The rise of the chatbots

Don’t worry, this isn’t a premonition straight from War of the Worlds or Invasion of the Body Snatchers but the chatbots have arrived and they are among us. You’ve probably already been chatting with one, had one process an online payment for you or have had a bot recommend a product for you and you won’t have been known. That might be a scary thought, but the technology is much closer to automation than to something like The Terminator.

We thought we’d give you a quick rundown on chatbots and why they are so popular, If nothing else it’ll help to put your nerves at rest…. trust us.

What Are chatbots?

Bots are everywhere these days but one of the best and useful we’ve seen is Hipmunk for flight and accommodation search. Here, you would ask for specific flights, say from Aberdeen to London on 7th July, arriving at 3pm. The bot will then send back results as closely matching your request as possible as well as suggesting hotels. See our example:

Chatbots are mainly artificial intelligent code that is made up of complex software scripts. These then make calculations based on large data sets and are coded to select a solution or output, which through mathematics, is statically the best choice to present to the user interacting with it.

Interactions with chatbots are in conversational style and can either use audio or text to send and receive interactions to and from the user. In addition to using complex mathematical algorithms, the software also takes advantage of natural language traits when composing replies or reactions to messages, meaning that it is able to realistically simulate how a human would respond.

Where can chatbots be found?

The short answer is just about anywhere, but easiest place to find and interact with chatbots is on the Facebook messenger app. Here you can find and interact with chat bots to do things from send your the latest sport news to you via Facebook Messenger to booking flights and hotels (as we demonstrated) through conversational based natural language commands.

Chatbots also exists in physical products such as Amazon Echo and Google Home where they respond to audio commands from users to present an output, perform a task or query a request back to a user. Even Barbie dolls are now including chatbots to allow the dolls to interact with kids and produce a pre-programmed storyline for the doll. In addition, many online food-ordering services have created and implemented chatbots to help improve customer engagement during the ordering process.

What makes a good chatbot?

Chatbots as we know them now have really come into public light in the last few years. However, it is the timing of their arrival that is the key aspect as to why Silicon Valley and other leading tech communities have latched onto them so much.

Customer experience & journeys, user interaction & experience and efficiency are key components to achieve success online and where some were used to focus on simply giving the user the ability to find something online, it’s now a focus on how they find it and what do they do with it once they find it.

Chatbots can be used to significantly improve customer or user experience by finding and actioning information from your online presence. Take this example from Sarin Bhaskaran, Digital Product Manager at Amadeus:

On the left you can see the several clicks a customer would have to make in order to find a specific type of item they are looking for. On the right, you can clearly see how much cleaner and more straightforward it is to use natural language to instruct a chatbot to find the same product from an online directory. This is an example of the unique advantages chatbots have over websites and which today’s online customers, who are demanding a more and more streamlined online experience than ever, can be rewarded with optimal routes straight to product purchase.

What is the future of chatbots?

Artificial Programming and Computer Learning Code is being implemented by more and more well-established industries, such as the financial sector, the Government and heath sector. There are vast amounts of investment into making computers “smarter” and a focus on blurring the interaction lines between users and software with an aim to move computers beyond the iconic keyboard, mouse and screen setup.

This means that the environment that chatbots thrive in is ever expanding, but it’s worth remembering that chatbots are still near the edge of cutting technology and software; not all users will be ready to embrace them and due to the closeness they have to real world interactions, some people simply will not be comfortable interacting with them.

That being said, we live in a world which is ever more online and chatbots are simply another gateway for us to interact with the digital world around us. Technology’s goal is to help simplify our world for our convenience and chatbots certainly can help to achieve this.

If you would like to discuss how you can utilise modern technology and software to improve your customer’s experience on your website, contact the team at Wired Studio on 01224 826664 or email info@wiredstudio.co.uk.

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