Maybe you’ve heard the news: chatbots are becoming ultra-popular among e-commerce businesses. The dawning of the chatbot era may very well be upon us. More and more companies have begun developing chatbots of their own, customizing their behavior to increase sales, solve customer support challenges, and try to get closer to the customer. This is happening not just among e-commerce companies, but across almost all other verticals. From health insurance companies to automotive manufacturers, chatbots appear to be invading the digital landscape. But are they here to stay? And, if they are, should your business get going on having your chatbot developed? We probably wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions if chatbots hadn’t already proven themselves to be effective tools for so many; they’re here to stay.
A.I., Purposefully RepurposedSince the term ‘chatbot’ was coined in 1994, this unique method of interfacing with customers has spawned a thriving cottage industry complete with niche companies dedicated to the strategic use of AI-assisted conversational programs that mimic the function of a human being. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana represent two fantastic examples of high-quality chatbot-based customer interaction systems that have enjoyed broad adoption among their target user base. What has made them such exemplary successes has to do with their usefulness for the customer combined with their integration with so many different platforms and applications for use.
- “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
- “Cortana, find me a good recipe for banana bread.”
- “Ok, Google – what was the top pop song in the summer of 1997?”
Charting New TerritoryShould you consider developing a chatbot for your business? Is it worth the investment? Building chatbots for a specific purpose can be a complex and time-intensive effort, or it can be remarkably simple, depending on what you’re after. The most common kinds of chatbots used today are inbound message handlers, set up with four goals in mind:
- Connect. Good chatbots facilitate a connection between a business and its customers.
- Understand. The chatbot must be able to obtain user input from the user effectively.
- Refine. Based on preset conversation paths, the chatbot should be able to refine its communication based on continued user input.
- Deliver. Chatbots need to be able to provide real utility to the user through the delivery of information or the completion of a task, like booking a reservation or scheduling an in-person meeting.