What is a chatbot? Everything you need to know

Chatbots are mostly used for customer service, but they are also becoming personal assistants. This is how!

It’s all in the name: a chatbot is a conversational robot, i.e. a piece of software that can have a conversation with human users. Chatbots are mostly used for customer service, answering the most common questions a client may have. But as the technology behind chatbots develops, these softwares increasingly assume the role of a personal assistant: in China, for instance, WeChat bots can make medical appointments, check in for a flight or call a taxi.


Artificial intelligence makes chatbots more efficient


The first chatbot, Eliza, was written by MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum in 1964-1966. The basic technology behind a conversational software is to feed it pre-written keywords that it understands and to which it can match an answer. This can yield subpar results: if the human doesn’t use a specific word, the chatbot doesn’t understand him. The development of artificial intelligence and Natural Language Processing has thus taken the technology to new levels: today’s smart chatbots, instead of providing pre-prepared answers, offer a series of relevant suggestions to narrow down what the customer really needs. And the more they interact with humans, the better they get at understanding them.

According to a study presented at the 4th International Conference on Internet Science in 2017, users appreciate the chatbots’ efficiency, but they also find them to be entertaining and good providers of social experiences.


Talking to a chatbot: an efficient and entertaining social experience


This makes chatbots particularly interesting for self-help purposes: instead of directing their customers to a complex FAQ page or a knowledge base, businesses harness the power of chatbots to guide the user towards what they are looking for. It’s also great for automating the answer to (very) frequently asked questions, allowing customer service employees to spend time on more meaningful tasks. And customers actually enjoy talking to a bot: according to a study presented at the 4th International Conference on Internet Science in 2017, users appreciate the chatbots’ efficiency, but they also find them to be entertaining and good providers of social experiences. This has exciting business implications: according to Statistica, the chatbot market will reach around 1.25 billion U.S. dollars in 2025 -- a leap from 190.8 million in 2016.

 

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