The Rise of AI Chatbots: How They’re Redefining Human Interaction

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Posted by Adam Croxen on 04 Sep, 2019

Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular in the consumer market, causing them to evolve into more sophisticated machines as we continue to fine-tune their uses and abilities.

Simply speaking, a chatbot is a virtual assistant you can engage in conversation with for a variety of reasons. A chatbot usually has a purpose, such as providing customer service and solving problems for users.

What makes a chatbot tick is down to machine learning. Computers now have the ability to better match and digest natural language, and take actions based on this. This is what allows us to be able to interact with a bot through a chat interface, such as messaging or voice, and have it converse back to us about services ranging from the difficult to the entertaining.

Chatbot examples include weatherbots that predict the weather and even a Lidl winebot, which gives tips on the type of wine to buy. These bots are typically found in popular chat platforms, like Facebook Messenger and Slack. So, what is all the fuss about?

The Increasing Popularity of Chatbots

Recent surveys have shown that human interaction with chatbots is now greater than with social media apps. Peter Rojas, partner at startup studio Betaworks, stated

“People are now spending more time in messaging apps than in social media and that is a huge turning point”.

Although chatbots have been around for a while, since the 1980s to be exact, it wasn’t until the first wave of AI chatbots in 2016 that saw them start to make waves. Facebook introduced unique chatbot functions inside Messenger, allowing developers to create bots for their brand.

Consumers could carry out tasks through chatbots, while talking to friends at the same time. The intention was for chatbots to carry the same easy and hassle-free experience that users would get from chatting with friends, except they were conversing with businesses.

This has seen the humble bot on its way to becoming a rising staple in almost every business. A MyCustomer report stated that 80% of UK businesses will have a chatbot solution in place by 2020.

Bot Benefits

The two biggest benefits of having a chatbot is that it provides 24/7 customer service to your clients, and that it saves costs for businesses.

Benefits for Clients

  • 24/7 Support: Bots don’t operate in the same work hours as humans, which means they can be around to help when humans can’t.
  • Instant answers: Because bots are always “on” and are wired to send specific responses prompted by questions asked by users, it means their answers are instant.
  • Endless patience: Bots won’t get frustrated or take criticism personally, like humans are predisposed to do.

Benefits for Businesses

  • Cost-savings: Companies can save a significant amount in spend on customer service calls each year.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: With instantaneous answers and helpful suggestions, bots tend to provide great customer service.
  • Increased sales conversions: Bots can be programmed to upsell or make relevant product suggestions. Because they are engaging in a conversation, it feels more natural for a user to buy a product that seems like a genuine suggestion, rather than a sell.

Personality Matters

The style, tone, and attitude of your chatbot is just as important as the information it provides. Injecting personality in your bot is what creates a great user experience. A great user experience is the secret behind creating and retaining more customers.

The technicalities of building a bot is one thing, however, creating its personality is almost the trickier aspect. You have to put all your effort into creating a character that accurately represents your brand but that also answers customer’s queries in an informational way. It’s a balancing act between being helpful and informative, but also having charm and personality behind the bot.

The most important thing is to put yourself in your users’ shoes first. Get your company involved to cover all the bases of what a user may ask, and make sure your chatbot is well prepared to answer these queries.

Then inject some personality, as long as it’s on brand with your tone of voice. People should recognise they’re talking with a bot, but the conversation should be natural enough for them to reply as if they are talking with a human. You could consider adding emojis and gifs to your bot’s responses, or simply stick to conversational language – as long as it’s not sounding too much like R2D2.

Examples of Hard-Working Chatbots

There are many different types of chatbots you can build, depending on your business or your intentions. If you’re unclear about what might work best for your business, here are some good chatbot examples for inspiration:

Woebot

Woebot
Woebot chatbot picture credit: Molly Vierhile

Bots don’t necessarily always need to be there for purchasing or customer service reasons. Woebot, developed by Stanford University psychologist Alison Darcy, is a friendly cartoon robot that helps reduce symptoms of depression through active listening, positivity, and fun GIFs. The fact that a bot can be on hand 24/7 works particularly well in this instance. Those who need guidance don’t need to wait until working hours to talk to someone – they can simply access the app.

Hipmunk

Hipmunk Chatbot
Hipmunk chatbot picture credit: Onix

Travel search engine, Hipmunk, has embraced bot technology by integrating an AI-powered assistant to give travellers advice for their trip. The bot, called Hello Hipmunk, includes support for Facebook Messenger and Slack. Rather than just providing flight or accommodation options, the bot answers questions that happen earlier in the planning process. The virtual travel assistant provides information such as when the best time is to travel from one place to another.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods Chatbot
Whole Foods chatbot picture credit: Engadget

Whole Foods joined the chatbot revolution, but added its own twist. The Facebook Messenger bot serves up recipes with instructions that are based on the user’s responses, and then it will sell you the ingredients. This personalised experience provides users with a wide range of meals they can enjoy, as well as nutritional values and step-by-step instructions. Not only that, but the bot caters to audiences of all ages by understanding emoji responses.

Ready to Build Your Bot?

By now, you should have a clear understanding of chatbots and, hopefully, in which direction you wish to take your bot.

For further help, we have developed a free health check to assess your business chatbot needs. Book your free consultation with the team today and get started.

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