What are Chatbots? Everything You Need to Know

Chatbots are what you see when you use Siri, Alexa or Google Home. They’re what you get when you go to a website and chat with the search engine. Chatbots can also be what your friends or family use to talk to each other on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Chatbot technology has become increasingly popular in recent years largely due to extensive advancements in machine learning and natural language processing which make them more human-like than ever before.

This article will answer all of your questions about chatbot technology including what they are, how they work, what types of chatbots there are, some examples of businesses that use chatbots as well as why every business should have a chatbot!

What is a Chatbot?

Chatbots, or intelligent virtual agents, are simply the next step in what is known as automated customer service where people can communicate with a machine to get what they need without having to go through what are often frustrating and complicated automated phone systems.

The word chatbot is a blend of two words: chat and robot. A chatbot is what you see when someone types something into a text box on your website or in an app and it responds back to them via text message.

A robot by definition goes beyond being able to just carry out simple tasks through speech recognition which many traditional bots do not have the ability to do. Some chatbots can actually pass what is known as a “Turing test” which means the human on the other end of the conversation cannot truly tell whether they are talking to another person or not.

What do chatbots do?

The simplest definition for what chatbots do would be that it’s software programmed to conduct an online chat conversation via text. The most common example of what this looks like is what you see when you use Siri on your iPhone or ask Google Assistant a question such as “What time does the library close?”

Chatbots can also be used to automate tasks that would normally require human input with some utilizing natural language processing and machine learning technology which allows them to actually learn what questions they are being asked and what the answers should be.

Chatbots can also be used for customer service purposes where instead of having a human on hand 24/ seven, companies have chatbots respond whenever someone asks them a question via text message or any other messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger. This is what happens when you click on the “Contact Us” page from a business’ website only to be greeted with what looks like an email form.

Chatbot technology can also help businesses retain customers by automating personalized customer service which makes it more likely that they will come back and make another purchase in the future. Chatbots are what companies use when you ask what time they close and what their holiday hours are.

Another way that chatbots can be used is to automate marketing campaigns through sending personalized push notifications in apps or via text message according to the user’s preferences. This makes it more likely for users to engage with the company which will ultimately lead them back into a business’ website where hopefully they will make a purchase.

What are the types of chatbots?

There are three main types of chatbot: customer service bots; sales and marketing bots; enterprise/ tools specific bots.

  • Customer Service Bots

Customer service bots are what you see in the example above when a company uses chatbots for customer service purposes.

  • Sales and Marketing Bots

Sales and marketing bots, as what their name implies, are what companies use to automate sales conversations with potential customers through text messages or push notifications sent via apps. This is how businesses can advertise what they are currently running a sale on without the use of what is known as “dark posts” which requires them to maintain more than one Facebook page due to what can only be described as an advertising loophole in how it works.

  • Enterprise Bots

Enterprise bots target enterprise-level companies and implement chatbots into their CRM (customer relationship management) systems. This makes it easier for companies to automate what would normally require human input as well as make it more likely that they will be able to respond in a timely fashion which is what businesses want from their customers when asking questions and seeking help.

How do chatbots work?

Chatbots are made possible thanks to what is known as natural language processing and machine learning technology.

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Natural language processing refers to what happens when a chatbot has the ability to recognize what someone says, understand what they mean by it, and then give them what they want through text or speech recognition which requires less user input than some forms of automation.

  • Machine Learning

Machine learning refers to what happens when a chatbot has the ability of self-learning and understanding what questions it is being asked, what an acceptable answer would be, what words have been used in order to ask said question, what kind of tone was used (i.e. were they rude or polite?), etc. It is what makes chatbots seem more human-like as opposed to automated phone systems that ask you what kind of account you want to be transferred over to.

What are some examples of businesses that use chatbots?

There are a number of companies who have implemented chatbot technology into their business with varying degrees of success and usefulness.

  • Facebook Messenger

Facebook released what they call “M” which is what most people refer to as a chatbot. M was created and first implemented into Facebook Messenger in order for users to be able to communicate with companies through what looks like an automated messaging system on the business’ end. M can schedule appointments, answer questions about products or services offered by the business, and even give users what they want through a variety of options.

  • Amazon Echo/Alexa Voice Services (AVS)

Amazon has released what is known as the Amazon Echo which features Alexa voice services that allows you to use your voice to ask questions about what kind of music you would like played or what time it is.

  • Instacart

For those of you who are familiar with what Instacart does, then you know what a chatbot can do for them in terms of customer service. They use what is known as a “customer conversation to order” which makes it easier for people to shop on their website or app without having to go through what used to be a rather difficult process of adding items to your cart in order for them to get delivered.

What are some chatbot platforms?

There are a number of chatbot platforms that developers can use when they want to create what is known as an automated assistant or what some call “a bot.”

  • IBM Watson Assistant

Watson Assistant by IBM allows for voice and text input in order to find what you need. It also has the ability to learn what kind of things you like so that it can better provide what you are looking for.

  • Microsoft Bot Framework

The Microsoft bot framework allows developers to use what is known as cards which they know from the popular app, Kik messenger. They also allow for what is called conversation view in order to make chatbots seem more human-like and less automated than what some might think of what chatbots are.

  • Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce is what happens when you use what is known as a “conversation to buy.” It is what allows companies such as Amazon, Facebook Messenger, and other businesses that provide customer support the ability to ask users what it was they were looking for in what appears to be a chat format.

  • API.AI, Dialogflow, and Lex

These are what developers call “platforms” that allow them to make what is known as an intelligent virtual agent or what some refer to as a “chatbot.” The difference between the three being that API.AI has been around longer and has what some consider to be the best user interface. Dialogflow is what Google provides as their answer to what IBM Watson Assistant offers in terms of a chatbot platform while Lex is what Amazon uses for Alexa voice services which was mentioned earlier.

What is the future of chatbot technology?

The future of what chatbot technology looks like largely depends on what kind of advances we see in artificial intelligence (AI) and what businesses decide to do with what is now becoming a more powerful tool. For example, if you are familiar with the popular app Kik Messenger then that’s an example of what some might call “conversational commerce” which is what happens when you use what are called “conversation to buy” options.

Some other examples of conversational commerce that have been around for a while include what Amazon’s Alexa can do in terms of what we know as “Alexa voice services,” and what Facebook Messenger has done with what people refer to as the “Facebook bots.”

In terms of what the future holds, experts believe that what we will see is what’s known as “conversational intelligence” which means basically what it sounds like. That more and more chatbots will be able to understand us and what we mean in a natural way rather than an automated one.

Hot new business ideas can include installing and managing chatbot funnels

If you’re looking for hot new business ideas, you might want to consider what’s known as chatbot funnels. Or maybe you want to try something else.

Read this article from I Buy Review if you’re interested in discovering other hot business ideas. It takes you through a list of business ideas for people thinking about become an online entrepreneur.