It’s 4pm in the office and an hour away before your drive home. What is the weather going to be like this evening? Rather than looking out those tinted windows of your office or getting up from your desk to part the blinds, you ask Siri or Poncho, the weather forecasting cat on Slack, and they’ll tell you exactly what you need to know. Looks like rain tonight and they slip in some advice on not forgetting your umbrella.
That’s an example of what it’s like to be talking to a chatbot. CNNhas launched a News bot on Facebook messenger that will send you daily updates or breaking news right into your inbox. Imagine all the other ways chatbots could be utilised. A personal finance bot that keeps a tab on your spending and gives financial advice, a chat partner for killing boredom, a scheduling bot, like x.ai, that works like a personal secretary, and many more.
Beauty brands like Sephora, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder have rolled out beauty guru chatbots that give fashion tips and recommend products to the user. In addition to that, Sephora Visual Artist makes use of Augmented Reality (AR) to project how the makeup could look onto your pictures in the form of filters.
Why are chatbots becoming so popular? Studies show that messaging apps are growing to be more popular than social media websites. The ease of access to these chatbots on existing platforms like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Slack, Discord, Telegram, Kik, or even text messaging proves to be more appealing to the consumer than having to download new apps just for a particular brand.
Chatbots are a common form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that use natural language processing (NLP). These bots try to match questions from a structured suite of potential answers. NLP based bots go beyond simple rule based approaches and these are growing in popularity as as people don’t often describe their problems using the same set of words. Platforms such as Dialogflow, which is powered by Google’s machine learning, offer powerful new ways to leverage the benefits of chatbots for your business.
Soon bots will be accessible to businesses the way web pages are, the same way that WIX or WordPress allows users to create web pages without having to learn coding and web programming. Companies such as Octane AI allows businesses to build their own chatbots for a price. Making more sophisticated chatbots that integrate with back offices and enterprise systems require more skill sets.
But will chatbots take over your business? That’s a very tempting train of thought but it is susceptible to the overblown hype surrounding AI. Chatbots can offer a rudimentary level of 24/7 customer service, without the cost and stress involved with humans having to work at a call center. It’s easy to see that most businesses would benefit from having its own chatbot but for now, it seems unlikely that a fully automated chatbot would answer absolutely anything thrown its way. However, in the far future, technology like Google Duplex could potentially take over call centers entirely. Moreover innovation is constantly ratcheting up, so it would be unwise to ignore this technology as it can significantly impact your business.
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