Chatbots are user interfaces that mimic messaging systems, where any user can perform a series of tasks by directly talking to a bot. This technology is relatively new, but since 2016, more and more companies are showing interest after learning about the possibilities of chatbots.
An example that is currently functional: the website 1-800-Flowers allows you to ask for flowers by directly by messaging a bot, who will answer your inquiries and finish the request by itself - meaning that when implemented correctly, chatbots negate the need for employees doing that very thing.
The major advantages of chatbots
Reaching a wider audience - having chatbots talk to your clients for you and have them solve most basic inquiries by themselves means two things: 1) you wouldn’t need a human doing that, and 2) you could handle millions of customers simultaneously without having to increase the number of employees.
Mobile support - chatbots are often built with mobile support as a basic feature, meaning you could engage with one on your smartphone as easily as on a desktop computer and have the same results. Since mobile devices are king for accessibility and productivity, chatbots are ready to work along with them.
Imagine instead of entering a specific website to order something, you can open Facebook Messenger and ask for it right there.
Familiarity - A great number of people still prefer making a phone call for the familiarity of talking to a human being. Chatbots are built to mimic human interaction to the tiniest details, which greatly improves their acceptance.
Cheap maintenance - making your own chatbot is very accessible, even if you don’t know anything about programming or AI. Furthermore, chatbots never take sick days, meaning customers will have a direct line of contact with your company 24/7.
The major disadvantages of chatbots
Limited knowledge - chatbots are only as good as they’re programmed to be, meaning they can reply to pretty much anything as long as it’s inside their programmed knowledge. However, they can’t confidently identify subtleties of human interaction, especially via text (eg. is the customer satisfied, is the customer angry, etc.).
Chatbots can have either be based on rules, making them limited to simple functions, or have machine learning, meaning they will learn to understand more complex sentences and requests by “learning” from other conversations. Obviously, this can either be good or bad (eg. if not programmed correctly, a chatbot could learn to curse by machine learning).
Little improvement on existing tech - you can already order pizzas, flowers or cabs with your phone with the help of a simple app, and it usually takes less than a minute. Chatbots aren’t promising to make that faster or cheaper, in fact, on a best case scenario, it’s roughly the same result both ways.
Bugs - what if you tell a chatbot to buy a vase of flowers on Amazon and it orders a doll house? Something similar has happened with Amazon’s voiced assistant, Alexa, when it ordered a $170 doll house and four pounds of sugar candy after a child spoke to it.
The Amazon Echo uses a word to wake up, so when the local news was reporting the doll house incident and repeat the wake up word and the requested order, some of Amazon’s smart hubs in other residences within earshot of the TV made the exact same mistake.
Try out some chatbots
You can try out a lot of chatbots for free right now and see how they work.
CNN News Bot - it stays in your Facebook Messenger just like any other contact, but you can ask it for interesting news or tell it to let you know when something of your interest happens.
Hi Poncho Weather Bot - connects to Facebook Messenger to keep you updated on the weather forecast. You can also actively ask about weather forecast changes or in different locations.
Record Bird Bot - stay up to date with new music releases.
Swell Bot - a bot to help people make decisions. You can set an A or B quiz and get answers, or help other by answering to their quizzes.
Find more free bots for Messenger, Skype, Twitter, and much more on Botlist.co.
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