Alexa from Amazon, Siri on the iPhone or Cortana in Windows: virtual assistants that make our daily lives easier are on the increase. Chatbots are not only used in the private sector, but also for customer communication, e.g., in call centers. Find out what chatbots are, what they mean for companies and what customers think of them in our two articles. Part 1 is a brief introduction to this topic.
Have you ever used a chatbot? Whether on a website, smartphone or in a company, chatbots are gaining in popularity and offer numerous benefits, especially for companies. They save personnel resources and boost productivity or, as internal chatbots, improve the information flow, increase efficiency in many departments and raise the level of employee satisfaction.
Chatbots are virtual assistants that help with communication tasks. They “communicate” with people, i.e., they can also talk to your customers for you. They are software, e.g., used as a cloud service and in online shops, travel portals and support forums. In a website dialog window, they help with customer queries. They provide further assistance and establish contact to employees if they cannot answer a question from a predefined set of answers.
Good chatbots are capable of learning because they are artificial intelligence (AI)-based. These robots learn by replicating natural language patterns, i.e., they directly understand how humans speak via voice input and it is therefore hard to distinguish between the two.
Chatbots with artificial intelligence: AI-based bots
AI-based bots are able to learn independently. Initially, they are fed with data and then constantly expand their vocabulary via voice input using Natural Language Processing (NLP), natural human language. They do not search for keywords, but only analyze the context.
AI-based bots are very different:
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Chatbot hybrid: chatbots in robots
Serving guests in restaurant, assisting visitors, communicating with people with disabilities — building chatbots into humanoid robots results in a chatbot hybrid for meaningful human interactions. These are already real options that can also be used for customer communication or supporting employees.
For companionship and businesses, the increasing use of chatbots will have a real impact. On the one hand, they influence the workplace and, on the other hand, communication as well as points of contact and interfaces, where humans enter into a man-machine dialog. Today, chatbots are already widely integrated and accepted; the initial hype is a thing of the past.
The question you should ask yourself is whether AI-based software will replace human employees? According to a study of Oracle und Coleman Parkes conducted in 2016, 80% of 800 marketing and sales managers surveyed already deploy chatbots for customer support or are planning to introduce them by 2020. Jobs that are lost in the process will be created elsewhere, e.g., for further development of these chatbots.
Wherever communication is concerned, chatbots are deployed. In particular for online shops or website support as well as customer dialog in call centers, they are used to establish contact with companies. But also as mobile service apps and social bots on Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp, they already help with numerous communication tasks. Whether banks, political parties or hotels — chatbots can be found almost everywhere.
A study conducted by Grand View Research published in 2017 showed: For 45% of end users, a chatbot is the first choice of communication, and the global chatbot market could grow to an estimated volume of 1.25 billion US dollars by 2025.
Because chatbots are able to better understand and mimic human language more and more, they can communicate more realistically. This creates trust and acceptance — which warrants their use as a communication channel for companies.
The learning capability of chatbots enables them to take intelligent decisions, even during communication. For this purpose, voice data must be processed in real-time and combined and analyzed with the information available. In future, successful deployment will require a broad database. This data will be subject to the stringent rules of the EU General Data Protection Regulation — and for companies this means having to ensure that this data is GDPR-compliant.
Falling prices also make chatbots interesting for smaller companies. SMEs and online retailers are taking a critical look at the possible applications of chatbots. For successful implementation, preconfigured solutions are available for various sectors of industry and relevant consultants.
Find out in part 2 how chatbots can be used in call centers, the opportunities they offer and their limits. Also read our article “Chatbots in call centers — Part 2”!