Sep

Artificial Intelligence of Chatbots: What Do You Need to Know.

                                                 

While Chatbots have been around for a little while now, their presence is more noticeable thanks to Facebook and Microsoft’s recent advancements.

Initially customers complained about the robot-like experience and the limited functionality of first generation bots and rarely found them useful. The customers were skeptical about how valuable in practice chatbots actually are, which has left recent AI vendors like nmodes with the task to combat the leftover stigma from the poor customer experiences and shortcomings of these initial offerings.

Chatbots, like an IVR?

We’re all used to calling into a contact center and punching numbers into a menu to be routed to the correct agent or service to address our needs. Interactive Voice Response solutions (IVRs) drive this interaction and are basically If/then routing trees that “listen” to the digit entered and “transfer” the user to the appropriate next step. While tremendous advancements in technology have brought voice recognition capabilities, those first generation IVRs were all about automated actions based on prompts.  Enter your account number, press 1 to speak to an agent, etc…

The first generation Chatbots are just like an IVR. They can respond to prompts to progress through a predetermined process or display some canned information like pricing, a contact number, route to an agent, etc., but that was about the extent of it. Still 1stgeneration Chatbots came with 4thgeneration expectations. While these basic functions have tremendous value to a business, the customer expectation is very different when dealing with a phone call vs. a chat session. Consumers have experienced IVR routing for decades whereas chat is still relatively new and is perceived as a conversation with a person, rather than interacting with a machine. Add on the fact that many vendors and consumers mislabeled Chatbots as Artificial Intelligence in the beginning and the expectation of a dynamic, responsive customer experience is even greater.

So it’s no surprise that customers were less than impressed with “Artificial Intelligence” that could only display simple answers and basic information. We were expecting Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey or KIT from Knight Rider, and we got a pixelated PONG instead.

Let’s talk…

Now, Artificial Intelligence has evolved to be integrated into Chatbots to deliver a more powerful user experience.  While these new versions of Chatbots coming out are powered by Artificial Intelligence, AI powered chat also exists independent of bots in some instances. Confusing? Yeah, I was too.

The beauty behind true Artificial Intelligence is its ability to recognize the context of a conversation and respond with relevant, contextual information dynamically. A customer can now “speak” to technology the same way they would hold a conversation and the AI has the ability to “read” the customer’s intent to provide information quickly and efficiently. No more are you limited to a set of canned responses. The AI can reach in to a wider array of relevant information to craft unique responses based on any number of criteria. While in most cases AI is still limited to a few topics per use case, the technology is growing quickly, making almost daily improvements in functionality and customer experience.

What is even cooler is that the longer the AI is deployed, the more it “learns” and improves the speed and quality of responses. So while the scope of AI interactions is limited at first, the maturity curve is quick, delivering an ever-improving customer experience without having to invest in additional people, processes, or technology. It really is like a “growing up” of technology, right before your eyes. 

Interested in reading more? Check out our other blogs:

AI unmasked: How a chatbot is different from a voice bot




The main difference is in the linguistic complexity. 

People express themselves differently when they speak compared to when they type. When we speak we use more sentences and we make our sentences longer. 

As a result a voice bot needs to have better AI compared to a chatbot, in order to handle a conversation and deliver the same customer experience. 


If your business model allows it, is better to start with a chatbot and add a voice bot on top of it.

This way you can gradually increase the complexity of your AI without compromising on your customer experience. 

 
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HOW TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL CHATBOT (BUSINESS TIPS)


So you decided that your business needs a chatbot.

And you’ve probably heard conflicting opinions on chatbots - some praise them for the ease with which they can offer customer service, others criticize for their lack of true intelligence.

How to proceed?

At nmodes, we have been working on chatbots longer than most, starting long before they became popular.

Here is how we advise mainstream businesses to approach the chatbot quandary.




1. SET YOUR BUSINESS GOALS  

Remember that users prefer to spend less time talking to your chatbot, not more. A user wants to resolve specific issues related to your brand, not engage in a soul searching chit chat about the meaning of life, politics or sports. A user expects your chatbot to provide the answer to a particular question, and the faster the chatbot can do it the more satisfying customer experience it will create.  

All that means is that your chatbot does not need to have the capabilities of a Siri (generic conversational AI solution). Instead, it has to understand really well the conversational domains related to your business. It does not need to support much of the rest of the language.

And so you need to decide which business related topics you want your chatbot to cover and not to venture outside of these topics.

Typically chatbot topics revolve around sales process, customer support, sometimes they include lead generation, FAQs, problem resolution, and reputation management.


2. DEFINE THE DIALOGS

Chatbots are about conversations. After you have decided what kind of topics you want your chatbot to support it is time to get a bit more specific and define the dialogs. Ask yourself the following question: what do you want to achieve at the end of the chatbot’s interaction with the customer. For example, if you are dealing with the sales process, the end result could be a customer making a purchase, or a customer providing contact information for the sales team to follow up on, or  when a customer indicates what product he or she is interested in.

Build a dialog with the end result in mind.

We sometimes call this creating the conversation flow.

Of course, you can create as many conversation flows as required to support your business model.



3. DECIDE IF YOU NEED AI  

The are two types of chatbots - based on multiple choice buttons and based on natural language conversations.

Don’t discard buttons. Remember that a chabot is expected to make the user experience as enjoyable and as friendly as possible. Buttons often make conversation super easy and fun (the user simply clicks a button, what can be easier?).  In many business cases buttons provide a fast and efficient way to ask relevant questions and keep the conversation flowing towards the desired conclusion.

Using buttons also makes chatbot development simpler and reduces the development costs.

The second option is to make a chatbot support natural language conversations, in which case you will need AI.

Pick the AI solution you want to work with.

The good news is that there are several decent products in the market so you have a choice.

The not so good news is that they all are relatively complicated and require a certain level of technical knowledge.

(And you can always talk to us - we provide AI solutions that do not require any technical knowledge).



4. DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO DEVELOP YOUR CHATBOT IN HOUSE OR OUTSOURCE

Unless you want to position your business as an AI company you likely do not want to develop it on your own. There are several reasons for that.

First, AI technology is complex and its complexity if often underestimated. You will need top AI expertise and will probably need more of it than you anticipate.

Second, as Cameron Schuler recently observed, there is a significant shortage of AI experts and it will be difficult for you to find one.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, if you are a mainstream business developing in-house AI expertise is not part of your business model.

Bringing in an AI partner to help with your AI needs is a reasonable option for many businesses. Of course, the downside is additional immediate costs.  



Following the simple steps above and answering these questions will help you navigate the sophisticated world of AI, decide what kind of chatbot does your business require and how to approach the process of creating it.

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