From the clunky mechanical entities of old-school science-fiction to the AI-driven technology that pervades the world of today, it’s safe to say that robots have come a long way in a relatively short span of time. Not only is it now possible to engage in online (or spoken) conversation with the functional equivalent of a robot; it is, from a business standpoint, also potentially profitable.
Welcome to the world of chatbots. Simply defined, a chatbot is a computer program that imitates human conversation. This is not just a matter of content, but also tone.
In other words, casual conversational patterns are mimicked in ways that make it increasingly difficult to tell that a chatbot is at work in the first place. (In fact, depending upon the underlying programming of the bot, the chat might even be punctuated with things like emojis.)
If you asked a chatbot what makes all of this possible, its reply would likely involve NLP.
Known as “natural-language processing,” this is the same type of machine learning that allows voice-based personal assistants like Siri and Cortana to parse the requests of their users.
The algorithms draw upon layers of interconnected artificial neurons, allowing them to perform complex analyses of input before generating a response—much like the human brain, but (in many ways) even more efficient.
And given this remarkable degree of efficiency, it’s only natural to wonder how chatbots might be put to work—literally—for you.
Boosting the Bottom Line
First, consider the current ubiquity of messaging apps.
To put it in perspective, Facebook Messenger has more than 1.3 billion monthly users—a significant chunk of humanity. But it isn’t just about volume. It’s also about time. The numbers also reveal that people are, by a significant margin, spending more of their minutes, hours and days on messaging apps than on social networks.
Now consider the fact that these numbers are only set to grow.
The messaging-app format appeals to so many people because of its sheer ease of use. There’s no need for the stodgy, overly-formal wording of a traditional email. Nor is it necessary to utilize any technology larger or more difficult to master than a smartphone.
This unprecedented degree of convenience translates into easy, stress-free conversation. That’s why, for most people, chat-based electronic communication is simply a fact of life—something that was thoroughly integrated into their daily existence at some point over the last few years.
The Ever-Expanding Reach of Chatbots
However, the effects of this rapid shift have already taken hold in areas other than personal conversation between friends and family.
For example, with food bots expanding in popularity, getting a good restaurant or recipe recommendation is no longer a strictly human endeavor. Then there are the weather bots, news bots, finance bots and more—all authoritative sources on which people will increasingly rely.
Chatbots Are Changing the Digital Marketing Landscape
And now that chatbots are big business, look for them to pervade the way that business is done.
In terms of customer service, for example, the easiest way to think about the implications of chatbots may be to think about what they’re not.
Almost every adult has had the experience of calling a service representative whose grasp of English and adherence to technical CRM jargon made the phone call a time-consuming chore. And anyone who’s ever shopped in a brick-and-mortar retail location has known the frustration of dealing with staff who were rude, inattentive, or simply absent when you needed them most.
Chatbots make all of this a thing of the past.
Imagine taking out your phone, finding a business on Facebook, and—to return to the ever-present Facebook Messenger—sending a message that quickly outlines a question or concern.
Now imagine that the message is promptly answered in a friendly, intelligible manner. Finally, to complete the thought experiment, imagine that the business was yours.
This is what customers want. Significantly, it doesn’t mean that installing a chatbot will be an end-all, be-all solution—but it is a good place to start.
Look to the Future; You’ll See Chatbots
Just keep in mind that when a chatbot fails, old-fashioned interaction may still be necessary to resolve a customer’s issue. Think of yourself as providing the best of all possible worlds.
At this point, you are probably asking yourself, “What does this mean for my business?”
That all depends on your willingness to embrace current technological trends. But one thing is for certain. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, the associated costs—in terms of time, money, or know-needed on your part—will decrease. So be prepared to profit, sooner rather than later, from this unstoppable force in electronic communication.