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Are chatbots really “revolutionising the customer experience”?

Let’s start with the basics – what IS a Chatbot?
Simply put, it is what it says on the tin. It is a ‘bot’ that will chat with you in place of a real person. If you’re imagining a robot sat at a desk typing back to you, however, please do remove that idea from your mind. This bot is yet another usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and is pre-programmed with information about your company, products and services and is able to come up with natural (enough) sounding replies to answer common questions and solve issues with the information it’s scraped from your website, documents you’ve uploaded, etc.  

A few years ago it would be very obvious that you were talking to an AI chatbot and not a real person, however, as chatbot programming is becoming more and more sophisticated, it’s getting much more difficult to know the difference and chances are you’ve spoken to your bank or some other online support chat recently thinking ‘Tina’ on the other end was a real person…are you 100% sure now that you look back? I’m afraid Tina is most likely a bot. Don’t try to find her on LinkedIn.

The Technology
The inner workings of an AI chatbot is machine learning and what is known as natural-language processing, or NLP. The chatbot learns from what it can gather online and what data it’s been fed (totally going to personify the shit out of chatbots in this post so beware). The NLP side of the chatbot allows it to pick up natural conversational cadences which helps the bot to mimic human interactions.

As explained in a Business Insider article, “this machine learning algorithm, known as neural networks, consists of different layers for analysing and learning data. Inspired by the human brain, each layer consists of its own artificial neurons that are interconnected and responsive to one another.” So basically, clever AI folks have built an online human brain machine that can not only pass as a human when conversing with your customers online, but also learn your company’s information, tone of voice and reply quicker than any human on your customer services team ever could. Sounds amazing, right? Oh, if only it were that easy! 

Game changer or A Bunch of Hype?

Although the technology is rapidly advancing and chatbots and other AI voice assistants (i.e. Siri, Alexa and Cortana) are getting better at understanding what you want and replying with the right information, we’re still a long way off from perfection. We’ve all had a moment of wanting to throw Siri out of the window. You give up after a couple of attempts repeating yourself and end up typing your query in the search box the old fashioned way because she clearly didn’t have a clue what you actually wanted and replied ‘I found this on the internet…’ #amiright?!

So it’s safe to say, if you’re working in customer services your job is safe – at least for now. It seems that at the moment chatbots are most appropriate for lower-level requests, complaints or basic frequently asked questions. The best chatbots on the market will be able to recognise customer sentiment (in particular, frustration and/or anger) and know that the conversation is ready to be passed on to a human on your customer services team. They are also great for out of hours queries, which ensures that your business continues to be viewed as highly responsive to customer needs. Unlike your team, the chatbot never sleeps. 

Can’t sleep yourself? Friends all asleep? Try having a conversation with an AI chatbot yourself – I’m a fan of Mitsuku

What are your thoughts on the growing usage of chatbots? Interested in learning more about how you could utilise chatbots on your website, apps, Facebook or other social media platforms? Contact us to learn more and discuss your options.

Creator and co-founder of Ecrubox Digital, MBA student at Warwick University and mum of three.