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Connecting using Chatbots

December 2016

Worldwide, banks and financial institutions are launching intelligent chat bots as a popular way to connect with customers

Earlier this year, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, in a reference to Chatbots, spelled them to “fundamentally revolutionize how computing is experienced by everybody.” He envisages them as the new interface. So what or who, exactly is a Chatbot?

In our daily life, it could be Siri (Apple) or Cortana (Microsoft). In fact, an easy way to familiarize one with the concept is trying out the internet game or mobile app, Akinator. Put simply, it is a piece of software that you chat with to get things done or be entertained.

A Chatter Robot (Chatbot) is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence that you interact with via a chat interface. While Chatbots have been around for a while, newer capabilities are being imagined and designed. The next generation of chatbots store, synthesize, and recall important data. Your refrigerator can make decide and make a purchase based on the consumption levels and stock; your calendar could be synched with weather info and warn you about an impending storm threatening your picnic.

Chatbots use a process called deep learning, a machine learning in which a network recognizes speech, data, and specific patterns and transmit that data through the layers of the network. The second layer builds upon the first, and so on – producing accurate results each time the Artificial Intelligence faces a similar query. As an example, a customer tells a chatbot to get in touch with a company’s customer service department. The chatbot, after a brief discussion, ascertains the reason for the call and automatically decides whether it’s a case that can be automated or is one that requires human interaction. Incase of human interaction needed, it bring up all relevant information aiding the service representative. Other potential business benefits include

  • Chatbots can log and store key data points, which companies can use to personalize the purchasing experience and optimize product development
  • Chatbots undertaking routine tasks become additional employees; thus freeing up personnel to work on strategic business functions
  • Many experts have envisioned a newer navigational experience for users on a website – focused on making digital interaction more human and less text-based
  • Marketing and Sales functions are seen as one of the first beneficiaries from the continued development of chatbots. The data collected may enable the creation of effective campaigns & loyalty programs

However, as is the case with an evolving technology, developers would need to ensure a heightened level of caution. Current chatbots remain vulnerable to trolls, limited prompts, and inconsistent feedback – as the case of Microsoft demonstrates. In March this year, Microsoft launched a Twitter chatbot named ‘Tay’ – one that was supposed to have conversations with Twitter users – instead, it had to be taken offline around 16 hours after its launch on account of releasing inflammatory tweets.

One thing is for sure though, the evolution of Chatbots is bound to ring in a win-win situation in the coming years, both for the organization and the users – what remains to be seen is how successful developers are in ensuring limitless boundaries.

Few would know that the chatbot traces its origins to the 1960’s. Joseph Weizenbaum, considered the father of modern day intelligence, is credited with the creation of Eliza, commonly acknowledged as the first-ever chatbot.

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