Introduction to Chatbot

A Chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, although as of 2019, they are far short of being able to pass the Turing test. Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler ones scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.

The term “ChatterBot” was originally coined by Michael Mauldin (creator of the first Verbot, Julia) in 1994 to describe these conversational programs. Today, most chatbots are accessed via virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, via messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or WeChat, or via individual organizations’ apps and websites. Chatbots can be classified into usage categories such as conversational commerce (e-commerce via chat), analytics, communication, customer support, design, developer tools, education, entertainment, finance, food, games, health, HR, marketing, news, personal, productivity, shopping, social, sports, travel and utilities.

Beyond chatbots, Conversational AI refers to the use of messaging apps, speech-based assistants and chatbots to automate communication and create personalized customer experiences at scale.

Chatbots are used in a diverse fashion, across all verticals and on many different types of channel, e.g. websites, social messaging, etc. In business their application accelerated rapidly in 2019, leading Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner, to predict that: “By 2020, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have deployed product chatbots.”

Many companies’ chatbots run on messaging apps or simply via SMS. They are used for B2C customer service, sales and marketing.

In 2016, Facebook Messenger allowed developers to place chatbots on their platform. There were 30,000 bots created for Messenger in the first six months, rising to 100,000 by September 2017.

Previous generations of chatbots were present on company websites, e.g. Ask Jenn from Alaska Airlines which debuted in 2008 or Expedia’s virtual customer service agent which launched in 2011. The newer generation of chatbots includes IBM Watson-powered “Rocky”, introduced in February 2017 by the New York City-based e-commerce company Rare Carat to provide information to prospective diamond buyers.

Used by marketers to script sequnces of messages, very similar to an Autoresponder sequence. Such sequences can be triggered by user opt-in or the use of keywords within user interactions. After a trigger occurs a sequnce of messages is delivered until the next anticipated user response. Each user response is used in the decision tree to help the chat bot navigate the response sequnces to deliver the correct response message.

The creation and implementation of chatbots is still a developing area, heavily related to artificial intelligence and machine learning, so the provided solutions, while possessing obvious advantages, have some important limitations in terms of functionalities and use cases. However this is changing over time.

The most common ones are listed below:

  • As the database, used for output generation, is fixed and limited, chatbots can fail while dealing with an unsaved query.
  • Chatbot’s efficiency highly depends on language processing and is limited because of irregularities, such as accents and mistakes that can create an important barrier for international and multi-cultural organisations
  • Chatbots are unable to deal with multiple questions at the same time and so conversation opportunities are limited.
  • As it happens usually with technology-led changes in existing services, some consumers, more often than not from the old generation, are uncomfortable with chatbots due to their limited understanding, making it obvious that their requests are being dealt machines.

The above is a  brief about Chatbot. Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in Technology.

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