From the following text you will learn about:
- History of chatbots
- Business chatbots applications
- Chatbots benefits
- Chatbots cost
Recent months have brought more and more press reports about one or another company launching a chatbot on its website. We also hear that another investment fund has invested in a company specializing in technologies based on artificial intelligence. What does this have to do with marketing? A lot, because it heralds the beginning of a new era in marketing communication. A new channel of contact with customers is being created. It is effective, innovative, attractive and relatively cheap. What are we talking about? Chatbots.
Chatbots… also known as chatbots, virtual advisors, or lingubots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence methods and techniques to communicate with users in natural language. These systems are placed on the Internet websites or instant messengers. Their task is to provide customers with information about products and services offered, the specifics of the company’s activity or e.g., trade conditions. They often perform entertainment (e.g., in games) or advisory functions (e.g., virtual credit counselor or doctor).
Chatbots can talk about almost any topic and equipping them with a knowledge base characteristic of a given company or institution turns it into an authentic Virtual Advisor acting as a salesman, promoter, service technician or customer service employee.
Chatbot – History
The prototype of all chatbots was ELIZA, created by Joseph Weizenbaum back in the 1960s. ELIZA pretended to be a psychotherapist and carried out a simple dialogue with the user. The mechanism of ELIZA was extremely simple and had little to do with artificial intelligence using some grammatical rules of the English language. ELIZA had practically no knowledge of its own, and its statements and questions were based on the processing of the user’s speech (paraphrasing). We must admit, however, that despite the simplicity of the solution, she managed to confuse many interlocutors not realizing that they are talking to a computer …
In the 1980s – 1990s, chatbot technology developed rapidly. Today’s chatbots have gigantic knowledge bases, are able to associate certain information and learn based on the user’s statements. In case of expertise, in 6 out of 10 cases they pass the so-called Turing test, which is a universal test for machine intelligence developed by Alfred Turing more than 50 years ago.
What’s more, the latest solutions of this type are able to connect unrelated facts together through deduction. This is already a substitute for the real thinking we deal with in the human brain.
How to use the chatbot in your business
How to use this technology in your company? The use of a chatbot depends entirely on our invention. It can be equipped with virtually any knowledge, hence it can become e.g., a virtual company spokesperson, salesman, service or technical support employee, a virtual teacher (e.g. in e-learning systems), a virtual character in computer games or a virtual jury member in a competition, a virtual advisor (doctor, lawyer, consultant, tax advisor, etc.) or simply a navigator on the company website. The possibilities are practically endless. You just need to use your creativity.
Benefits of implementing the chatbot
The implementation of the chatbot provides many benefits such as:
- reducing customer service costs by relieving call centers and traditional communication channels,
- increased customer satisfaction through immediate responses to customer inquiries at a lower cost of service,
- faster training of employees (virtual teacher),
- the possibility of creating an enterprise knowledge management system,
- avoiding the effect of a “cowardly customer” afraid to call the helpline after accessing the website,
- increased satisfaction through better customer service (24 X 7), without emotions, sickness, vacations, need for training, “bad days”, employee burnout effect (especially in call centers),
- better image in the eyes of customers thanks to creating the image of an innovative company
- greater business stability – increased inbound traffic does not affect the “performance” of the Call Center.
Chatbots – popularity
Even 10 years ago the number of commercially operating chatbots in the world according to the website www.chatbots.com did not exceed one thousand. Today, according to various sources, these numbers range from several thousand to even several hundred thousand. We can also clearly see an increase in market activity of both potential customers for this type of technology and the producers of these solutions themselves and we can safely expect that next year there will be at least a doubling of the number of implementations. More and more serious companies (banks, telecommunication companies, health care companies, etc.) are investing in this channel of communication with customers – this may cause a snowball effect and in a few years these solutions may be very popular.
Chatbots – price
Of course, an important factor limiting the demand for chatbots is the price of their implementation. While there are many platforms available on the market that allow you to create a chatbot yourself for just a few tens of dollars per month, the main factor affecting the price is the cost of preparing the knowledge base, implementing it, and testing the chatbot itself. These costs can vary widely and start at a few thousand dollars and often reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Chatbot – what’s next?
However, what in our opinion is the most important factor which may influence the almost geometric growth of the number of implementations is the increasingly better quality of the speech recognition technology (ASR – Automatic Speech Recognition). There is no denying, however, that chatbots using ASR, available on the company’s hotline or call center will completely revolutionize (and automate) the organization’s communication with its customers. Traditional call centers will disappear and certainly a part of Customer Service Departments’ positions. A gigantic market of outsourcing such services will certainly appear. It is easy to imagine the process of teaching Virtual Agents by executing Copy/Paste command several times with appropriate pieces of knowledge base to make the system ready to work.
But this is the future, although not as distant as we might think. For now, however, we should remember that chatbots do not match the knowledge and intelligence of humans and they can often be easily “fooled”, but with each day their knowledge and skills grow. It is only a matter of time when we will not be able to distinguish a conversation with a machine from a conversation with a human.