingly turning to chatbots to handle a variety of tasks. In addition to their communications and marketing uses, chatbots are increasingly being created for in-house communications. They can be adapted for use as intelligent digital assistants for employees and to assist with project management functions. They can also be used to automate internal tasks, such as performing routine administrative jobs or regular business processes.

We are seeing chatbots developed for new uses all the time, limited only by imagination and the availability of data. As enterprise platforms develop more features and become even easier to use, chatbots may well become an everyday part of almost every business.