Chatbots! This word looks right out of a sci-fi movie, but infact is fast becoming a norm in the tech field. If we talk about a technology that is speculated to reshape the tech industry in the near future, then Chatbots clearly fill that place. There has been a lot of news on Chatbots recently with technology evangelists calling it the future of conversational commerce.
What is a Chatbot?
If you have been out of sync with the tech world or have not gone online for some time, then probably you might not have heard about Chatbots. In fact, everybody including tech experts, entrepreneurs look at Chatbots these days as a big opportunity for online businesses and brands (I too heard of it through an entrepreneur friend).
So what really is a Chatbot?
If you thought that Chatbot is a chatting robot, then you are correct to a certain extent.
A Chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes even artificial intelligence, which you interact with via a chat service. Already there are many platforms where such service is active (Facebook messenger, Slack, Telegram, Skype, etc.)
An interesting thing to notice is that most of these platforms cater to messaging service. This is what makes it highly affective. Chatbots are driving conversational commerce.
Let us peek into an example to understand its real world application.
Say you are going to Dubai and want to stay at a hotel. You launch a Hyatt Chatbot on Facebook messenger and ask for any available room. The Chatbot automatically replies with the available rooms plus prices. You just click on the booking link and reserve the preferred room. It is that plain and simple. The best part is that most of this process is automated and it happened in a quick succession.
Some other examples of Chatbots, which are currently in use, include:
- A Weather Bot by Poncho, where you get the weather updates about desired locations
- News Bot from CNN, which tells you when something interesting happens
- A Friendly Bot called Xiaoice from Microsoft to whom you can even talk to
The fact of the matter is that with bots, there are endless possibilities.
Why businesses need a Chatbot
The big question that is looming over businesses is that do they really need a Chatbot?
In the current market dynamics, businesses tend to easily incline towards technologies that are futuristic. And there is no denying the fact that Chatbots are really cool.
However, why would somebody want to spend his/her time and energy on it, if it does not bring much advantage to the business?
It is just a messaging service where you are interacting with a machine to find answers to your queries. There are already many personal assistance services in the market. Therefore, what makes Chatbots so great and unique?
Chatbots are termed great for offering a unique experience but because people are now using messaging apps more than social networks. The average monthly active users of top four messaging apps have surpassed the average monthly active users of top four social networks.
Logic says that as a business you should have a presence where the people are. That place is currently inside messaging apps. This is why Chatbots have become so important.
Well, we have understood what Chatbots really are and why everyone is going gaga over them, but still there is a huge ambiguity around how they really work. Let us shed some light over it.
How Chatbots Work
There are basically two types of Chatbots:
- Chatbot that works based on rules. This is the basic form of a Chatbot and its functionality is very limited. It can respond to very specific commands and if you tend to ask complex queries, it is unable to respond correctly. The bottom line is that this form of bot is as good as the information it is fed.
- Chatbot that functions using machine learning. This is a more advanced form of Chatbot.It uses artificial intelligence to access the query and find its solution. It adapts itself and gets smarter over time as more queries are asked.
Each bot is unique and built with a purpose
Chatbot feature is not a generic functionality that is similar across all businesses. Each and every business model will have a unique Chatbot functionality.
A Chatbot for an ecommerce marketplace driven by YoKart will focus on helping customer purchase anything. Same will be the case with an online grocery store running on Growcer. However a travel activity marketplace powered by Funaway will answer all the queries of visitors and help them choose their perfect destination as well as activity. Another example is a Chatbot for an online food delivery service running on Yo!Yumm. It will allow users to place order and track the delivery.
So, do you REALLY need a Chabot?
You would ask why am I asking this question again, when I have already highlighted its importance above. For that, let us look at an example.
If you are looking for a car just to commute between home and office, a sedan would easily fit your requirements. You would not look for a sports car unless you have ample resources for it. Although a sports car will look cool and get you more attention, a sedan can also get the work done. The same is the case with Chatbots. Their main purpose is to automate the process of conversational commerce. If you have them, you do not need an army of customer support for things to get done. However, this does not mean that Chatbots do not require a human intervention.
Test environments have shown that often Chatbots can get confused in replies when it comes to complex queries.
If the user knows what he/she wants, then Chatbots just have to process the query. However, if users come up with a query where computation is required, then things starts to get a bit tricky. This is where you would require customer support to take over.
What FATbit Recommends
We have always welcomed innovation and have built products that can streamline the business architecture of an online business. We believe that Chatbots will be a great feature for an online ecommerce business. However as discussed earlier, such features are reforming how online businesses work and deliver customer support. Still it’s your choice to adopt or ignore this new conversation commerce technology. You can do without chatbots too like most businesses have been doing for long and assisting customers via live human chat, phone calls, etc.
But, for businesses, that are loaded with millions of routine queries that go unaddressed due to different time zone of less number of customer support executives, it’ the best bet.